Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Every once in a while, I run into a post I wish I'd written, and I
recently ran into a couple fitting this description that complement
each other. The first of these is "Dumb Phones and the New
Luddites," a complaint about a genre of articles in which the
authors blame (or seem to blame) smart phones for their own lack of
If you think Twitter is too distracting, GET THE HELL OFF OF TWITTER. If you lack the will power to stop checking it, delete your account. Same with Facebook and all the rest of it. But please, I beg you, stop trying to drag the rest of us into your problems. Most of us are very happy with our phones and wouldn't consider dumping them. I'm not on Twitter or Facebook but I use my iPhone all the time and it's almost never to call someone. Don Knuth famously gave up email but he didn't walk away from computers; he just stopped using email.Amen, and I say the same regarding another post, by psychologist Michael Hurd, who elaborates on an important aspect of the problem:
[Y]ou have to look at what would tempt someone to spend so much time on, say, social media rather than with one's own company. And what's the alternative to social media? Think of some examples. Taking a walk. Being in the present, being self-reflective. Being mindful, self-aware and living consciously. Experiencing every moment fully. Thinking about the problems of the day and attempting to find solutions by having little conversations with yourself. Reading a good book and losing yourself in the drama or thoughtfulness of it all. These are some of the things you miss by spending hours of time looking at what everyone else is doing every last minute of every day.I understand the exasperation of seeing people slamming smart-phones (or email, or Twitter) left and right, when they could become more disciplined about their use. But that might not always be simple. In particular, I think the problem becomes a vicious circle at some point, in the (apparent) absence of positive alternatives.
Quitting something cold turkey is one solution, and maybe the only one for some people, but such a drastic step may not be necessary -- or even desirable, as the first post notes regarding smart phones. An alternative solution to dropping your smart phone or your Twitter account altogether comes when Hurd explicitly mentions alternative ways of spending time. They're all long, and one might have to schedule them. To do this necessarily implies doing the same for social media and smart phones. I scheduled email and other social media for different reasons some time ago and found more time to concentrate on what was important to me, and to try other things. I found that I didn't just end an annoyance: I started an adventure with the "new" time I really had all along.
In sum, if you find yourself pondering the merits of chucking your phone off a bridge, don't. Don't beat up your phone or yourself. Take charge of both, and look for positive reasons to do so. Is there a book you've wanted to read for some time or an activity you've been wanting to try? Pick something and make time for it. And even if something fails to live up to expectations, just doing it will feel new and interesting, and you'll find yourself being more deliberate about your old vices. Or, more precisely, you'll keep the the technology and activities that actually help you lead the kind of life you want, and stop or at least curtail the rest, all for positive, selfish reasons.