In recent months I’ve been noticing challenges with my own smartphone and social media use. This is being reported increasingly in media outlets. It affects young people a lot, but not only young people. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed but rather from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it.

— Marianne Williamson

Do you struggle with the speed of life? With the speed of personal technology? 5G! Fastest! Smartest!

Do your kids never get off their devices? Is everyone sitting in the same room but no one’s talking?

The technology we carry around, in particular smartphones have even created their own language. One example is “phubbing.” It means ‘phone snubbing,’ in other words checking your phone during an ongoing interaction or conversation.

There’s growing concern about tech’s ‘persuasive design,’ which is a glossy way of saying devices and apps are designed to be addictive. Examples of this are the use of red in notifications (not blue), pull-to-refresh (to load fresh content), like counts and comment counts amongst others.

Dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical that’s released every time we do something we enjoy, works the same way whether it’s a meal we enjoy or the 100 likes on our post — it gives us an instant high and reinforces behavior so that we keep feeling good, which can lead to addiction.

Especially social media apps are designed to deliver little hits of dopamine. There’s a lot to consider here and only a few aspects are being highlighted. One last rather mind-blowing fact is that there’s now an ‘attention economy’ because tech companies make money from our attention! The more engaged or hooked we are, the happier shareholders are!

The attention we don’t get on social media or negative attention can also cause emotional hurt.

Since attention or awareness is a huge spiritual asset and resource, stop and consider for a minute: Your precious power of attention making billions for faceless tech companies.

Georgia O’Keeffe – Light coming from the Plains 3

Awareness is the main asset we have that makes us human, give us the ability to self-reflect, to self-correct, it helps us communicate with ourselves and others, awareness is the state meditation takes place in, self-awareness leads to higher awareness and even in daily living we can’t do a single thing without relying on awareness.

Where we put our attention is the same place our energy goes. Phones and the types of connections we make on them can be exhausting. It isn’t only the blue light from your smartphone that’s disturbing your sleep patterns (check settings or get the app that reduces blue light after sundown). It’s also how much attention=energy you want to give out and how much of this precious power you want to direct inward. Or to creative endeavors, self-care, family and so on.

There’s mad speed these days, everywhere. The news cycle is on steroids. World and natural events, and effects of climate change are escalating. There’s a move to extremes. Its difficult to figure out what’s objective truth at times.

The only way to gain power in a world that is moving too fast is to learn to slow down. And the only way to spread one’s influence wide is to learn how to go deep.

— Marianne Williamson

So we have to find ground, our own ground. The ground is still. It’s firm. It’s a place we can be. Where we can breathe and be. Be ourselves. Be natural and simple.

Tech is here to stay. It’s already integrated into our lives. There are positive and useful aspects of all the tech we carry around and have in our homes and cars. It’s an open question whether Silicon Valley practices good tech ethics and this is one area where users do have a solution: How do we spend our precious attention?

Because we are creatures bestowed with the power of choice, we can make that choice.

Choice and awareness are part and parcel of the same power within us.

Spiritual practitioners are practitioners of awareness in essence. All the time we spend on our spirituality is for refining awareness in the end. Yet we can still become mindless or numb.

Awareness and choice are still there as superpowers, to either yank us out of the tunnel vision of social media or our own habits of numbing. Or anything else we encounter that we must be pulled out of. Being core parts of human makeup, awareness and choice are there to course-correct at any moment (will power is related).

Each moment is new. Each moment contains a choice. Each moment is filled with awareness.

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Mindful Use of Tech