“You are not the boss of me:” Talking Back to The Technologies In Our Lives

There’s a time in the lives of young children when they toss their heads, place their hands on their hips, jut out their little chins, and announce, “You are not the boss of me.” It usually happens when a parent is trying to get out the door, or wants the toys in the living room put anywhere but in the middle of the floor before the realtor comes to show the house.

It’s not fun to be the parent on that day. But more and more, I feel like anyone who uses any kind of technology needs to take a lesson from a five year-old:

Technology is not the boss of you.  

I’m tired of hearing how people are being buried in information, ruled by their phones, undone by the internet. I’m tired of hearing how people are the victims of the technology they are choosing to use.

What’s provoked this commentary? One email last week, from a tech savvy friend, put me over the edge. I threw an off-the-cuff question about technology and education into an email and his response knocked me off my chair. It read, in part, “I think digital technologies flood us with too much information and accelerate poor communication….”

I almost asked if he was kidding. Why?

Because information does not hunt you down and force itself into your brain.

Your phone does not fly into your pocket as you leave the house; you put it there. You decide to answer it when it rings. You look at a text as soon as you hear the little bell ring that announces it’s arrived. You phone does not do anything that you do not tell it to do.

The World Wide Web, aka the internet, does not turn itself on; it does not summon you to your computer or tie you to your chair.

Digital technologies do only what we tell them to do.


Digital technologies do only what we allow them to do. 

If you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed with information, online obligations, social media drama, take a breath.

Make a decision to step back and assess how you use your technologies. I had a chance to do this after a concussion knocked me off my computer for almost two months and learned a lot from the experience. Some interestingquestions to ponder:

What does your use of technologies contribute to your life? What does your use take away?

Do you have your phone set to notify you whenever an email or text arrives? Why?

Do you check messages when you are sharing a meal with others? Do you answer the phone? Why?

If you’ve seen your reading decrease over time, is it because you opt to scroll through online newspapers or Facebook or Instagram when you could be reading (ebook or otherwise)?

When was the last time you set your phone on “Do Not Disturb”? Better yet, when was the last time you left the house without your phone? What was that like?

Don’t you dare blame the tool for the way you use it.

Look your technology square in the eye and repeat after me:

You are not the boss of me. 




Spider in the center of its cobweb


Slice of Life is the weekly Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Come write along with us!

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8 responses to ““You are not the boss of me:” Talking Back to The Technologies In Our Lives”

  1. This is so true and probably what I needed to hear! When I heard my son say, “Mom, I’m trying to tell you something. Put down your phone,” it was like a dagger to my heart. I try to be very aware of not being on my phone when I’m with my kids, but it’s not easy and I realize that this is my own doing. I will be sure to tell my phone, “You are not the boss of me.” Thanks for sharing this!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Lehua. Sometimes those daggers to the heart can be good inspirations for change, eh? Thanks for reading, & I’m glad it was timely for you.

  2. Leslie says:

    Preach! Yes, I tell my daughter all of the time. “But mom, my friend just texted me!” The phone doesn’t rule your life, dear. You make a great argument!

    • Karen says:

      And, preach! back atcha. I think it may be easier for adults than kids to truly understand this. I’m reminded of the marshmallow experiment, where researchers were curious about how long someone could wait before they ate a marshmallow sitting in front of them. I’d bet the ability to delay gratification correlates to a greater sense of agency in one’s life.

  3. This is so well-stated and such an important message. I followed your link to read your previous post about your accident and concussion. I wish you continued healing! You are setting a great example in remembering the really important things. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Marilyn. Like everyone else, I’m working at it– it’s not always easy to keep the important things in sight. Glad this spoke to you.

  4. Karen, this is a brilliant, brilliant post. You are so smart, my friend, so clever. I’m scratching my head and asking myself why I did not think of this “you are not the boss of me” frame. Love it!

    Are you familiar w/ Cal Newport’s work? If not, you want to be. Trust me. He has so much to say about technology that I know you will love.

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