Technology. It has been a hobby of mine since 1981 when I fell in love with programming, applications and online games. My brain is wired for logic and for problem solving and computers have always helped me fill this compulsion.
And since I was 13 years old I have been accustomed to the debate about the limitations of technology or rather the downsides of being overly obsessed with gadgets, devices, software or applications. Every hour of Zork was an hour not on the soccer field or basketball court and every chat in Prodigy or CompuServe was an in-person chat not happening. I was blessed with a healthy extraverted side to accompany my inner computer geek so the balance never had negative consequences.
The detractors were much stronger in the 80’s and early 90’s but my arguments that for every person who was pulled away from an actual social interaction was another who was alone and now could connect with other humans and feel affinity with people thousands of miles away. Technology is of course a dual-edge sword but the media discussions of how it affects human interactions all too often focuses on the downsides.
But the debate rages on and we know the last eight years drove computing from the confined time & space of our desktops and into our pockets and now wrists. The mobility of technology has exacerbated both the upsides (all the information at our finger tips at any moment) and the downsides (addictions of checking updates incessantly or spending more time capturing and posting events than enjoying them).
If you’re reading this then you are doubtlessly a gadget-heavy, tech-forward person who has fully embraced the upside case for technology but I’m willing to bet you sometimes rue the encroachment it has had into your personal life – both watching loved ones as well as knowing yourself that you are all-too-addicted. Numerous articles point out the “sitting is the new smoking” and if so then “mobile phones are the new crack.”
I was so moved a few years ago by this poetry slam by Marshall Davis Jones that I invited him to speak at our annual Upfront Summit and he was as genuine in person as he came across in this video (if you haven’t seen it, I promise you won’t regret watching it).
From his poem …
my world has become so digital
I have forgotten what that feels like it was difficult to connect when friends formed clicks
now it’s even more difficult to connect
now that cliques form friends
But who am I to judge
I face Facebook
more than books face me
update my status
to prove I’m still breathing
failure to do this daily
means my whole web wide world would forget that I exist
but with 3000 friends online
only five I can count in real life
why wouldn’t I spend more time in a world where there are more people that ‘like’ me
Technology has creeped into our daily lives and become so pervasive it at times crosses the lines of acceptability and encroaches into our physical well being. And while I will always be a tech heavy user (my wife is telling me that if I’m not outside in 15 minutes she’s eating dinner without me :)) – I have to admit that I have for a while been thinking about how to best push back.
Some have urged a “digital sabbath” where one would give up logging in for one (or two?) days on the weekend but I have to admit that never appealed to me because I actually enjoy the freedom of being online during the weekend when it feels less like work. And for what it’s worth blogging has always been a creative outlet for me and never felt like an obligation or work.
But I realized that one are that technology was having an unhealthy impact on my life and that was in the bedroom. Like many of you I dragged my mobile phone into my bedroom at night and would occasionally check email or Twitter or Facebook before bed. I used my iPhone as my alarm clock and I often did 20 minutes of email in bed in the morning before starting my day. But the evening sessions led to my thinking about work right before sleeping. And the time on my phone in the morning was either time I could have been on the treadmill or at least time I could have been significantly more productive had I come downstairs and gotten on my computer (with bigger screens and a keyboard).
And of course reading a mobile device – even if I’m just reading the NY Times – cuts into time that I talk with my wife, discuss the days issues, plan the days ahead or even just curl up to a good book or watch our favorite TV shows. And whatever you think about TV at least it’s an activity you can do together and synchronized where a brain locked into a mobile device is miles away in some problem or topic in the ether.
So a few weeks ago I made a commitment never to bring my mobile phone into my bedroom at night under any circumstance. I bought a new digital alarm clock so I couldn’t use my iPhone as a crutch. When I wake up I get straight out of bed so I can start my day productively and while “draining my email” early in the morning in bed isn’t “unproductive” it certainly isn’t as productive as the alternative.
A few weeks in and I have no regret. I wish I would have done this a couple of years ago.
I plan to still be a huge technology nerd going forward. I look forward to buying an Amazon Echo. I’m sure I’ll buy more IoT devices. I’ll still be online often – in both desktop and mobile mode. But I’m taking one small step to stem the tide of the digital world’s encroachment into my life. And I feel great about it.
(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)