You look at the current world: notifications, apps, websites, emails, gmails, texts, tumblr, twitter, tinder, facebook, secret, instagram, hangouts, facetime, games, youtube, netflix, stream this, download that.
And then you look back to the days before all ^that^. Just 10 years ago we lived in a world that, for the most part, existed right in front of you instead of through the looking glass of the latest fad digital device.
There's a lot of problems to be found in today's digital world:
- Addiction. That first "like" or "retweet" is like the first hit of a confidence boosting drug. It feels pretty good, so you want more. You start to think about every comment and every post, carefully crafting your online image to ensure maximum attention. You start to need those likes, and when you don't get them, you're depressed.
- Loneliness. When you first join Facebook it's exciting. You've found a way to stay in touch with old friends and learn about new friends. But somehow, that experience becomes alienating. Rather than encouraging the growth of friendships it seems to give people a pass to be passive and take friendships for granted.
- Jealousy. The "grass is always greener" mentality has always existed, but on social media everyone is able to show off their grass so much more readily. They process it through a saturation, HDR-boost filter, making it seem extra green, extra shiny, extra perfect.
So you're stressed out, depressed, lonely, pissed off. Time to cut the digital cord, right? WRONG.
Long before the Internet existed, Buddha had this to say about it:
“From craving grief arises,
From craving arises fear,
For him who is free from craving
There is no grief, then whence comes fear?
As a tree with firm, uninjured
Roots, though cut down grows up again,
So when latent craving is not rooted out
Suffering again and again arises.”
Digital detox is a purge after years of binge. It's going from one extreme to another without dealing with the root of the problem.
Why not take a moderate approach? Take some small steps every day to prune the tree of our digital addiction:
- Turn off notifications. Stop the constant barrage of pings and vibrations that distract you from real life and tempt you to dive back into the digital world.
- Logout on your phone. This'll stop the notifications too, and place a small barrier between you and the lure of the digital distractions that await you on your device.
- Turn off your phone for a few hours every day. Give yourself a break. Give yourself a chance to be present.
- Close the browser on your computer for a few hours every day. Only use your computer for soulful activities like writing.
My monthly challenge for August was to turn off notifications for non-essential apps. In September, I'm going to take this one step further: I'm logging out.
I'm not going to delete my Facebook account, I actually enjoy it and friendships and other connections I have there. But I also don't want it to be a distraction. I don't want it to feel consuming, to be the first thing I do when I'm bored and the last thing I do at night. I want trim the tree a little every day -- make my social media use smaller, more casual.
For at least 2 hours every day I'm logging out of Facebook and Instagram. Just a small pruning. Just a little a barrier between me and distraction.
I challenge you all to do the same. Give it a try for one month, start with something small and easy. If at the end of the month it's made no difference in your life, then by all means log back in and let your phone buzz at you. Either way, you'll learn something about yourself. No harm no foul.