Stop following your loved ones

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In loaded Over the weekend my husband, Brandon, took our three children to the park so I could work. When he didn’t respond to my message asking me to stop by the grocery store on my way home, and I couldn’t track him on Find My Friends, I called. When the music was blaring and all four of my boys were singing out of tune, my phone calls every two minutes went unnoticed. All eight of them.

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The image of a terrible car accident appeared in my head – my whole family died in an instant. After 15 minutes, I was so confused that I left the house and started driving along the route they would take to get home, asking Siri to dial again. Turning the corner onto the main street, I spotted our van. Then, a few seconds later, I saw Brandon’s head bobbing to the music as I walked past him and headed in the other direction.


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I had to ask myself: Was it stressful to be able to immediately contact a loved one, or at least locate them? Nancy Collier, NYC licensed clinical social worker, reverend and author The power of shutdown: a conscious way to stay sane in the virtual world, tells me that my neurosis of needing to instantly connect with people is not an anomaly in the digital age. In fact, says Collier, with all the texting, monitoring and tracking, most of us live in a constant state of anxiety.

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“We used to walk for long periods without knowing where someone was,” says Collier. “Now there’s been a paradigm shift from ‘the world is a safe place we can trust’ to ‘if we don’t micromanage every moment, something terrible is going to happen.’

However, there is plenty of evidence that our loved ones, friends and even our children are safer in the world today than they were in the 1990s in terms of security. violent crime, child abductionand traffic accidents. Also, in the unlikely event of a real emergency, the authorities could use cell tower data to locate our brood. So do we need tracking technology?

Manage tracking impulses

For most people, observing the movements of family members is usually starts as a virtuous pursuit. Parents, spouses and anyone else who is worried about an elderly relative can use apps like Life 360, mSpy and FamiSafe to make sure their loved ones are safe and that they can contact them in an emergency. (Although we strongly advise against through applications such as diversity reasons.)

In recent years, I have relied on Find My Friends as a kind of crystal ball that reassures me that everything is as it should be. I use it to make sure my mom, siblings, and husband got from point A to point B, and in Brandon’s case, to see if he left the office. Bonus: Allowing family members to track me has removed the burden of having to check in when I get to where I’m going.

But in an era where parents can track their kids’ every move, teens track their lover’s digital fingerprint, and spouses like me go crazy when their families go offline for 15 minutes, more experts are wondering if it’s healthy to be so connected. our loved ones.

“One of the biggest risks these technologies pose is that they make us more neurotic,” says Pamela Wisniewski, Associate Professor University of Central Florida whose research focuses on the intersection of human-computer interaction, social media, and privacy. “If all we get is metadata that someone is not where we expect, that might cause us concern.” It can even lead to erroneous conclusions that sabotage our daily activities.

While these technologies are designed to mitigate risk, in the worst case, tracking applications can cause problematic false positives when a crash occurs. Take your time, I saw my mom seem to be stuck two blocks from her house. When I realized her location hadn’t changed in 30 minutes, I became worried she spilled while walking the dog. It turned out that her battery died when she was walking around the neighborhood.

“We have such a magical mindset that if we know where our loved ones are, we can somehow save them from a dangerous world,” says David Greenfield, Ph.D., ABPP, founder and director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. The apps promote our primal fear of separation from our loved ones. But is the benefit of perceived Is safety worth the undue concern? Or more bliss in ignorance?

Consider tracking pitfalls

The truth is, there are good reasons why you might not want someone to follow your every move. “It can be virtuous, like when someone wants to give a surprise gift to a loved one, or maybe something a little risky, like when a teenager wants to be alone with her boyfriend,” Wisniewski says. “To some extent it’s a pushing of boundaries, this seclusion is beneficial, especially in adolescence.”

Every socially useful reason for using tracking technology has privacy or concern implications. The most obvious pitfall is that tracking breeds mistrust, especially when it is used to control children’s behavior.

“Not only are you feeding your own anxiety, but you’re also communicating that you don’t think your child will be able to hack it in the real world without your help, and that could be devastating for you, your child, and your child.” relationship,” says Greenfield. It may even affect their ability to successfully start adulthood.

For example, children who are supervised may not become as independent as their non-supervised peers. “Children develop a sense of confidence when they are encouraged to go out into the world without safety nets,” says Greenfield. “They make mistakes, they stumble and fall, they run out of gas and become more competent as a result.”

Experts agree that trust, privacy, and the ability to make mistakes – and grow from them – trump the perceived security we get from constant monitoring. “If you’re using geo-tracking to see if your child is on their way home so you can start cooking dinner, that’s a healthy use,” says Wisniewski. “But when it comes to compulsive surveillance, that’s unhealthy surveillance.”

More worrying: Tracking technology could put your loved ones at greater risk. When teenagers know that their parents are watching their every move, they can find ways to disable location sharingWisniewski says. They buy disposable phones, remove the batteries from their devices, turn off the power. Then, in a truly emergency situation, not even the police can pinpoint their exact location.

Pause before pursuit

Once I realized the anxiety associated with tracking, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of squeezing harder to gain more control, I found ways to give up and let go.

“The idea is to interrupt the addictive and unconscious impulse to respond to our feeling of ‘not knowing what to do with ourselves,'” says Collier. “Most of the time, tracking and constant communication is a way to avoid silence and spend time alone with yourself.”

Now when I’m about to check “Find Friends” or run “Where Are You?” text, I pause, take a breath and ask myself, Why am I tracking? Do I really need to know the whereabouts of this person? Or am I trying to avoid some other feeling? Then, What is it like to sit in discomfort without anesthetizing it with communication and content?

Once I realized that I didn’t have to react to every thought—that I could let an unlikely tragic scenario play out in my mind without acting on it—I felt more at ease. I also started turning to meditation apps like calmness, free space, Understanding Timerand ten percent happier. By tensing this muscle for several weeks, I was finally able to turn off my device during times of stress and focus on breathing (knowing that if I Indeed need to make an emergency call, Alexa at the ready).

Can’t afford to pass out? Many apps and tools can help you use technology healthier. I found that calendar apps like calendar and Cozy let me keep an eye on the big picture – I know what events and activities of my loved ones are in the books, so I don’t have to track their every move to the minute. And instead of constant monitoring, I use text messages to check when I can’t stand low-level anxiety.

I have also included features that use push notifications in real emergencies rather than passive surveillance. Apple SOS, for example, sends automatic text messages to your emergency contacts with your location whenever you make an emergency SOS call. And Google Crisis Alert The tool allows you to share your location with others when an emergency occurs near you (earthquake, school shooting, fire or flood).

“You need to understand which technologies and communications are causing you stress and which are making you feel more comfortable, which apps are improving your quality of life and which are hurting you,” says Collier.

True, I did not turn off the “Find Friends” function. But now my mom and Brandon are the only ones I keep track of and I no longer use this feature on a daily or even weekly basis. Instead, if I’m feeling anxious, I remind myself that my loved ones are most likely safe and send them a text message: “I hope you’re eating at the top of your lungs.” Then I disable notifications and open Ten Percent Happier.

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