Hi, my name is Mary Catherine, I’m a yoga teacher, and I’m addicted to email.
I know this sounds a little bit dramatic, but I want to make my point very clear — email addiction, or more generally, technology addiction, can happen to anyone. It sneaks up on you without your knowing, and over time it becomes your drug of choice.
I completely understand that email addiction is a total #firstworldproblem, and I’m kind of embarrassed to be making such a big deal about it. But it has become so prevalent in our society, and I think it’s an important enough subject that I’m going to soldier on.
Here’s how I realized I was an addict:
I’m currently going through a fairly big job transition — one that I initiated and wanted, but one that has been an adjustment for me nonetheless. Over the past month, I’ve been slowly training someone else to take over my studio director job at the yoga studio where I also teach, and this week marks the final week of that transition. I’ve handed over all of my responsibilities; I’m now a lame duck.
Although this studio director role was supposed to be part-time when I first started, it quickly grew with the studio and came to define my life over the past two and a half years. The job required me to be available on email almost 24/7, as businesses that open at 6:15 a.m. and close around 10 p.m. always run into emergencies at odd hours. I’ve been the go-to person and contact for our hundreds of students, large team, and partners in the community for the past few years.
But now, all of a sudden, I’m not.
This is what I want. I've really enjoyed this job and am going to miss it. I’m giving up this role because it has taken up so much of my time and energy — and so much space in my inbox. Now I need some of this time, energy and space back to pursue my own passions.
As my inbox has slowly started to fill less and less every hour (I’m now getting 5-6 emails for every 15-20 that I got at the beginning of May), I’ve started noticing withdrawal symptoms, feelings of worry, low-lying anxiety I can detect every time I open my inbox. Why? Because over the past few years I’ve become addicted to being needed. Now, I’m starting to feel like I’m not quite so needed, and it’s kind of scary. At least, that’s my theory … I haven’t run it by my therapist yet.
From what I’ve read about technology addiction, I’m far from being the only one who has it. It’s become a common phenomenon in our constantly connected culture, and more and more people are struggling with a need to be needed, to be noticed, to be validated through email and social media. But I’ve never felt the pull so strongly as I do now.
The thing is, before, I wasn’t aware of the emotional attachment that comes with full inboxes, constant retweets, or “likes,” because I was too busy answering emails. But I’ve now realized that one of the big reasons I’ve been addicted is because it makes me feel important — like I have something to say that people need to hear. Sounds a little narcissistic, doesn’t it?
In fact, when you’re constantly in contact with 50 different people at the same time, it’s easy to push everything else aside. In a way, as every addiction can be, it’s just another distraction method, meant to keep us from dealing with the reality of our lives — which usually involves actually living, feeling, breathing and being present in the moment. As someone with a slightly addictive personality, when I look at it this way, it all becomes fairly obvious; I’m addicted to technology because it saves me from dealing with the real worries and issues in my life. It’s simple.
So, although I’ve been questioning myself, my stepping back from this “important” role, and suddenly, the uneasy feelings of unworthiness and anxiety that are setting in (“If I’m not being emailed every few minutes, has everyone forgotten about me?), I’m going to push through, go to rehab (in the form of a somewhat disconnected beach trip next week), deal with the symptoms of withdrawal, and see what awaits me on the other side.
Hopefully, it’s a more mindful, spacious life, full of a little more silence, anonymity, creativity and real connections.