Technology Sabbat: The Practice of Unplugging
There Is Something Significant At Work Here
The author of Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks, Tiffany Shlain has a lot to say about the impact of technology and social media. She warns us of how constant connectivity can impact our lives, our relationships, and our culture, for both good and bad. As a Millennial, my generation participated in the shift of technology - from Yahoo! chat rooms and AOL instant messaging, to the social media empire we know today, such as Facebook. I have a clear memory of before and after the internet came alive. Today, most of us are always connected. We're always plugged in. That's because we carry tiny pocket-sized computers with us everywhere. Shlain doesn't necessarily believe, like some others, that technology is going to somehow be the downfall of civilization, but I think we all can recognize that there is something significant at work here. We are quite literally existing in such a different way than we did even a decade ago.
The Good & The Bad
When you think of the internet, what do you see? I see an extension of ourselves. The internet is all of our brains talking at once. It's complicated, yes, but still quite extraordinary, don't you think? Every time we're on it, information is being sent to us and processed. Most of the time, unintentionally. This is occurring all of the time - every time you scroll through your Twitter feed you're being influenced. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Why is that? Because humans are both good and bad. You can learn anything - anything at all, on the internet. On the other hand, not all of our ideas are particularly useful or beneficial. Yet, everything we share, we consume. Even more importantly, the internet, and being plugged in constantly, puts us in a state of constant focus and distraction. I think we're pointing fingers at the wrong entity when blaming the internet. The internet isn't bad. The issue, as Shlain proposes, is that we don't know how to turn it off.
I used to think that I was a little more detached than the average technology consumer - simply because I was not particularly entranced by the idea of having the most recent iPhone or using Snapchat. Instead, I spent all of the time at home on the internet. For a few years after college, I found myself in quite a post-grad rut, which is far from uncommon. Job prospects were few and far between, and I had lost sight of my goals. I struggled to find the discipline required to put in work for various creative projects. Frankly, I spent a lot of time not doing the work and a lot of time sitting in front of the computer scrolling through Facebook. Pulling away was harder than I expected it to be, and I noticed real side effects to being constantly plugged in. I felt detached from real life and the world around me, and more often than not, lonely. For years, I knew it would be impossible for me to get my life back without taking a true hiatus from the online world. `
This is where the idea of Technology Sabbat comes into play. If you're not yet familiar, Sabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week, also known as the day of rest. The concept of Sabbat is once a week, for a day, our brains, and our souls, are reset. We turn everything off and allow ourselves to truly rest. For us, that would mean for one day, perhaps a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, we turn off our cell phones, our TVs, and our computers, and we tune into the world and people around us.
For the last month and a half, I haven't had the internet at my home, not particularly by choice, but through this new challenge, I gained insight into what really mattered to me. And, in a lot of ways, I finally gained my life back. I am beginning to notice things - life happening all around me. I am grounded, level-headed, focused, and motivated. As a creative, I believe it may have actually saved my life, or at the very least, my creative life.
Plugging Back In
When you do finally plug back in, be mindful. Be mindful of who and what you let into your stream of consciousness. Everything you consume - that tweet, that meme, all of it influences your thoughts and inevitably your behaviors. So, take that as a warning to curate the content in front of you. Choose carefully those you follow. Additionally, be aware of the purpose you're there, and keep this purpose in mind while using social media. Consider why you're using it, what your intentions are, and what good (or bad) it is doing for you. It may also prove helpful to set boundaries on how, why, and when to use social media. Some questions you can ask yourself is: Does this content add value to my life or the lives of others? Is it true? Is it helpful, useful, or insightful? Am I looking for validation - is there value or purpose in sharing this experience? Am I bored? Is there something more purposeful I could be spending my time doing? Am I lonely? Have I reached out to loved ones today? Am I using social media compulsively, mindlessly, or consciously?
Our relationship with technology is indeed a complex one, and it affects us all differently. If you're feeling less in control, consider unplugging for or a day, or a week, or a month. Remember that we can control how social media influences our lives, and it is up to us to determine how we benefit or suffer, from plugging back in.