Going the distance

Don't get squeezed by the tech crunch

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. February 12, 2016

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If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

While on a speaking tour in a southern state, I experienced a wake-up call. I was driving by a shopping center at about 7:00 on a Saturday morning and was astonished to see the parking lot packed with senior citizens cradling their tablets, computers and smart phones.

I stopped for a cup of coffee and asked a gentleman what this was all about. He told me that in two hours the computer store would be opening. He then shared with me that the gathered snowbirds were relatively clueless about technology, had spent enormous funds on gadgets and were frustrated because they didn't have their grandchildren nearby to show them how to work the stuff.

Once upon a time, families stayed in the same community. We knew our neighbors and their children. In most cities and towns, there was a sense of community, as evidenced by the volunteer fire department.

But now we're more spread out and, for better or worse, technology has inserted itself into our lives.

Many of us feel trapped by technology that we can't fully master. For example, in the medical community we have the electronic health record, which is clumsy, cumbersome, time-consuming and difficult to learn. But the genie is out of the bottle. We will never return to the halcyon days of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon or television's "Father Knows Best."

So how can we make technology work for us and not against us? Myriad solutions have been offered by the tech savvy, but most don't work for the non-technical. So here are three tactics that normal people have shared with me:

  • Get schooled. Most programs and devices are designed by engineers and are not user friendly or intuitive to the rest of us. To avoid frustration and heartburn, bite the bullet and sign up for a computer course at a community college or through local computer education "stores" found in most communities. In three or four hours, you can be up to speed.
  • Be slow to upgrade. Recognize and embrace that new is not necessarily better. If there's a new version of something you're already using, it's a good bet that the new version will drive you crazy at least initially and may not deliver any great advantage. Be satisfied with where you are rather than looking for the holy grail of the next upgrade.
  • Put walls up. Technology can be an enormous time sink. The social media explosion involving Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook can siphon off your energy and even erode relationships. If you don't set limits on your online time, you'll look up to find that hours have disappeared and all you've done is look at your son's ex-girlfriend's vacation snapshots. That's not how you want to use your time.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Feb. 12, 2016