How Much Technology is Too Much?

kid on phone

We live in a time where e-mails, texts, social media, games, the latest news and even movies are at our fingertips. With smartphones on the rise (about 58-65% of Americans own one), the average American spends 23 hours each week using some online communication. And, according to a recent study by Nielsen, the average American adult spends 10 hours per day with some type of electronic media.

Certainly, many of those hours may be chalked up to work and other important or necessary matters. But many of us are guilty of interacting more with our friends and family members on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram than we do in person. And, while technology is supposed to make life easier, one could argue that being plugged in all of the time (ie. having constant access to work emails), can also be detrimental.

Our online presence is a great way to numb, to disconnect, to tune out real life problems and relational struggles. It also feels like a good way to connect, have down time, and a little bit of fun. And it certainly can be. Of course, it also can create a new set of problems. Problems like not feeling good enough, creating cyber relationships that are detrimental or hurtful to partnerships/marriages, feeling out of touch with reality, cyber bullying, comparing ourselves to others, overworking as we are always plugged in, sexting, and perhaps most importantly, being disconnected from the people who matter the most to us.

When I think of how this plays out in everyday life, I think of times where I have watched family members or partners eat an entire meal together at a restaurant without actually speaking to one another, captivated by their smartphone. I think of children who struggle to get their parent’s attention as they browse Facebook. I imagine husbands and wives lying in their dark room at night illuminated by the glow of a television or smartphone instead of snuggling up together at the end of a long day to reconnect. I think of young people and adults feeling depressed and isolated because their online persona or avatar is not meeting up to their counterparts’ online identities. And I think of more and more people being “connected” yet feeling desperately and utterly disconnected. And certainly, this could be and has been all of us at some point, I would imagine.

As parents, it is important to know that children and adolescents are at greater risk in their use of social media due to “their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure,” according to Medical News Today. And, excessive internet use has been linked to loneliness, depression, and other emotional issues. Regardless of our age, it would be good to examine our online presence and how it is impacting our life offline. If you answer yes to any of the following statements below, limiting or changing your Internet habits might be beneficial.

  1. I have gone without eating, sleeping, or meeting other basic needs because of the Internet.
  2. I feel extremely bothered when I can’t connect or get on the internet.
  3. I frequently catch myself surfing when I’m not really interested.
  4. When I get online to do something briefly, I find myself engaged in sites and apps outside of my original intention.
  5. I spend less time than I should with family, friends, work, or schoolwork because of the time I spend online.
  6. I have tried unsuccessfully to spend less time on the Internet.
  7. I have gotten cues or feedback from loved ones that I am not present with them because of my online activity.
  8. I often find myself surfing the web in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.
  9. There is conflict in my relationships because of the time I spend or because of my activity online.
  10. If I ever have a spare minute, I immediately grab my device to go online.
  11. I frequently am comparing myself to others (even friends) online.

Reparative Therapy?

Savannah Stoute

The Texas GOP recently adopted a party wide platform that includes support for voluntary psychological therapy targeted at converting homosexuals to heterosexuals. This is happening on the heels of a Judge in San Antonio, TX stating that it is unlawful for the state to rule against same sex marriage. Texas Republicans are simply stating that they will not pass any laws that will restrict a person from seeking reparative or conversion therapy. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, recently equated homosexuals to alcoholics by comparing the genetic coding an alcoholic has to the genetic coding a homosexual has. The important thing to remember is that homosexuality is not a disease and it cannot be cured. There are many different views a person could take on this subject; Political, Religious, and Ethical. I’m not going to take a political or religious stance. However, I will discuss this topic from an ethical standpoint as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern (LPC-I) in the state of Texas.

Ethical limitations of Reparative Therapy

First, reparative therapy is not a mainstream psychological treatment. There are no professional standards or guidelines that therapists must follow in order to practice reparative therapy. As with any therapeutic approach, there needs to be peer reviewed research studies. In order for a research study to be valid and reliable, other therapists need to be able to repeat those tests and get the exact same results. There has been one study that suggests that it was able to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals, however, even the psychiatrist that performed this study admitted that there was no way to measure his results. He relied solely on interviews with the patients. Robert Spitzer later wrote, “I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.”

Dangers of Reparative Therapy

If a person is seeking Reparative Therapy, he or she is seeking treatment to “cure” their homosexual feelings and desires. As stated before, homosexuality is not a disease and cannot be cured. When a person seeks reparative therapy and has expectations to never feel attracted to a person of the same sex again, he or she can become severely disappointed with themselves. Feelings of failure, hopelessness, shame, are just a few things that can lead a person to severe depression. Reparative therapy implies there is something wrong with being attracted to the same sex. It’s important to know and accept that a person is born as a homosexual; therefore, there is no way to make a gay person straight. Just like there is no way to make a straight person gay. Learning to accept yourself and/or those around you that are homosexual can lead to a more authentic life.

Alternatives to Reparative Therapy

The only alternative to Reparative Therapy is traditional talk therapy. If a person is struggling with being a homosexual, it’s best that he or she seek counseling from a licensed therapist that practices one of the many available therapeutic approaches that have been proven and are not damaging to clients. Traditional talk therapy can be cathartic for clients. Once a homosexual client learns to accept him or herself, then he or she can begin to feel confident living as a homosexual person. The hope is that a client who was initially interested in reparative therapy will eventually love themselves enough that he or she will no longer feel the need to change.

If you are interested in learning more about the stance that Texas Legislatures are taking on Reparative Therapy, you can find many articles online. Texas Republican’s stance can be found here, while Texas Democrat’s recent stance can be found here. These are both local articles, but you can find varying point of views from national news outlets as well.

 

Guest Blogger:

This week’s guest blog post is by Savannah Stoute, LPC-Intern (Supervised by Leslie Larson, LPC-S). Savannah enjoys working with teens and adults that are experiencing grief and loss as well as the LGBTQ Community. You can learn more about Savannah and her work as a therapist by visiting our Therapists page.


Gratitude: A Practice

Having a gratitude practice or keeping a gratitude journal is somewhat trendy right now. You may notice friends on Facebook or other social media platforms listing their daily thanksgivings. Therapists, including myself, may even assign clients the task of keeping a gratitude journal at home. And, while I certainly speak gratitude to those I love and care about, I have never actually kept a gratitude journal or had a daily ritual specifically practicing gratitude. But here is why I am going to start, and why I would encourage you to, also.

Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts and researchers on gratitude, has found that practicing gratitude can transform people’s lives in several ways. First, he says that because our emotional systems like novelty and positive emotions quickly wane, gratitude allows us to celebrate the present while highlighting positive feelings. And by noticing the positive, we are more able to show up and participate and are receiving even more from our good experiences and interactions.

Second, he found that gratitude reduces and even eliminates negative or toxic emotions. He also identified that grateful people are more stress resistant and generally have a higher sense of self-worth.

In his research, Emmons discovered that people who practice gratitude tend to have a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, are more likely to exercise and take better care of their health, sleep better, enjoy more positive emotions, feel more alert and alive, report more joy, optimism, and happiness, tend to be more forgiving, outgoing, helpful, generous and compassionate, and feel less lonely and isolated.

Shame author and researcher Brené Brown writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.” If you find yourself longing for more joy, connection, and peace, if you are feeling like contentment is just out of reach, or if you would just like to be healthier and happier, you might consider one of the following suggestions from Emmons to begin your gratitude practice.

  • Keep a gratitude journal, recording three to five things each week for which you are grateful
  • Write a gratitude letter to an important person in your life who you have never thanked
  • Practice being present and grateful in the moment when good things are happening.
  • When receiving a gift or something positive in your life, consider the effort made by someone to bring that goodness into your life.
  • Practice recognizing the positive by listing three good things that happened each day
  • Start a gratitude practice with your family

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