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Avoiding ‘Digital Stress’

Maybe it's CES overload, or maybe VTech just wants to sell more phones. According to a recent survey conducted by VTech and market research firm Toluna, Americans are feeling overwhelmed by the constant accessibility and influx of digital information in the 21st century.

In fact, when asked to rank the most stressful technology-related issues, consumers cited “being constantly accessible for work” and “keeping up with all the technology changes” as the top two sources of stress (33 percent and 20 percent, respectively).

You have to take the results with a grain of salt: VTech is the world's largest manufacturer of cordless phones. The survey also takes a shot at smartphones — one of the biggest product categories featured at CES and the hope of many electronics manufacturers for redemption. Nevertheless, some of the points of the survey are interesting.

The data overload issue hit closest to home for 25- to 34-year-olds. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) said that they now spend more time working because of today's technology capabilities. Yet the newest digital tools that keep consumers constantly connected also may be the least desired. When asked what they could “live without for a day,” 33 percent of survey respondents chose social networking, and 28 percent chose text messaging.

Other key findings include:

  • Forty-four percent of 25-34 year-olds who own smartphones say they call others less often now, and 23 percent said they spend more time working, because they're expected to be constantly accessible.
  • To whom do Americans vent their frustrations? Thirty-four percent said their significant other. If not to a significant other, respondents would rather keep things to themselves, and midwesterners are the most stoic (37 percent would rather keep things to themselves, more than residents in other parts of the country).
  • Who do you want to “escape” from this year? When asked if there were any individuals they would want to lose in 2011, 36 percent said “a clingy friend I can't seem to get rid of.” And apparently, older adults have the clingiest friends — 55 percent of respondents above age 55 chose a “clingy friend.” Twenty-six percent of Americans wish they could avoid “an annoying co-worker.”

The solution? According to VTech, it's a simple phone call. I suppose that's a good idea, except for those of us who check our email and text messages on our laptops or smartphones while we are on the phone.

33 comments on “Avoiding ‘Digital Stress’

  1. Tim Votapka
    January 11, 2011

    Barbara,

    Good roundup re; digital stress. Fortunately there's a personal integrity rule available that says “don't take or give any communication you're not prepared give or receive.” Certainly applicable today.

  2. Mydesign
    January 12, 2011

        Barbara, certain points and findings from the survey are very much valid. We can see that a mass development and growth happened in digital technology from 90’s and peoples have started using these advance technologies from early 2000. All the invention and developments happened made the life easier and much simpler. Among them the most development has happened in communication sector, especially in hand held devices. These developments in communication sector are happened in such a way that, it makes the far to near and dear. That means communication at anytime, anywhere irrespective of time and place, either by voice or video call. This enabled the online communication and accessing the network over hand held devices.

        When companies started using these technologies for their business purpose, everything gets commercialized. They provide employees with hand help equipments having net access and forced them to available online through 24*7 basis, which internally loosed employees privacy, personal spending time with family, friends and forced them to shortcut outing and even the leisure time also..This type of tight working schedule made them to undergo many type of stress in company and even in home. I strongly agree that it has its own advantages like flexibility of working, working from home, networking with peers and boss at any time etc.

  3. tioluwa
    January 12, 2011

    Well, i am personally getting more digital in order to get my life more organized, i don't believe the extra technology only gets us more chocked and gets our life more complex. how can an assistant make things more difficult for the 'boss” (they are called Personal Digital Assistants aren't they?)

    Let's all use our smart phones smartly, use them to decongest our life, not worsen it.

    But for those who smart phones have made it possible to call them to work at anytime, they either have themselves to blame or some boss who deson't realise that a “man” needs to rest.

  4. eemom
    January 12, 2011

    There is another area that the survey does not cover.  Digital Stress on the younger generation.  Kids as young as 10 or 11 have cell phones, facebook accounts, email accounts, etc.  The constant digital interface is taking away the skill for human interface and one-on-one social development.  While this may not be “stressful” in the true meaning of the word for children, it does add social stress to constantly be available or be left out.  Not to mention parents, who feel that their children are loosing the art of human interface.

    This total availability, while may be fun for them now, will add an overwhelming amount of stress as they move into their 20s and 30s, and start their own careers.  At some point, things need to shut off, but that may be a concept they can get familiar with.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 12, 2011

    Great point eemom! You are correct–being young is tough enough without your whole life playing out in front of the world to see. I've had this conversation with my 13-year-old several times. There has been a little improvment in his postings, but I'm not sure if it's becuase he knows I'm checking Facebook or he is showing some judgment…

  6. eemom
    January 12, 2011

    Hopefully he is showing some judgement.  I know my child is more careful about her facebook postings because she knows I check.  The cell phone though, is a completely different story.  There is no way to monitor 100% of their communication.  I always preach that they should never text anything they are not willing to say face-to-face to the person.  As children they don't always exhibit good judgement and when parents are left in the dark, it makes it harder to teach / correct, so they are aware of the proper way to communicate.

     

     

  7. jbond
    January 12, 2011

    I agree totally, I for one love my blackberry. The fact that my husband and I use them and some of their apps for intended purposes has definitely reduced stress and helped us organize even better. Case in point we use Google sync to sync all of our calendars together. This helps us when one of us has to make and appointment or decision, we know what the rest of the family is doing.

    Another function I love is a grocery shopping app, this works great when my husband has to run to the store on his way home from work he can see the complete grocery list on his phone, as to not forget anything.

    As for being accessible 24/7 there are times when it is very useful, but if you don't know how to ignore a phone call, email or text it is your own fault not the technology.

     

  8. SP
    January 13, 2011

    I have Vtech's cordless phone and they really need to work on spike filtering. Once there was a power outage after that the phone stopped ringing. It works otherwise well. So the message Vtech is giving is call up the person whom you are not a great fan of. Thats a good message but what point Vtech is making as Vtech per se.

  9. elctrnx_lyf
    January 13, 2011

    Technology in the living room has already moved very close to the people and into the trouser pockets. The accesibility is the great advantage created by technology and at the same it can big disadvantage if the users are not able to decide when it should be kept aside. Compared to the grown up I feel the younger generation are at bigger risk considering the amount of time they sepnd virtually. It ts very important to an individual to take care of them selves and take care of ther children to not affected by this.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    January 13, 2011

    It is always good to keep self control on ourselves to be awy from the gadgets atleast for few hours in the day and practice alternative communincations like tele phone or face to face communications. I would love to be not connected by TV, Internet and mobile for many days to be happy but I'm never able to keep atleast the mobile away. 

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 13, 2011

    I'll admit to being unable to ignore rings, pings and buzzes, but caller ID has helped a lot in filtering through the noise. The ability to reach my 13-year-old on the move so far has outweighed my concern over misuse of the cell–although we've shut off his Internet access.

    It is stressful though–I've been on my business line and had my home phone and call ring at the same time. I could be better organized by using the ringtones and other attributes of my various contraptions but it reaches a point where earbuds and iTunes are the best refuge.

     

  12. itguyphil
    January 13, 2011

    You could do like the central command stations of the past and attach a big red beacon light to your phones. This way, you won't have to deal with rings & annoying tones but flashes of light that is a bit more bearable (to me @ least).

  13. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    Pocharle, I have considered so many things…including throwing one or two devices out the window!

    I've been a home office worker since 1993, when my current employer, then CMP, set me up with a business phone, business fax, and a telephone modem for my computer. Three phone lines/phone numbers in addition to my home phone. Now, I have a cable modem for my computer, a business VoIP phone, the old cordess I had from freelancing, a home phone and a cell phone. Could I consolidate them all into one number or forward everthing to a single line? Yes, but in my own perverted way, I'm organized: the home line is the first stop for the school my son goes to; my cell for my son (who only has that number saved to his cell phone) and the old business line for everything else. The VoIP only works half the time so I don't even give that number out. Vastly simplified, don't you think? 🙂

    Did I mention the doorbell? That usually rings around the same time all the phones do

  14. itguyphil
    January 14, 2011

    Yup. That all sounds about right. I think I've mastered the “Please hold”… then continue another conversation on another device, whether Skype, mobile, or cordless. After a while, it gets crazy imagining what just happened. I guess that's just the world we live in.

  15. itguyphil
    January 14, 2011

    I was reading this article which made me think about this topic. Check it out here:

    http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110113/FREE/110119917

  16. Anna Young
    January 16, 2011

    I truly believe the advancement of technology has created a norm called “Working long hours”. I agreed with the Data that one of the most stressful technology-related issues is being constantly accessible for work. The imposition of new technology has meant that the employer is obsessed with high productivity and as such makes the workplace a dreaded place. But what is exciting is that the workplace has become an arena for new innovative technological inventions.

    Well, it's just the beginning chaps and lets all hope it gets better for all. 

  17. t.alex
    January 16, 2011

    Smartphones, tablets will keep us constantly connected 24/7. When was the last time you access facebook? a few minutes ago :)?

  18. Ashu001
    January 17, 2011

    Barbara,

    I had written about these very issues here-

    http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=1155&doc_id=201292

    The issues you raise are very pertinent and timely.Today most of us (in the 25-44 age group are so tied up with work thanks to this phase of being constantly connected),that we have absolutely no time either for ourselves or for our families.

    Not a healthy trend at all.Especially the mid-westerners in your survey who seem so stoic about everything.If you keep everything bottled up inside of you,Eventually everything just explodes often with tragic consequenes….

    Makes sense to get away before that happens.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  19. Ariella
    January 17, 2011

    I'm a bit surprised at this statistic, though maybe that's because I'm in the northeast, where it seems people are less stoic. 

    To whom do Americans vent their frustrations? Thirty-four percent said their significant other. If not to a significant other, respondents would rather keep things to themselves, and midwesterners are the most stoic (37 percent would rather keep things to themselves, more than residents in other parts of the country).

    I find that many people vent through their devices on their Facebook posts.  In fact, they sometimes let things out too much, forgetting that they are in on a public forum and everything that they say and can, potentially, be held against them by others.  There could be serious repercussions for venting publicly about one's employer, coworkers, or spouse.

  20. Damilare
    January 31, 2011

    you're right, keeping in contacts, getting alerts, syncronising informations and so on is now part of our world to day. For some people, its difficult to live without these thiings.

  21. t.alex
    February 6, 2011

    Sometimes our personal life is up in the open without us knowing about it. Not because we vent the frustration on facebook about others, but maybe somebody else did it on us.

  22. Ariella
    February 6, 2011

    t.alex, you're right that even things we never put out in public can end up there.  A business associate once responded to an email of mine by telling me she would call me with the answer.  She said she was being careful, following the warning not to put anything into an email that you would mind having printed in the New York Times.

  23. itguyphil
    February 6, 2011

    Especially when your busines/personal data is intertwined into more than 1 mobile device.

  24. Hardcore
    February 6, 2011

    Much of this  'overload' is self inflicted, people choose to be overloaded, they are the ones that buy multiple devies, choose when to answer an email, make themselves continually available 'out of hours'.

    A company does not own you, just because you choose to work for it, nor do they have any more right to your time than they have paid for, that is not to say you cannot be flexable, but flexibility is a two way street.

    As regards emails, there are two systems to deal with overload

    1. Do not respond in less than a day

    2. Delete all your emails each day.

    If the issue is so  important and world changing, people will follow up by phone call or send a secondary email, dealing with each and every email  drags you down to the level of people sending such correspondence, and unfortunately most of it is drivel, sent by people too lazy to find the answers via other methods.

    That is not to say that all business email is the same, but most of it is.

    You will then start to build up a 'core' group of messaging users who understand the rules, they get dealt with first, anyone operating outside of your system continues to get penalized, and either they will learn to follow the rules or they will go bother someone else, It also cuts down on all the trivial crap , such as holiday photos, kids pictures and politically incorrect correspondence and cartoons, which I really just do not find interesting.

    It sounds harsh, but no business can afford to be continually dragged down to the level of the lowest common denominators, to be effective in business you have to be able to identify the critical issues that need to be dealt with during the day, and you cannot do that if you are spending 10-15 minutes dealing with each petty matter that passes into your  communication system. (you know the ones, who continually CC every single bit of useless correspondence, just so they can say they were not the only ones dealing with it)

    Rule 2

    If it is directed to me I may deal with it.

    If it is a CC or BCC, that means I will not deal with it.

    People may not like the way i deal with my email, but they know if they truly have a problem, that it will be dealt with in an effective manner as will any critical issues effecting the business, other than that it goes in the trash can.

    HC.

     

     

  25. Ariella
    February 6, 2011

     to be effective in business you have to be able to identify the critical issues that need to be dealt with during the day, and you cannot do that if you are spending 10-15 minutes dealing with each petty matter that passes into your  communication system. (you know the ones, who continually CC every single bit of useless correspondence

    That is very sound advice, Hardcore.  To be effective, you have to filter out the inessential stuff.

  26. Susan Fourtané
    February 7, 2011

    Ashish, 

    I totally agree with you. This is very timely and relavant today. Digital stress has incresead in a manner that has become a bit hard to control and sometimes hard to recognize. Knowing our limits to stop and take breaks to keep ourselves healthy and still connected with the outer world and nature is fundamental today. 

    -Susan 

  27. Susan Fourtané
    February 7, 2011

    Hardcore, 

    I very much like the way you deal with your email. You wrote a very useful post there, at least for me and for many others. 

    Much of this  'overload' is self inflicted, people choose to be overloaded, they are the ones that buy multiple devies, choose when to answer an email, make themselves continually available 'out of hours'.

    I find that to be true. 

    -Susan 

  28. Hardcore
    February 7, 2011

    Hi Ladies,

    Information overload is similar to the old adage:

    “It is your choice to allow people to annoy you”.

    That is to say 'People will be people' the same way 'information will be information'.

    You cannot change either of the preceding situations, all you can do is choose how you are going to deal with the situation, unfortunately it is not a skill they teach in education system until you get to University level , and so what we have is massive swaths of the population thinking and trying to keep up with the information flow, it is just not  possible not matter how  smart or how 'photographic' your memory may be.

    The net result is that people are being 'dumbed down' and rendered ineffective by the shear flow of information, and the more overall information you seek, the potential for becoming dumber increases.

    Stephen Hawkins described it as  being like a teacup with a fire-hose pointed at it, he made the point that in his 'youth' before the internet, he had maybe 10 papers a month in his particular field, and now he has to deal with thousands of papers in a month which equates to tens of thousands in a Year. So if someone as smart and accomplished as SH. cannot manage the flow obviously there is something wrong with the technique we are using.

    There will be a breakthrough and at that point we will no longer need to remember anything, only make decisions.

     

    HC.

     

     

     

  29. Susan Fourtané
    February 8, 2011

    Hi, Hardcore 

    There will be a breakthrough and at that point we will no longer need to remember anything, only make decisions.

    Yes. repetedly times I have thought about that. Thinking a little forward, let's say ten years ahead, it may be close to impossible to keep track of everything, all the flow of new information of different sorts added to the information/knowledge we already have and need to remember. Unless we have a chip inserted in our brain with all the information we need in order to function in a society more and more demanding of info-aquisition. 

    Another question that arises is: how productive and efficient can we be if we suffer from digital stress? 

    I had a situation yesterday when I was trying to finish some work at the same time I was feeling the day was being far from productive so far. Then I get a chat message on my Gmail from a collegue who reccommended me to take a break and some 'me' time to rechange energy. I then decided to watch a movie. As I was closing some of the windows I had open on my computer I noticed it was 5.30 and I had been here since 7 in the morning. Sure I was tired and needed some rest! 

    And here your words: . . . all you (I) can do is choose how you are (I am) going to deal with the situation.

    And solve the problem, I add. Which makes me think that it is in us how efficient and productive we decide to be. Of course many times there are outer situations and influences interfering in our plans. Then we want to solve the unexpected problems, deal with the unexpected emails on top of what we already had planned for the day. Not  to mention if there is a personal thing that comes out of the blue as a grey cloud on your sunny day. 

    Dealing with digital stress is just a new variant of dealing with stress. And we all know that stress can kill us in the long run if we are not wise enough to recognize the symptoms and stop it before it is too late for regrets. 

    It's always a pleasure to have discussions with you. 

    -Susan 

  30. Hardcore
    February 8, 2011

    Hi Susan,

    I'm afraid your a little behind the times, inserting chips into your brain and even cameras is the new order of the day. (maybe a 'hat' would be a more suitable solution next time, or a smaller camera)

    http://www.switched.com/2010/12/03/wafaa-bilal-camera-implanted-head-the-3rd-i

    The latest news is that his body rejected the implant, not surprised really..

    Work…

    I always reserve my mornings for the most important work (Almost )nothing interrupts that time, after lunch is for the trivial stuff that must be done so as to avoid anoying other people.

    Almost Situations (where did we put the 'risk' management plans)

    There will always occasionally be a 'fire' situation that completely derails your day (I have had these, one of our major suppliers managed to burn part of his factory down, I had to literally drop everything to do an impact assessment, grab a taxi get over to the burning factory etc…. with my director continually on my mobile insisting we enter the burning building to save stock, (yep ok you come over here and give me On The Job training))

    But yes you are correct the skill is understanding when it is necessary to drop everything in order to become productive again.

     

     

     

     

     

  31. Susan Fourtané
    February 9, 2011

    Hi, Hardcore

    Of course I know chips are becoming a commonly used little thingy to inser into your body for multiple uses. In fact, the chips I think are useful are the ones used in healthcare for medical assistance. Now, for instance, it's easy for a doctor to follow up if a patient took all the indicated pills and monitor the patient's health through a smartphone.

    But, have you heard of a chip containing enough academic information that can me implanted and connected to the brain in order to feed it with the desired knowledge?

    (maybe a wizard's hat) 

    I am not susprised either that his body rejected the crazy implant. I think that was a project to attract attention rather than attempting to do or prove something useful. I would like to know if he got funding for such a project and if so, who paid for it. 

    Entering a building on fire to save stock sounds almost as crazy as the I-need-attention-artist's project. Did you get the On the Job training? 

    -Susan

     

  32. Hardcore
    February 9, 2011

    Entering a building in fire to save stock sounds almost as crazy as the I-need-attention-artist's project. Did you get the On the Job training? “

    As the director used to say:  'As always, I'm right behind you'.

    (yes 8,000 miles behind me safely in the UK, and not subject to the draconian laws of China)

    Some people really know how to annoy me.

    HC.



  33. Susan Fourtané
    February 9, 2011

    He meant “As always, I'm right behind you as far as I can be.” 

    I suppose you didn't bring him a souvenir. 🙂 

    -Susan

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