Does the capture below from our Vol. 6 Tech Edition (circa 2017) look familiar? Does your “way too smart phone” seem more like an extended outgrowth of your hand/arm than an independent little machine?
If you embrace any variation of the affirmative here, then you may also be on your way – or currently inhabiting – a pretty dangerous headspace – and life space – where a seemingly innocent feat in modern technological advances – so sleekly packaged in the latest high sheen chic and capable of countless cool tricks and kicks – is deliberately, insidiously ruining your calm, stealing your moments, skewing your perspective … hijacking your life.
I know, because it happened to me; Ever so slowly the miracle mini machine that had at first rendered my life so much easier and more fluid, organizing me in myriad ways with its solution-for-everything apps, started to take over. From a gadget I picked up every now and then to return emails, give a google, post a quote, connect with a friend or biz interest, it gradually morphed into a veritable addiction.
The scariest part is it happened so unknowingly, almost subconsciously, that I didn’t even recognize the incredibly dangerous waters I was sinking into. A couple of minutes a day turned into an hour, an hour into multiples and suddenly there was no longer any real or meaningful distance between the buzzing little bugger and my own physicality. Heck the only place I didn’t take it was bed … until I did, and then scrolled away for still more hours, never getting enough of the connectivity to “friends”, their latest exploits, and /or the infinite amount of alluring infotainment fed to me in so many irresistible ways (algorithms anyone?)
To say it overtook my life would be an understatement. It was the ultimate addiction for an artist dreamer type with extremist tendencies …
Even scarier: Like most cult-like addictions, I didn’t realize the extent to which it was undercutting the quality of my very existence until, thanks to the quarantine and pandemic pause on my life, I had the luxury of time (one of those little silver linings) to pick up a book I HIGHLY recommend for one and all – especially if they think they may be suffering a similar addictive vibe: ZUCKED by the brilliant, prescient, compassionate Roger McNamee (available at most on and offline book distributors including Amazon).
As I consumed every fascinating morsel he delivered, vividly describing my addictive and depleting behavior to a tee, it clarified so much. I was addicted because the powers that be on the other side of the menacing machine WANTED me to be – especially on the Social Media fronts – and I – we – were, and are, no match for the highly sophisticated lures they employ, rooted in the most effective persuasive technology, designed specifically to keep us playing in the Social Media sandboxes so that all personal data (more valuable than oil in today’s climate) might then be harnessed for the sheer purpose of targeting ads for willing and excited ad partners – aka mega brands desperate to benefit from the darkest side of technology.
No wonder I was so wired, so hooked! And if Roger’s enlightenment wasn’t sufficient fodder for the almighty Oprah styled AHA Moments exploding in my brain, I then happened upon such genius documentaries as The Social Dilemma and The Great Hack, among others, that drove it all in deeper. (Both are readily available for enlightenment on Netflix).
So the diagnosis of my constant exhaustion, feelings of depletion and emptiness, brain fog, yearning for more and more, was IN and as they say in trained diagnostic circles, once you know the source of the problem, it becomes that much easier to treat it. And treat it I did, to the best of my ability with help from certain professionals and trusted resources, starting with the most obvious therapies, turning off notices, and then seriously limiting my phone engagement, at times locking up the seductive sucker in a different room while I forced myself to digitally distance, seeking out other more creative real-life entertainments.
Was it easy? Short answer: NOPE! To be honest, I was so dependent, the withdrawal and FOMO so palpable that, on many occasions, I found myself desperate for a quick fix of immediate grat, falling off the wagon and then exhaling greatly, as I snatched a sneek peek of the latest, most current antics in world social.
BUT as is the case with most effective withdrawal treatments, the more I distanced and the less time I spent connected and wired (culminating in a complete break from Social Media in June initiated by my dog’s stroke shocking me into reality), the more creative I became, filling my time with soul-replenishing in-real-time real-life activities, that sizably reduced my love of – and dependence upon – the alternate digital universe that had previously dominated my life.
And despite the backdrop of a devastating global pandemic that has decimated our world on so many levels (and is arguably the worst thing to happen to civilization in over a century), in my own personal little world, I was embracing the silver lining that came in the form of spending more perfect time with myself, in glorious nature (harnessing the power of a walk gazing at the wonder of trees); reading magnificent books of all varieties (from the spiritual to the biographical to the fictional, recommendations to follow in a subsequent post); going deeper into my long neglected yoga adventures (the latter reminding me of the imperative of breathing with much credit going out to the spectacular masters at Boho Beautiful, Yoga With Kassandra and Happy Tree Yoga, all of whom offer wonderful online options), exploring the transformative powers of meditation (please check out the free meditations by the incomparable Deepak Chopra on his website and other platforms including Spotify); spending much needed and long lost bonding time with friends and family (either socially distanced or via Zoom and FaceTime and yes, old school phone-calls), and finally, just simply being, with my pooch by my side, reveling in the moments and not letting them slide past without notice, like the many DMs and messages constantly floating into our sundry in-boxes that we can never keep up with anyway ….
As for the benefits of this self-induced experiment in digital distancing: Predictably, they’ve been miraculous, and soul affirming, showing me how essential it is to get a handle on the balance we urgently need with what I aptly labelled the “way too smart phone” in the intro.
Believe it or not, but it’s true, one of the greatest minds behind the Smart Phone, the brilliant Steve Jobs, never intended his precious creation to take over our lives, addicting us and becoming what one author called “totally addictive comparison machines that hijack our brains and turn us into anxiety riddled stress addled thin skinned versions of our best selves” (a condition the genius comedian and host Bill Maher alluded to on a recent edition of his beloved HBO show, Real Time With Bill Maher.)
Instead, the tech master envisioned a whole other kind of experience for the computer, and by extension, the Smart Phone. He wished it to be in his words “the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds” which admittedly, in my humble estimation, is, and was, a glorious vision for both.
And perhaps at this juncture in the writing, my dreamer is showing, but I do believe that with the right safeguards in place ( a whole other topic to be explored at another time lol), combined with a solid handle on controlled phone time (ahem), Steve’s dream was attainable for there is indeed so much good to be gained from the Computer/Smart Phone and our inhabiting of an internet connected “global village” predicted by the famous Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan who early on, foresaw in his mind’s eye what the future would look like.
Full disclosure, I recently dipped my toe back into the Social Media pond, in my preferred place of play, Instagram. I did so after much careful reflection, weighing all the pros and cons, often wondering if my time – and life – would be better spent deactivating my presence in Social Media completely and tossing out the cell phone!
But the thing is, despite all the dangers and habits we must be SO wary of, I still believe that the good imagined by Jobs is there if approached in the right way with the right precautions.
In fact, you’re likely reading this post right now, thanks to a follow or happening upon my account on Social Media on your Smart Phone.
My hopes for me – and for us all – is that we find the sweet and safe spot in this new and as yet largely enigmatic zone and that balance and creativity direct the journey usurping the power of the technology for good.
But like everything on this wild ride called life, it’s all a work in progress.
I’ll certainly keep you posted … Please do the same for me.