How To Deal With The Digital

How To Deal With The Digital
digital detox
Image by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash.

The world is changing fast.

Fast as fast can be.

And it’s a little bit scary for folks like me, who still remember what it was like before mysterious magic miraculously connects with someone on the other side of the globe in real time and lets huge quantities of data fly back and forth through the ether at the touch of a button, the tap of a screen or the bat of an eye.

Louis Columbus at Forbes recently published some truly mind-blowing numbers on the growth of another mysterious something called the IoT (The Internet of Things.)

Wikipedia defines this as the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

Fergus O’Sullivan from the team at Cloudwards breaks it down, nice and simple in this great post called What is the Internet of Things?’

Wow! Seriously? That’s everything (and I mean everything) being connected in some way shape or form to the internet. Columbus bases his very informative piece on data from the 2016 Ericcson Mobility Report, which suggests that IoT sensors and devices are expected to exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018. And there are already more mobiles than people!

Stop the world I want to get off!

To set the record straight, I’m not an old fuddy-duddy Luddite. (Although some may disagree.) I don’t live in a cave, under a damp box or behind a waterfall, a week and a day from the nearest Pinot Noir, and I don’t have an axe to grind.

Quite the opposite really.

I am excitedly aware of technology and progress. I embrace it. I saw a 7D augmented reality video the other day, which blew me away and I want it for my next presentation! I don’t care if the haters on YouTube said it was fake, it was way too cool a concept for me to care about that. It would be a great way to showcase the latest property we’re marketing.

I have my iPhone charged up, my son has made sure I have the latest Clash of Clans, my MacBook Pro is live most of the time with Lion or Witch or Wardrobe or Vanilla Ice Cream or whatever the geeks in Silicon Valley and Shanghai want to call their operating system, and I love social media, of course!

But I’ve got to call bulls**t on something.

Something so pervasive it’s verging on insane. Or criminal. Or both. Maybe it’s deliberate and the conspiracy theories I tend to get distracted by are actually true. Now, that would be a scary thought.

I understand people can get very sensitive to things that they either feel very strongly about or are scared of changing. This is natural. But a reality check is in order here, so if a little truth upsets you, please move along, especially if you’re one of the GenZ or Y or W kids who have never experienced a world without the internet, or a time before iPhones, WiFi and Google because if you are, what I’m about to say just won’t make any sense. No sense at all.

So here we go with a simple question …

“What would happen if you had no phone?”

No … but yes … but no … but seriously! What do you mean “no phone?” Is that even possible? Surely someone’s got an app for that. Or a spare phone or something? Something! C’mon people, something, please! Even a Motorola flip thing like Captain Kirk used to have when he was William Shatner will do right now. And anyway, doesn’t the world stop rotating if we’re not connected to The Cloud, even if it is just for a few minutes? I’m sure I read a Tweet about it so it must be true, right?

It’s unimaginable. The very thought of life without a smart phone doesn’t even register.

This is going to show my age and maybe prove I am a fuddy-duddy after all, but I remember a time, not so long ago, when the phone meant a red box at the corner of the next street, a good five minute walk away. And guess what? We all managed to survive. We still managed to meet friends and family and business colleagues. We didn’t even evaporate. Well, at least I don’t remember anyone evaporating, but then again without the YouTube proof how would I know?

No phone! Man, it sends chills down the spine of every 20 or 30 something hipster.

The reason I ask is because I left my phone at home the other day, deliberately and on purpose. Cue the jaws dropping around the room. Yes, I know, I know, pretty radical, but it was a Sunday.

I actually left the house with the kids to go to the mall without the one thing that connects me (and them) to the rest of the world! Shock horror! Don’t tell social services, I might get arrested for some bizarre act of cruelty. “Excuse me Sir, but we have reason to believe you are causing your children harm through deliberate digital denial and we will have to arrest you and throw away the key!” Or something, because keys have been replaced by phones.

But it felt great! Eventually. It really did.

I’ll be honest, it was a little disturbing at first, like walking out of the house naked. Not that I do that anymore. Not since the neighbours began complaining. The paranoia was strong. Everyone knew, I thought. I sensed my neighbours were all looking at me kind of weird again. How do they know? I know they know. Hang on, maybe I really am naked!

This shouldn’t have been such a big deal, I mean we don’t need our phones to leave the house do we? Do we really need one to go shopping? Or to the mall to see a movie? Is every message, every tweet, every inane post and picture so damn important it can’t wait until we get home? I mean really? We’re smarter than that! Aren’t we?

It seems not.

It seems our very existence is digital. We have the attention span of goldfish and what little attention it is we have seems to be completely focused on being part of some social network letting people know our opinion on something that may or may not even exist or be true.

Our thumbs are too busy tapping to care. We’ve created Avatars to fuel our fancies in fairytales. We bury our heads and hearts and souls so deeply into chips and bytes and pixels and likes and shares that we’re like robots blissfully unaware of the world around us. And that includes the people around us.

It feels like we’re losing touch. Losing the art of conversation. Losing the joy of getting lost in our own wonderful imaginations. Losing our ability to be social. It’s ironic really.

I’m not suggesting we smash the damn machines and learn to live like we did before. There would be no point in that, but there is some truth in the concept of doing things in moderation.

If we overdo anything there are always negative consequences; try waking up after a couple of bottles of red wine from the night before and tell me it ain’t so. But the odd glass now and again is actually a very pleasant experience and depending on which blogs you follow, it can be good for your health.

We need to learn how to put the phones down every so often. We don’t need to check them every 8 seconds to validate our existence. We can and should take back our lives.

So what I’m saying is simple …

  • Make time every week to disconnect.
  • Go for a Digital Detox.
  • Put the phone away.
  • Leave it at home.
  • Relish the experiences, savor the places, enjoy the people and feel alive.
  • You don’t need a picture of anything, especially your plate of food!
  • You don’t need to post anything on Facebook along with the other billion and half people who think they’re expressing something uniquely ‘them.’
  • Disconnect.
  • Don’t be distracted.
  • Read a book. Read your kids a book.
  • Focus on what’s important to you … right now … at this moment.
  • Take a deep breath and enjoy being a wonderful, organic, living, breathing sentient being.
  • Enjoy being you!

 

You might just be surprised at how good you really feel.

 

 

 

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