Lately I’ve found myself being too influenced by technology, other people, and my perceptions surrounding these things, whether it be through social media, text messaging, or whatever else. This influence may come in the form of self-comparison, praise/criticism, others’ expectations of me, feeling the need to use my phone to alleviate loneliness/boredom, or just my desire to talk with people.
While I have been feeling much better since I stopped using Instagram, I still find myself feeling annoyed by my constant desire to use my phone to communicate with others and my sense of discomfort when I don’t. This is not due to a regular desire to socialize, since I can arrange to see friends a few days per week without using much time/effort, but rather due to an addiction to ‘staying connected’ and staying stimulated. Even when I’m at work and surrounded by coworkers, I still want to look at my phone and chat online with people. Although many people may see this as normal, I feel like the frequency of my desire to communicate with people is unnatural, since it would be largely impossible before the invention of smartphones and the internet.
After thinking about this for some time, I’ve formed a hypothesis that this need for so much social stimulation is likely a conditioned state as a result of using too much social technology (texting, chat apps, phone calls, social media, YouTube, etc.). In my mind, it seems to make sense that over-saturating my life with (mostly digital) socializing has the potential to increase my reliance upon it, similar to how someone who drinks alcohol will gradually build a tolerance and need to drink more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Another side-effect of this could be that I feel less grateful for the opportunities I have to be with friends face-to-face than I would without the constant digital socializing. Not having something too often generally makes it much more satisfying when you finally get it; if you normally eat simple rice and vegetables every day, but once per month are able to have your favorite meal, it would likely seem much more special and delicious than if you could eat your favorite meal 2-3 times per week or every day.
Based on this thought process, I feel that it’s time for me to undertake a greater challenge than any I have done before.
In the past, I have gone through phases of not bringing my smartphone out of the house for weeks/months, not using social media for several years, deliberately not using my phone while on public transport, using a dumb-phone, etc. All of these were challenging in their own right, but in all of these cases, at the end of the day I still usually used my smartphone or chat apps to communicate with friends, spent time watching TV/Netflix, and played video games. It’s too bad I didn’t have a habit of writing back then; the details of most of those experiences are too fuzzy to remember clearly now.
The challenge I have in mind this time is more comprehensive. However, to avoid being too ambitious and risking failure, I’m thinking to only try this challenge for one week to start. The way I have it worked out so far is as follows:
- use smartphone at all
- use any sort of chat app or texting
- use computer for anything besides work
- listen to music using phone/iPad/computer
- watch TV/Netflix/Movies
- play video games
- check my primary email addresses
- edit photos
- read Kindle books
- use iPad to check Chinese dictionary
- use iPad to check a dedicated email address to make plans with friends or for other necessary communications
- communicate through email as if writing a letter (with no expectation of a quick response)
- use iPad to check a map prior to traveling somewhere
- use my dumb phone to make required calls for meeting with friends, emergencies, etc.
- use my camera(s) to take photos
- listen to the radio (using my real radio)
While this all may seem a bit extreme to some people, the overall purpose is to make my life as technologically boring as possible, limit the amount of information I can consume, make my digital communications with friends/family more intentional, and generally let my mind settle down to process all the overstimulation it has experienced over the years. In other words, the point is to live my life a bit closer to how humans have been living for 99.9% of human history. I feel that this will allow for more intentional communication with people, allow me to focus and organize my thoughts, help me to come to terms with feelings of loneliness/boredom, and perhaps help me to become more creative and proactive in my teaching and photography. I expect this to be extremely difficult, and will give an update on my experience at the end of the week. I intend to keep a handwritten journal during this week in order to reflect on my experiences each day and to help me write my follow-up post on this challenge next week.
For those of you who like an adventure, I welcome you to join me in this challenge, or create a similar (maybe less extreme) challenge tailored to yourself. I hope to hear about your experiences on your own personal challenges, and will talk to you next week!