I’ve been a computer geek literally my whole life, at least as far back as I can remember. I grew up getting “online” back before there was a thing called “internet” and quickly transitioned into all of the technologies associated with it. What started off as costing way too much to be online and with mostly text based interactions has become, as we all know, a pervasive and universal multimedia rich infinite stream of connectivity. But is that connectivity too much, or at least too much for me?
Even before we had full blown computers in our pockets under the guise of “phones” I compulsively checked my network sources: e-mail, newsgroups, discussion forums, news websites, the weather, etc. As soon as I had “free”, or at least not by the minute, connectivity I was hooked to indulge my need for information. Think Johnny-Five: “Need Input.” After a quarter century of doing the exact some routine but with an ever increasing frequency and as I try to focus on engaging more mindfulness in everything that I do I think it’s time to start dialing it back; way back.
I may not have a physical withdraw as the person trying to get off their two pack a day smoking habit would, but there is definitely going to be the habit to get out of and the sense of the “quick fix” to feel like I know what’s going on or that I’m not missing anything. It’s all an illusion of course. I wasn’t going to miss anything anyway. I don’t need to know if that e-mail I sent off an hour ago had since been answered (most of the time). I don’t need to know what latest development has occurred in Washington, or the state house. I need to focus on being more present in the moment and slowing down to actual absorb what is happening around me rather than having my brain flitter off to all corners of cyberspace looking for more “input.”
I don’t know how far I want to pull this back. I have to be realistic about it from a work scenario. I can’t say “no media, no e-mail, no internet” or something to that effect. However I can stop the compulsion to check social media, headlines, and social media persistently throughout the day as what would have been a proxy for regular smoke breaks back in the day. I can decide to time box my time engaging in those mechanisms as well, so that I use them but for substantially less time per day in aggregate, to say nothing for the lost efficiency from the constant task switching. I can try to go to “slower” media to get information. I don’t need the latest headlines and stories streamed to me over social media or RSS. I can pick up weekly magazine (perhaps literally, perhaps their digital copy) and just pick up the weekly summaries to cut through all the noise. When I feel the need to be distracted I could perhaps go for a walk, do some light stretching, play a quick Sudoku puzzle, read a little bit of a book, or maybe even just sit there in a quick mindfulness meditation.
I’d like to think that this sort of transformation may stop the information overload that makes my perpetual refrain of the past 30 years of not being able to remember people’s names to go away. I’d like to think that the sense of not having enough time for things I really want to do will be reclaimed as these time sinks disappear. I’d like to think that by not being perpetually plugged into current events and the information stream I won’t feel so frequently stressed and instead settle into more of a peacefulness about whatever it is I’m doing; or at the very least only be stressed by things I have direct impact over. I can’t think of any real downside. Worst case I miss some critically important piece of information and the whole world comes apart. Just kidding. There is no downside, so lets just do it already.