Thursday, September 9, 2010

Conscious Consumption of Technology


I listened to an interesting interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" this weekend. The show's host talked with William Powers, the author of a new book called, Hamlet's Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. The author argues that we should embrace new technologies and new ways of connectivity with intention and mindfulness. He explains that inundating ourselves with knowledge, information, and conversation crowds out the time we need to process all the knowledge/information/conversations we're taking in. We don't give ourselves enough space to extract meaning and really take things in. He explains that the more we try to "connect maximally," the less "present" we are and the less we are able to "show up for our lives."

He doesn't take a Luddite perspective at all. Instead, he argues that we need to cultivate balance in our lives. For example, his family has established an "Internet Sabbath" ritual that runs from Friday to Sunday evening. They literally unplug the modem and they don't check their e-mail or go online all weekend long.

The interview got me thinking a lot about the role that technology plays in my life. I want to be a conscious consumer of technology. For example, I haven't lived with a TV for the past seven years. (Matt and I do have a "TV," but it's only set up to play DVDs. I also occasionally use the internet to watch TV shows, but the setup prevents me from mindlessly watching TV--something I did throughout my entire childhood.)

I like the time I spend blogging. For me, blogging is a way to process my thoughts. It's like a journal that helps me build connection with others.

I also don't spend a lot of time "surfing the web." The nature of my job (teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school) doesn't allow computer time during the day. Further, I only have about ten blogs that I visit on a daily basis for inspiration.

The rest of my schedule is so packed (pregnancy nap, one-hour walk, blogging, cooking dinner, reading) that I literally don't have a lot of time for mindlessly interacting with technology.

I think the number one area I need to work on is my interaction with my iPhone. Ever since I've gotten an iPhone, I pretty much let e-mail stream into my life constantly. I use my phone to fill the in-between moments in my life, instead of using that rare space to process my life or relax.

I'm going to make a committed effort to limit the number of times I check my e-mail every day. I'll continue to check it four times: before work, during lunch, after school, and before bed. But I won't let myself check it in those small moments (e.g., when I'm waiting for Matt to return from the restroom at a restaurant or when I'm waiting in line). I'm going to make a more concerted effort to make time and space for thinking, relaxing into the moment, reading, or writing in my Writer's Notebook.



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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are the blogs that you usually visit?

bklyn76 said...

thanks for posting...i just put this book on hold at the library. i definitely need to spend less time attached to technology!

Ms Bear Cub said...

I think I made this comment before, but you should definitely consider reading "The Idle Parent". Again, everything in it should be taken with a grain of salt, but with respect to internet usage, I think the author of this book (idle parent) is dead on. Without being luddite about it, don't let the internet dominate your life. My husband and I don't exactly have a formal "internet sabbath" during the weekend, but we do unplug for those three days (it's not a rule, but more a recommendation - isn't it more fun and mentally stimulating to talk with a friend, read a book, look at bugs in the grass than consuming technology?).

E said...

You talk a lot about making things work on a tight budget and clearly make an effort to be conscious of where your money goes. How do you justify the expense of purchasing an iPhone, plus the added monthly costs of the iPhone data plan? I'm just curious why you chose to do that vs. putting the money towards something else, especially now that you are making an effort to check your email less.

SingColleen said...

This is one of the reasons my husband and I have avoided the iPhone. We both really, really want one, and they are so helpful at times. But neither of us can really stomach the idea of being connected 24/7. We both spend a lot of time online, some of it productive and some of it wasteful, but we realized that there are nights when we come home from work, hash about the day, then go online into our separate worlds for the rest of the evening, barely speaking to one another.
Granted, we are quiet people - when we went on our internet-free honeymoon, we replaced that internet time with actual books. But we would get a little restless every day and feel the need to get out of the house - we saw the sights, went out to dinner and took walks on the beach. And I think we probably wouldn't have done as much of that if we had had internet.
It's so easy to get sucked into the screen (much like television; however at least there is SOME measure of interaction with the computer). I think we ALL forget to take real free time. I remember spending hours as a teenager in my room, listening to music, staring into space, thinking or writing about...whatever. It seems like if you do that as an adult, people think something is wrong with you, like you're depressed or something. Even in parks now, or on the subway, or waiting in line at the DMV, you're supposed to be doing something with your phone, or at least reading a magazine, and I wonder sometimes what we're losing by not having to look around and just WAIT from time to time...

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Anonymous: I'll add my favorite blogs to my sidebar soon!

Anonymous said...

Great! Thanks so much! I'll be looking forward to checking out other blogs you recommend!

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