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Adapting to a Virtual World - Connections Fall 2020

By: Erin Birely, LCPC, Team Leader of the Renfrew Center of Baltimore and Alumni Services Coordinator

Posted on October 26, 2020

Growing up, I can remember the sheer joy of being allowed to play outside with friends and experiencing nature. Being social meant talking to peers at school and chatting with neighbors. Now, it involves an array of devices and apps, with new ones becoming popular seemingly every month. This access to technology allows kids and adolescents to connect with a wider range of friends in different places and learn things I could not have learned while playing outside! However, the downside is the boundaries between home, school, work, and friends are increasingly unclear. Our world has become more accessible at all times, which has both positive and negative impacts.

In this connected world, we have to weigh the risks and benefits of constant connection, especially when it comes to recovery from an eating disorder. None of us would deny the importance of technology amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has allowed us to stay connected and supported during these unprecedented times. But, we want to ensure we are evaluating how and why we are using the connection we are seeking.

When using virtual methods of connection to find validation in others or in our work, it may not be as helpful as working to find validation in ourselves. Not setting boundaries on our time at work versus at home can lead to burnout and higher rates of job dissatisfaction. Bullying has left the classroom and school yard, and is now ever-present on the internet. And with the public nature of social media, feelings of isolation can be heightened when we see our friends and those we know hanging out without us.

While the connection technology has brought to us is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon (and we probably wouldn't want it to!), there are ways to keep ourselves aware of its influence on us:

• Set firm boundaries around work and/or school.
• Turn off notifications when on vacation or at home.
• Create a device-free area(s) of your home, where technology is off-limits and connection must happen in person.
• Check your social media feeds regularly and ask yourself, is following this account helping or harming me?

It is with awareness of our emotional responses to technology that we can enjoy the benefits, while mitigating the risks the best we can. In this issue of Connections, you will find additional resources for navigating this increasingly virtual world we live in, as well as inspiring stories and beautiful artwork from Renfrew alumni, exciting updates and more to help you move through recovery with confidence, no matter what tomorrow brings!

Connections is Renfrew's alumni newsletter. Published twice a year, Connections highlights alumni recovery stories, upcoming events, tips and tools to stay in recovery and much more. To read the Fall 2020 issue of Connections, please click here.

Erin Birely, LCPC, started working as the Team Leader of The Renfrew Center of Baltimore in September 2016 and joined the Alumni Services Team in 2019 as the Alumni Services Coordinator. Prior to joining Renfrew, Erin had worked in private practice as well as inpatient, partial and intensive outpatient levels of care. Erin has worked in the field of eating disorder treatment since receiving her Master's degree in 2012. She enjoys working with people to make positive and long lasting changes in life through therapy and building their emotional tolerance.
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