Digital Connection - a Blessing or a Curse?

Revisiting a post from March.


Back in March, 2020, as part of the "Learning in Groups and Teams" graduate course, I wrote the post below. The task was to write an individual reflection on a group we would like to form. Although my idea was about a hypothetical group, five months later, after working from home, I feel that a need for this group has become real. In my short break between terms, trying to unplug in order to recharge, I find it more difficult than ever (hence working on the blog instead of enjoying the big outdoors). How do you disconnect without the fear of missing out?


Overcoming Digital Dependence During COVID-19 – A Hypothetical Situation


Situation

With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly across the globe, more and more people are isolating at home and working remotely. For most people, technology has become a fortunate solution, a way to continue to function and cope with the current crisis, but for some, digitally addicted, this new approved and encouraged access to technology may pose a threat.


Goals

 Maintain a healthy balance between use of technology and non-digital activities

“Increase the ability to build and maintain humanizing relationships” (Johnson & Johnson, p.509)

Increase work productivity. Transform technology into an ally and not an enemy.


Group

Self-help/mutual-support cognitive-behavioral group – a voluntary group where members have a common problem (tech addiction) and decide how to change to “develop more effective behavioral patterns” (Johnson & Johnson, 2017, p.513)


Rules

Be supportive of each other.

Respect individual differences.

Don’t judge.

Build trust.

Accept responsibility for own choices.


Guidelines for communication

Discuss together the organization of the group.

Share ideas and brainstorm solutions together.

Use small “nudges” (Sunstein, 2009) and “implementation intention” (Gollwitzer, P., 1999) in planning non-digital activities. Asking diverse members of the group when, where, what and/or how about their intended activities increases their likelihood of happening.

Meet regularly (online) to talk about struggles, successes, and new ideas. Ensure that everybody has a chance to speak and share.

Maintain virtual contact with diverse members of the group and enlist peer support.

Move through the different stages of self-disclosure (orientation, exploratory affective, affective, and stable exchange) (Johnson & Johnson, 2017, p. 520-521) as needed.

Provide constructive feedback.


Guidelines for conflict

Use problem solving to resolve conflict.

Share different perspectives.


Leadership style/Role of the leader

Collective leadership, with the group’s visible leader(s) acting as coach or facilitator.

The facilitator(s) creates a safe and supportive environment, encourages positive relationships and promotes trust.

Some members are acting as resource experts.


Diversity and democracy

Diversity offers different perspectives, “providing multiple sources of social comparison” (Johnson & Johnson, 2017, p.530). Anybody with a digital dependence is welcome, and any kind of differences are encouraged. Each member may have a different situation, from type of dependence, living arrangements (living alone or with others, in a big house or small apartment) and work status (employed or unemployed, type of work and responsibility) to financial situation and other stress factors.

The best way to manage diversity within the group is by creating “a cooperative context in which positive relationships among diverse individuals can be built” (Johnson &Johnson, 2017, p. 437).

Establish democracy by encouraging positive goal interdependence, ensuring that each member accepts responsibility for their choices and actions and facilitating reflection and discussion.

Enlist peer support.


Other guidelines

Create technology-free zones in the living/working space and schedule time slots for non-digital activities.

Use apps to monitor and limit technology use.

Make a schedule and have little reminders throughout the day about different activities.

Enlist support of family members that live with you.

References:

Gollwitzer, P. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.54.7.493

Johnson, D., & Johnson, F. (2017). Joining together. NY, NY: Pearson.

Sunstein, C. (2009). Nudge. [S.I.]: Penguin Publishing Group.

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