Thursday, March 20, 2014

Unplug for relaxation, not protest

The column linked and excerpted here may help remind us that technology itself shouldn't be the gremlin that we hide from or rail against. That angst (or even anger) that you hear is directed mostly to the explosion of communication devices, and what that means is to me is that people are thirsting for more communication which is a good thing. So talk more if you want or not; just use tools based on your needs and not on whatever everyone else uses or tells you to use.

However, here are the rules that I use for communication technology:

Try not to use when with people.

Try not to send out passing thoughts constantly; sit and prepare a thoughtful post, email or message.

Use it to be useful to your community. Plenty of online communication lets folks know about traffic jams ahead or lost pets or events nearby. Think about those with less mobility or those with private struggles and how hearing from a friend or neighbor might be a lovely experience.

Don't expect these devices to fix issues since using devices may only exacerbate tendencies. So if you are a procrastinator, let's assume that you'll find mindless ways on them to delay doing what you should be doing. If your mind is less than organized, you may have begun to fear your email inbox. If anger is an issue, do your best to curb the missives sent immediately after you feel it rising.

Use to better yourself. Learn about the world, use "brain games" to increase focus, find other tools that will help better you as a person.

What sex was for the Puritans, technology has become for us. We’ve focussed our collective anxiety on digital excess, and reconnecting with the “real” world around us represents one effort to control it. 

Unplugging seems motivated by two contradictory concerns: efficiency and enlightenment. Those who seek efficiency rarely want to change their lives, only to live more productively; rather than eliminating technology, they seek to regulate their use of it through Internet-blocking programs like Freedom and Anti-Social, or through settings like Do Not Disturb. The hours that they spend off the Internet aren’t about purifying the soul but about streamlining the mind. The enlightenment crowd, by contrast, abstains from technology in search of authenticity, forsaking e-mail for handwritten letters, replacing phone calls with face-to-face conversations, cherishing moments instead of capturing them with cameras. Both crowds are drawn to events like the Day of Unplugging, and some members even pay premiums to vacation at black-hole resorts that block the Internet and attend retro retreats that ban electronics. Many become evangelists of such technological abstinence, taking to social media and television, ironically, to share insights from their time in the land of innocence.

 If it takes unplugging to learn how better to live plugged in, so be it. But let’s not mistake such experiments in asceticism for a sustainable way of life. For most of us, the modern world is full of gadgets and electronics, and we’d do better to reflect on how we can live there than to pretend we can live elsewhere.

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