The other day, I started thinking about how casually I use technology and how little of my time is spent “disconnected” from the digital world. I wake up, check Facebook/Twitter/Email and head off to the train to go to work – some days I walk quietly to the station, checking my phone every once and a while; other days I blast Pandora and try to read HN articles between dodging traffic in the crosswalks. I hop on the train, and 9/10 I pull out my phone and read a few pages of GoT or chat with a friend over text before heading into work, where 90-98% of my day is spent in front of my laptop screen. The after work time is normally spent – you guessed it – catching up on the day’s top reddit posts or watching Mad Men on my Xbox.
Is this a bad thing? Being perpetually thrown into a cycle of being “always on”? I’ll admit – some days I feel as though I’ve started feeling a bit like a cyborg with how instantly I have access to everything and just about everyone I know. Accepting meeting requests for Monday on a Sunday morning? I can’t imagine not checking at least once a day on my weekends. I find myself apologizing to my friends when I go to bed without having answered a text; I feel a little weird if I don’t pick up at least one new fact or interesting story each day.
I feel like the internet is my personal matrix, a la Necromancer – I’m always jacked in. Even when I curl up on the sofa to read on a weekend morning, I’m syncing up my iPad so that my Kindle app finds where I left off on my phone the night before. I can’t think of many activities that I do now where I’m not keeping an eye out on the phone to see if anyone is trying to talk – and I think that I’d like that to change.
Disconnected time is becoming harder and harder to find. Dinner with friends or coworkers almost always results in a phone being pulled out – maybe it’s the nature of the valley, but if you come to the Bay Area and get offended by phones on the table, you’re in for a bad time. I don’t particularly mind this – being always connected does come with benefits – but I have decided to make a conscious effort to take a few hours out of my week and turn off the tech.
This doesn’t just apply to my down time – I find that when I’m most wound up at work thinking over a problem, I turn to the whiteboards that line my walls and draw things out by hand. Despite all of the software tools that we have available to us, sometimes it makes more sense to power down and recharge. Sometimes it’s nice to leave the phone at home and focus on the moment, even in a fast-paced and high-tech industry.