Steps you can take to mitigate your love affair with your electronic devices and invest in real human relationships
Steps you can take to mitigate your love affair with your electronic devices and invest in real human relationships. Getty

The famous Johnny Cash song, “I Walk the Line,” refers to refraining from love affairs. By necessity, millions of remote working Americans have become wedded to their wireless technology, unable to walk the line when it comes to their devices. Yes, technology has saved us during COVID-19, but we still need to free ourselves up with healthy work/life balance.

Flextime, 24-hour Wal-Marts and the wireless electronic leashes have vaporized the line that once kept your job from engulfing the sacred hours of Shabbat, Sunday and the family dinnertime. And now we can add changes due to the pandemic.

Some workers are so tied to their electronic “choker collars” that they’re oblivious to the negative effects of the wireless disruptions that dictate their lives. Experts say that Americans are becoming more socially isolated because of a pandemic love affair, and a one-third drop in the number of people the average person could call a friend has been reported. Statistics reveal that cell phone use while driving (even when the phone is not hand held) has the equivalent effect of three alcoholic drinks. The mental images drivers have during conversations interfere with their attention to safety and response speed, causing them to have more accidents and to make more mistakes such as missing exits.

One study found that 26% of work is done outside of normal working hours, and technology has created an “always-on” mentality for work with 40% of people using their computers after 10 p.m. Spike—a one-of-a-kind platform that combines emails, chats, calls, team collaboration and tasks all in one place—surveyed 1,000 users of email and other workplace tools in an effort to gather insights on just how email has evolved over the years. The study found that communicating with colleagues needs to change for the better in 2020. Over one-quarter of respondents said threads and chains get out of hand every day with nearly 30% dealing with the problem more than once a week.

Have You Crossed The Line

There was a time when “Blackberries” were something you consumed, not something that consumed you. And when you had a “Bluetooth,” you went to the dentist. The phrase “24/7,” household slang of the 21st century, has replaced the “9 to 5” dinosaur adage of the 1990s. These trends indicate how technology has slithered its way into every hour of our day. Now with virtual work from home has become the new normal, wireless intrusions are calling the shots, which can put you in a foot race that leaves you hurried, harried and burnt out.

As the workday continues to invade your private space, you face the challenge of keeping a close watch on your personal life, moving at a reasonable pace and staying connected to others in a compassionate, human way. How well are you walking the line between electronic intrusion and personal time? Take the test to find out.

Quiz: Are You A Techno-Gizmo Schmo?

Has one or more of your wireless devices become an electronic leash that keeps you tied 24/7? Or do you put them away after a long day to enjoy other pleasures in your life? Grade yourself by answering yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Do you have one or more wireless devices with you most of the time to stay connected to work?
  2. When you’re away from your desk, is it hard for you to stop using them for work purposes?
  3. Do you feel antsy in situations when you cannot use them?
  4. Have you ever slept with (or close to) one or more of them so you won’t miss something from work?
  5. Do you usually interrupt conversations with loved ones and/or friends to respond to them when it’s work-related?
  6. Do you usually continue using your devices after co-workers have called it quits?
  7. Is checking them for work purposes one of the last things you do before bedtime?
  8. Is checking them for work purposes one of the first things you do when you wake up?
  9. Do you use expressions like “snail mail” and “24/7” to refer to work matters?
  10. Do you prefer to spend more time with your wireless devices than socializing or hanging out with friends and family?
  11. Would it be easy for you to remove them from your life after hours, yet still be work efficient?
  12. Is it easy for you to ignore them after the workday ends?
  13.  Have they ever created problems in your personal relationships?
  14. Is it easy for you to leave them behind when you go for a walk?
  15. Would it be a snap for you to go a whole workday without using one?
  16. Generally, do you put them out of sight, out of mind after work hours?
  17. As a rule, do you turn them off during a workday when you’re on a break or interacting with loved ones?
  18. Does it bother you when other people use them in close proximity in public?
  19. Do you believe multi-tasking with wireless devices creates problems?
  20. Would you prefer face-to-face interactions with colleagues and clients over electronic communication if it weren’t for the pandemic?

SCORING: Start with 60 points. Subtract 2 points for eachyes answer to questions 1-10. Add 2 points for each no answer to questions 1-10. Subtract 2 points for each no answer to questions 11-20. Add 2 points for each yes answer to questions 11-20.


Scores                                     Grade                             Interpretation

Below 60=                                    F                    Poor. You’re a line breaker. Ask

                                                                             yourself if your leash is eclipsing

                                                                             important aspects of your life,

                                                                            causing you to miss out on

                                                                             important moments.

60-69=                                           D                   Below average. You’re more of a line

                                                                             breaker than a line backer.

70-79=                                           C                   Average. You’re half way in between

                                                                              a line breaker and a line backer.

80-89=                                           B                     Good. You’re more of a line backer

                                                                                than a line breaker.

90-100=                                          A                     Excellent. You’re a line backer.

                                                                                You’re doing a great job of holding

                                                                                the line between work intrusion and

                                                                                personal life.

Tips To Spit Shine Your Electronic Habits

Are you a click away from allowing your electronics to run your life? Think of them as a romantic partner. Yes, it’s great having them around to be able to work remotely, but it’s great to have a break once in a while, too. If you didn’t pass the test, here are some tips that can help you raise your score:

  1. Know where to draw the line. Don’t let your electronics lead you around on a leash after hours. Know when to turn off wireless devices and to say no more often. Create clear boundaries when WFH.
  2. Put away your wireless work tools. After a reasonable day’s work, put away your wireless tools out of eyesight—just as you would put away carpentry tools after building shelves or baking ingredients after making a cake. Put your devices away in a drawer so they’re out of sight, out of mind. If you absolutely must use them during personal times, confine them to specific areas of your home. No work tools in bed, at the dinner table or during important intimate conversations.
  3. Put the kibosh on immediate checking. Instead of becoming enslaved to the technological speed-of-light, master immediate checking. Electronics can activate your stress response when you respond to the immediacy of the device as if it’s a threat to extinguish. Ease up on instant messaging so you don’t create the illusion you’re available 24/7.
  4. Screen your contacts. Don’t be duped by the red alert chime of your devices when they interrupt your train of thought. Use custom ring tones for your family, friends or coworkers when you want to screen contact during off hours.
  5. Recognize that less is more. Reduce the number of times a day you check your e-mail or cell phone. Simplify your life and be more realistic about what’s possible for you to do. 
  6. Come up for air. Take frequent breaks from your wireless workday. Stay in the present with yoga, meditation and frequent solitary walks to help you unwind and clear your head. Scientists say that a 15-minute, midday power nap can refresh you for the rest of the day.
  7. Block off time for human relationships. Don’t let a co-dependent relationship with your electronic leash steal your attention from business associates, friends and loved ones. Think twice before interrupting a face-to-face conversation by answering your cell phone. Studies show that wireless intrusions ruin conversational rapport and can hurt relationships. Leave space in your schedule for pandemic safe, face-to-face interactions—heart-to-heart talks and light-hearted banter with those you care about.
  8. Strive for healthy work-home balance. You might think that rest, exercise and leisure take away time, but they actually save it in the long run. Studies show people are more productive when they take time off and have a healthy work-home balance. You’ll have more attention for the important things because balance combats stress, helps clear your mind and gives you the mental and physical health you need to face your busy life.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: