You live for your communications with people, you don’t live for your communications with technology. -Sherry Turkle
This is not another blog challenging you to deactivate your Facebook account or delete your Twitter. Or even to go to such extremes as getting rid of all technology and escaping to some desert island or deep forest sanctuary. Though it is about change. Important change that will not only get you more time in the day but will also help you use that time well.
For me my use of technology really started with the new millennium. It was the year 2000 and I was 14 years old. With my parents help I got a $1500 loan to buy a bright green iMac DV. The first computer where you could plug a video camera into it and then edit it, really cutting edge stuff, especially for a 14 year old back then. Anyway since that first computer I was never without some latest Apple computer, mostly laptops as I began to travel. Then nearly 2 months ago came the moment that changed everything and brought about this blog. I took my current shiny 15″ Macbook Pro loaded with all kinds of extras and I sold it. I had many reasons for doing this, though there are a few that will become clear throughout this blog.
So what does me going computer free for the last two months have to do with getting you more time? The answer is not as simple as ‘I spent less time on my computer’…. it involves three main areas including our eagerness to engage in whatever the latest tech toy is, the value of time and how we’ve sped it up and finally our utter loss of focus as a highly multitasking generation.
Firstly I want to take a quick look at how we have embraced technology with very little thought of the long term effects. Especially its impact on how we spend our time. One example I love with this is the mobile phone. When mobile phones first came out they were worshipped as devices that would have the ability to make those that are distant seem near. Sounds great right? Fast forward a few decades and you can now have a room full of people who are all near each other that now seem distant thanks to this same device. So what changed? I thought mobile phone technology was getting better? Isn’t that what technology does? It gets better. I believe there is more to it then that. I see it as a great picture of how we often view new technology through the lens of theory. A theory that tells us new is better. We should continue to have theories with new technology but I am hoping that we would begin to step back and pause for a bit. Let’s take a good look at the new technologies filling our homes, offices and social gatherings. Let’s first look back at our past experiences like my example with the mobile phone and learn from them. Then discuss some new theories on how new technologies may do the same. Finally one commonly left out ingredient is our worldview. I myself am a Christian and should be looking at new technologies through that lens. So I need to evaluate – is my use of new technology really loving God and those around me? Am I not just doing good stuff, but truly valuing and uplifting the people I come into contact with each day. Or is it instead alienating others and reflecting a message that says my piece of metal and plastic is more important then you?
I was recently watching a movie where the inhabitants of earth all had time chips in them that told them how much time they had left before they died. In order to get more time they had to earn it in some way. It was a sort of currency. Unfortunately we have no way of buying more time on this earth. And unlike the characters in that movie we actually have no idea how much of it we have left. Time is precious, I don’t think anyone would argue with me on that one, but too often we treat it with such disregard. Did you know that teenagers now spend nearly 6.5 hours each day engulfed in some sort of media. That’s a lot of hours spent not connecting face to face with people. Also about 1/3 of women check their Facebooks right when they wake up, even before they use the bathroom. One of the biggest visible changes I have witnessed in my life since removing my laptop has been in my mornings. My wife and I both decided that this year we would start not using the internet at all in the mornings. It has been remarkable to see just how much time we now have. I even have time to eat breakfast and read my Bible. Many of you may still manage to do this but how many times have you sat down to just briefly check your email or Facebook which then leads to you watching some latest YouTube video your friend posted before a breaking CNN story sucks you in. Next thing you know the clock has sped up 2-3 hours. We have lost the ability to be disciplined with our time and our relationships are what pay the price. Guess what else I now have time to do each morning? Spend time with my wife! I can talk to her and pray with her. How much better is time spent doing that then a YouTube video?
This leads me into my final point on focus. We currently live surrounded by and part of a generation of self proclaimed multitaskers. People who can sit talking to a group of friends, while texting another friend in the next room, while Facebooking someone in another country all while attempting to write some blog. I think we simply need to face the music and realize that not only is this kind of multitasking actually unproductive but it also alienates us from those we are working so hard to connect with. Recent studies of this kind of multitasking have proven time and time again that the tasks they attempted are being done extremely poorly. So say if it takes you an hour of multitasking to complete five tasks those tasks would have been much better off done one at a time in focussed bursts. Not only would you do them at a higher quality but you would also most likely finish in less than an hour. Try it out. No great achievement in history came while multitasking five other things. Thomas Edison was even quoted as saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” to his inventing the lightbulb. That is determination and focus. Also Steve Jobs always deliberately limited the amount of products Apple produced and were working on so they could really focus on making the best products possible. Isn’t one iPhone better then 20 different types of Nokia’s? So yeah if you not only want more time but want to use what time you have for achieving greater things learn the art of focussing. Put away your iPhone when spending time with a friend. Close all those windows open on your computer except that one task you want to do. Then do what you are doing, and do it well.
A simple conclusion would be to pause and take stock of where you are at with technology and how that fits in with your beliefs. Also ask yourself, how are you spending your time? Do you truly value your time and who you spend it with? Is it spent trying to achieve too much all at once? A simple self audit can often come back with alarming results. That’s all I could really hope for out of writing this blog. That you do stop and think about your use of technology and its effects on your life. You may even disagree with some of my points but hopefully you can come up with some beliefs of your own. Our beliefs are often the first thing that go out the door when we watch that video showing off the latest product. Have you watched the new iPad promo yet? They got me wanting it that’s for sure. Though if I do ever end up with an iPad in my possession I will make sure to do my best to put it in its place and use only the parts that truly improve my life and the life of those around me.