Well at least in the Western Countries that is, in the last 25 years we have seen a fundamental shift in how we interact with each other and the world around us. We are always available, always on, and can never shut down. We have welcomed this change into our lives with open hands and wallets. I am not saying that this progress is a bad thing. It would go against everything my site is about. I think there can be a balance and a chance to make a choice to unplug, go analog, once in awhile.
What am I talking about when I mention the idea of going analog? Do I mean giving up all the modern conveniences that the last 60 or 70 years brought? Not really. You will probably never find me in a cabin in the woods, with no power or central air. That doesn’t even sound fun to me. If it is for you, then go for it. This concept is going to be different for everyone.
So, what does going analog mean for me? Well, I think at its core it would be removing the distractions, the constant vying for my attention. Our smartphone are built with this in mind, not only are they designed for us to interact with, they are designed for us to stay involved with the device. This leads to a lack of connection with those around us.
One only has to look up the ideas behind the heads-up rule common among youth today. It states in a group of 5 or more, as long as 2 people have their heads up and talking, everyone else is free to look at their phones. I don’t even really like calling them phones since we do so little calling on them anymore.
So what do we do? Give up our smartphones, our links to the world, the device that keeps us from being bored? No way, I hear you saying it right now. Trust me, I feel the same way also. Now that I have had a smartphone in my life for at least 10 years, I cannot imagine a day without it. I find it hard to function without it. Even when I spend my whole workday in front of a computer that can provide me with the same “information” as a smartphone can. Something about the comfort of the phone being in my pocket makes me feel better.
Like I have a lifeline to the world. I am okay being alone with my thoughts, but I don’t look forward to it like I used to. Being bored for me always meant a time to let my mind wander onto things I might not otherwise think about. The only difference is if I have a thought, I can start to research it right away. So it defeats the purpose before I even start.
It’s not just the phone that has become the ubiquitous device that has become everything for us, our TV, our movie theater, our music player, our books, our encyclopedia, our camera, and of yeah, we can talk to people on it also.
I think just being aware of what’s happening around you and what that little device does to change the conversation. How many times have you sat down at a table with friends and family and the phones come out and are set on the table. Studies have shown that the presence of the phone in the midst of the conversation makes people less likely to really have deep conversation. The phone is a reminder that while I am present here with you, I am always ready to respond to someone/something else. It’s a subtle way of saying, “Yes, you are important, but not as important as what I might be missing”
If you want to still have the phone on you, just keep it in your pocket, turn off the notifications so the only thing that comes through is a phone call. It takes some getting used to, but it does feel a little better, being more connected and less distracted.
Try being alone with your thoughts once in awhile, rather than whipping out your phone everytime you are waiting in line, or have a free moment, just try to let your mind wander a little bit. You might be surprised to where it takes you.
Allow yourself to be bored also. It is a good thing for our minds to not be constantly stimulated. It needs a chance to rest and recoup. If you get to the end of the day and find yourself harried and tired, it might not be what you did, but what you didn’t do.
All this is just around the smartphone, there are other ways you can make small changes to unplug one in awhile, to give your mind and body a chance to relax. The constant stimulation our current connected world provides becomes an addiction. The brain can be trained to require the next text, update, news feed, or alert. It feels good to us to scratch that itch.
I get it, I write a tech blog about how to make your technology more approachable and easier to use or understand. I also try to be aware of what it is doing to us as people, and as a society. Never before have we had so much information available to us so easily. I don’t think we as a species are quite ready for what that means. I keep hearing it said that we are the most connected but most lonely we have ever been in years.
I for one am going to really purpose to follow what I have laid out here. One thing I have found is just keeping my phone in my pocket, not putting it on the table when I sit down to eat or on my desk at work. I am trying to teach myself that I don’t need the constant stimulus from the phone. That I can be present in the now and enjoy what’s happening around me.
The second thing I have rediscovered is photography. I have always been interested in it, and after picking up a couple of film, yes 35mm, film cameras I have found a way to slow down. I really have to think about the shot and not have the instant feedback on if I got it or not. There have been a few happy accidents so far, but it has been enjoyable. So I will be bringing a review of some of the film cameras I have collected in the last couple of weeks.
So I hope you will join me on this journey of reflection and maybe find some space in your life to slow down and unplug for a little bit.
There are two books that I have read that have helped me understand this concept a little bit better, one is “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle. The other book is “Radical: Reclaiming our faith from the American Dream” by David Platt
If you have any ideas as to ways you can unplug, leave them in the comments below.
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