My laptop broke several weeks ago. After trying everything I could to fix it myself, I finally had to send it away for three weeks, finding a much older standalone PC to use in the interim. I expected that it would be inconvenient having to use something that wasn’t portable and that was very limited and relatively slow. What I didn’t expect was how incredibly lost I’d feel.
With the loss of my portable PC went also my routine of meeting up for coffee with friends and working alongside them, of walking every day to meet them, of knowing where all my important files were and being able to access them, of conversing with and connecting to my online world with ease and at any time.
I felt I’d lost my independence and began to feel powerless, at the effect of “old ways”.
Within a week, I was a mess: I spent hours trying to get the older PC to do what it couldn’t; I felt isolated and miserable; I gained weight. In short, I felt lost. I remember a short series that Oprah did inviting families to live without smartphones and TV for a week, and having to have at least one meal together every day. It would typically take them a week to adjust: at first they resented it and felt much like I did; then they began to like the change.
Well, I never liked the change. Most of my business is online – I see many of my clients online. But the one thing I really appreciated from this experience was how pretty much all of us are completely dependent on online. It is simply part of our everyday lives.
Imagine for a moment what the continent of North America would be like – emotionally – if all laptops and smartphones stopped working. Oh I know – there are going to be some doubting Thomases out there who really believe they’d be fine. To you, I challenge you to try it! Try living without all convenient online access for 2 weeks. This isn’t about planning a vacation away from technology – it’s about carrying on your ordinary day without it.
I agree with so many of you that we are too dependent on modern online technology. And yet it’s convenience is something we probably can’t simply eliminate: our entire world, including communications and how we work depends on it. But perhaps we can do something that would help us become more independent of it.
- Set your priorities, making one of them online free time. Every morning I highlight three things that must be a part of my day. One of them is getting outside. I recall a friend telling me a story of her visit to a famous Chinese garden in Beijing: it was Spring and the park was filled with people enjoying the cherry blossoms. There was a lake and people could enjoy the lake using paddle boats. She recalled one such boat passing by that was filled with young women – every one of then with their eyes glued to their smartphones. The setting of that story could be anywhere these days, but it isn’t only youth – it’s all of us. We can chose to deliberately spend time in Nature with no online connection for an hour or two.
- Build in redundancy. This is a disaster recovery principle that might save you a lot of grief. It isn’t hard to do and doesn’t take a lot of time to maintain, although it may take you some time to build. Make a list of contacts and procedures that you need to have in the event that your online access crashes; then develop a process of storing or printing off that information periodically so that you have it in a non-technical form if you need it. I do something similar with my living situation – have the bare essentials that I would need to support myself if I were to lose electricity for a week or two. This kind of preparation can eliminate worry, if you take the time to maintain it.
- Practice mindfulness. I say this for so many things. It’s really the best way to learn to accept what is – not what we can do something about, but what we can’t do anything about. Developing a daily mindfulness practice helps us deal relatively calmly with whatever comes our way.
In today’s modern living, I don’t believe we can go back to the way we lived prior to online technology without pretty severe consequences. But we can gain a level of independence that makes us less a slave to it, or to anything else.
This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1, but most often is not referenced in part 1 (it offers a different point of view); the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy all three parts.
Sherry Turkle: Connected, but Alone?
Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages. For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org