The threat of technology to our humanness is no new fear (hello, Blade Runner! …actually: goodbye, you are a super boring movie 😆). But, there seems to be an acute crisis of our current cultural moment, as we relate to technology.
Here is just a fraction of writings from the past month addressing this:
- The Atlantic article about teenaged sadness (linked to low sociality, stressors of the world's burdens — and how we know them because of news, and of course, social media)
- The much-shared Jonathan Haidt article about the past 10 years of American life being uniquely "stupid" (in essence: the FB like button & Twitter retweet function set off an amplified fragmentation of people)
- This blog post — which could have been any one of the hundreds addressing the same desperate need —: How I Keep the Internet From Ruling My Life
- Most fascinating & insightful of all, imo: Andy Crouch's book The Life We're Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World. I haven't read the book yet (I've read others, like the Tech-Wise Family), but listened to the author on this podcast, The Art of Manliness (I know 😂). I found some of his reflections (going way beyond "the algorithm is in charge" panic) to be incredibly insightful. He articulated some new ideas I hadn't really thought of.
It's... a lot. We can feel defeated, discouraged, even shameful (ie. why can't I just stop checking my phone!). I get, honestly, a bit freaked out sometimes.
My best, imperfect "solution" for keeping a clear head & an even keel is to stay connected with the non-digital. I love technology, I am grateful for the internet (naturally! This website has been a gift to me and so many!). But, I want to keep it all from dominating my whole life, heart, mind, body, soul.
Here are a few ways that I intentionally try to disconnect from the digital life:
- Not letting go of paper
Reading tangible books, writing thank you notes, printing out calendars or crosswords, drawing thoughts on a mind map. Using a pen I like, having paper or a notebook at hand. The tangible physicality of it all.
My to-do list
I have notes apps and running docs; I have saved pics, recipes, links, quotes on Pinterest, Instagram, and many defunct apps.
But, the method of keeping myself on-track that has actually worked best? A tiny (2"x2") notepad with 5 faint checkboxes. It has kept me focused for the day and saves me from the distractions that are inevitable when I check a list on my phone or computer.
A watch / alarm
Ironically, one of the best allies I've had for untangling me from my tech dependence has been... my Fitbit watch. My older, lower-features model (Charge 2) has been perfect for 1) checking the time, 2) setting timers & alarms, & 3) keeping my phone away from my bedside and out of my hands. Also, I suppose, tracking my steps, heart-rate, sleep, & exercise (ha ha). But, honestly, the timekeeping & alarm-setting has been 95%+ of its value & functionality for me.
Choosing products without electronic components
I can repair a broken coffee machine or (maybe) faucet. Mechanics can replace or repair components on a car. These skills are not easy, but they are learnable. And, much more accessible than a fix than a silicon motherboard!
I'm ok to be accused of being behind the times, but I will keep choosing non-smart lightbulbs, appliances, etc. above products that depend on a tech team in California and my phone at the ready.
Literally turning off my phone & taking breaks
It wasn't long ago that I was travelling in foreign destinations with no connection for days. I'm not talking about backcountry adventures, I mean NYC, France... even my regular life 10 years ago included mostly a flip phone for talking and some text.
It's difficult to remember that what used to be so natural & obvious (being "disconnected" when you leave the house or go away) now feels kind of itchy. I try to take breaks where I literally turn my phone off for a day. It feels foolish even to type that, as if it is some great feat or revelation!
If you have any ideas, I would love to hear your input. Share insights or thoughts in the comments below!