How is between you and your technology? Do you ever feel like you have less power over your choices and habits connected to using technology than you’d like? Do you wonder about the impact your devices are having on your brain, your body, your spirit, your quality of life?
When it comes to being conscious about how we’re shaped by our technology use, we seem to be building the plane on the runway. Our human body-minds have evolved over millions of years. The technologies we’re figuring out how to relate with came online in a relative fraction of a second of our time on this earth as a species. We don’t need to wait for experts or policies to take stock of how we’re living, and how we want to live, relative to these new technologies. I’d like to offer a few simple observations and suggestions based on my personal experience.
While there has been increasing attention on the negative impacts of social media on our collective mental health, I believe there is a more fundamental and broadly challenging force at play that stems from the constant access we have to an endless virtual world through the internet. Regardless of the content we’re accessing, the fact that we can always access more information puts at our fingertips the never-ending option to find more, to read or hear or see or learn or be entertained by something else, to peer around one more corner. The presence of the internet constantly seduces us away from presence in our here and now. It can leave us feeling out of touch with our deeper selves, with each other, and with what’s important in life.
Even if the information we connect with on the internet is benign, or truly enriching to our spirit in some way, when we consume it at the speed and volume built into the internet, all information tends to become pornographic. That is, it’s reduced to a shallow, fast, hollowed-out version of the more paced and in-the-flesh experience we need in order to feel fulfilled in a whole being way. Our lives become flattened when we forget how to move and breathe and connect , and feel fulfilled, engaged and present in the off-screen, everyday world.
Here are a few simple practices to try to start growing more awareness and choice with your relationship with technology.
1. "Home Alone”: Going somewhere where you can do without your phone for a bit? Leave it home alone! I often do this if I’m going out with my wife. There’s often no pressing need for me to have my phone in these instances. Notice how it feels to not have a device with you physically. If you want to extend this further, try taking a weeklong total technology sabbath once a year.
2. “Take 5”: Each time you have an impulse to pick up your phone or open your computer, try pausing and taking 5 coherent breaths. A coherent breath is simply an inhale to the count of 5 and an exhale to the count of 5. The purpose of this is twofold: One, in pausing you create some space between your desire and your acting. This delaying of an automatic response builds muscles connected to having discipline, patience, and the capacity for delayed gratification—all skills that are essential for effective action and genuine fulfillment. Two: The conscious breathing gives you an opportunity to tune into yourself more closely. When we reach for our devices unconsciously and automatically, wemay have a need we’re not in touch with. Perhaps we need food, or connection, or movement, or to feel meaningfully engaged with a purpose or place in a different way. The 5 breaths are a chance to sink into your body sensations and physical experience, and as you do perhaps to sense if there’s a need you may reach for in the real world that will leave you feeling more fulfilled and present.
3. Try this "Take Control Toolkit" from the Center for Humane Technology