So you’re reading this blog. I wonder how you got here? Maybe you came online to send an email, saw a notification for a new post and here you are? Or perhaps you were scrolling through Facebook, this post popped up and you clicked the link before you even knew it? I’ve been thinking a lot about my use and interaction with technology and the internet. I know too much time on these things doesn’t serve me well, yet it is so easy to get sucked in. If you go with the flow of modern society, that seems to be exactly what happens, but at what cost?
I’m not into labelling things as good or bad. But I am interested in considering whether my actions nourish, sustain and help me align with my values and dreams, or if they drain me and add further obstacles to my pathway. Technology and the internet can easily slip from one to the other. The irony that I’m sharing this on an online blog isn’t lost on me, but that’s exactly my point; all these things have worth, it’s how we use them that makes the difference. It’s incredible that I can write a post on my iPad and then share it with the world. I have information, contacts, and links with the outside world at my fingertips, not to mention online shopping, which is perhaps one of the biggest aids technology brings me. But if I scroll through on autopilot and spend too long staring at a screen, time slips away, along with my energy, and I feel disconnected and scattered.
When I was away on retreat late last year, I had no phone, internet, TV, or in fact any connection with the outside world. I didn’t miss it. I looked forward to speaking to my family and friends when I returned, but there was no urge to keep picking up a phone or going online. In fact I was still reluctant to switch my phone on when I got home and it was over a week before I switched on the TV. As time has gone on, my use of technology has gradually increased – it’s had to – but in a very different way. The result of this is I feel calmer, more focused and in control. I have more time and energy to spend on activities that nourish and sustain me – I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the number of books I’ve been reading has significantly increased. I’ve been spending more time meditating and I’ve been enjoying ‘real’ interaction with people.
How does mindfulness fit in with this? It enables you to be aware of how these things make you feel. It helps you step back and consider your choices, rather than getting swept along, running on autopilot and then wondering why you’re not feeling so great. It helps you to notice and deal with unhelpful habits that are so easy to form but far harder to break. Like most things, it’s all about balance. I need technology and the internet in my life, but they don’t have to control me; I can mindfully take charge.
These are the ideas I’ve been trying –
– Switch off technology at least one hour before bed – a good sleep is more important than any alert that may pop up.
– Switch on technology after breakfast – that morning time sets the tone for the day.
– Set a clear intention when going online. What am I going online for and how long will I spend doing it? Use a timer.
– Only turn on the TV when there’s a programme I really want to watch. Switch it off when the programme has finished.
– Have no social media apps on my phone. I can choose when I connect, I don’t need access 24/7.
– Leave my iPad by my desk, not on my sofa, interrupting the automatic, but unhelpful habit of picking it up without thinking.
– Tidy my digital space. Subscribe, like and connect only to people and organisations I actually want to hear from.
This is work in progress and I am always on the look out for new ideas. I’d love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions to try.