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The 1 Big Challenge Millennials Face With Today’s Digital Tools (And How To Avoid It)

Nicolas ColeNicolas Cole

Millenials are often criticized for being too dependent on technology. Here's how to be more aware of whether your gadgets are enhancing or distracting your life.

When it comes to productivity, digital tools can make all the difference. Instead of carrying around paper, we can store files in the cloud. Instead of having to schedule meetings with industry professionals to pick their brains and learn from them, we can watch their weekly business show on YouTube. Instead of typing, we can speak to our devices. Instead of doing things the slow and steady way, we can speed up the process.

The challenge, however, and one that the Millennial generation knows all-too-well is the double-edged sword that comes with today’s technology. And equally so, the coinciding conflict it has created with the older generations over its usage.

The truth is, technology and its societal benefits exist on a bell curve. To completely ignore technology is to be stuck in an age of (at this point) unnecessary inefficiency. And yet, to become entirely entranced by technology is to also be stuck in a hopeless cycle of unnecessary inefficiency. Nothing productive gets done when you have 18 browser tabs open and are constantly bombarded by an orchestra of notifications.

Technology’s improvement upon productivity happens right in the middle of that bell curve. The goal is for tech to be a supplement to positive and rigorous habits, kept in control by this ethereal word today’s society seems to speak of but in truth has a very poor relationship with, called “balance.”

This battle with distraction is one today’s creatives know well. 99U, for example, the publication by Behance, published an entire book combating this very topic: How To Manage Your Day-To-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei. The book is a resource pool of thought leaders sharing their own perspectives on today’s tools and yet how, now more than ever, creative minds need to learn to use these tools in appropriate moderation so that the “deep work” that comes through silence and clear focus can still unfold.

The real challenge, then, is to learn how to manage the distractions that technology welcomes. Especially for the Millennial generation having grown up with tech from an early age (and even more so, Generation Z), here are 3 things to keep in mind and may even help you understand where the older generations are coming from:

1. Technology was created by humans, for humans.

Take Instagram, for example. An incredible tool for sharing stories, but a frustrating one when you forget the human beings sitting on the other side of the pictures in your feed.

What’s interesting about the Millennial generation is that, while they do not enjoy being called impatient, at the same time air their grievances about their lives not moving quickly enough. It is truly the embodiment of technology’s underpinnings: on the one end, younger generations love the access tech has provided them, and at the same time, they do not enjoy how it makes them feel, emotionally. They scroll through Instagram and feel inspired, while simultaneously questioning whether they are doing “enough” with their lives.

In order to have a positive relationship with tech, it’s crucial to remember that it was created by humans, for humans. And if that human element is forgotten, then you will find yourself wrapped up in the digital world where things aren’t quite what they seem.

2. The best tech exists in silence.

Stunning UI/UX design is a perfect example of this. When technology can do what you need it to do before you even know that you need it, the design is flawless. Why? Because it brings you, the user, into a clear state of flow. There is no conscious choosing or deliberating. It simply moves, like art.

The same goes for you own creative process. That state of flow is what each person hopes to reach, whether it be in their work, while reading, traveling, etc. It’s that frame of mind when you are not interrupted by anything, and you can achieve a sense of clarity.

Knowing that, it’s important to remember then the purpose of notifications. Imagine how you would feel if you were using an application and every few minutes a random window popped up. It would disrupt your experience, and guaranteed it would make you upset. The same goes for notifications. If you are trying to be productive and yet you allow for these distractions, you are going to disrupt your own “experience.”

Remember, tech is a tool. It is there to help you with your primary aim, the task at hand. And if that task is forgotten because of the tech, then it is not doing its job. It is failing you, and you are failing it.

3. Tech is a supplement, not a substitute.

When it comes to connectivity from afar, digital platforms have allowed for a world many never dreamed imaginable.

However, unfortunately the same can be said for connectivity in the here and now.

The purpose of technology is to extend the human relationships in our daily lives across borders, overseas, on the go, and more. But when that technology then takes the place of actual human interaction, it has crossed the top of the bell curve and gone too far. The image that comes to mind here is of a group of friends sitting at the dinner table together, not speaking, each looking at their phones.

Again, it’s not that technology or this level of connectivity is wrong. It’s just slippery, and easy to lose control over.

What’s important is that we remember why we created technology, its purpose, and to remember that purpose in our daily lives. To use tech to keep in touch with one another as our paths distance themselves is beneficial. To use tech as a distraction when the people we love are right next to us is harmful.

Tech is not bad. It’s just difficult to master.

Nicolas Cole

Nicolas Cole

Author · Entrepreneur · Inc Columnist