"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."
Coming across this quote by Albert Einstein gave me pause, as this is something I contemplate often. It’s of interest that Einstein saw this possibility some time ago. Nearly every day at least one person I speak with addresses the issue of technology. People are trying to find ways to continue to take advantage of the many amazing things technology offers while not sacrificing time and space, opportunities for creative work or their relationships. Many people are concerned about their own use of and “addiction to” technology. Others are concerned for their children, whether they are five years old or in graduate school.
We are enjoying many positive uses of the Internet. In the field of education alone, courses are available to people in remote areas of the world with no other access to learning. Advances are being made in the fields of medicine and many more.
As far as the usefulness is concerned, among the many and obvious things each of us accomplish through the use of technology daily, I am writing to you and you are accessing this via the Internet!
One of my friends recently relayed her experience of teaching an elective course for freshmen through seniors at a competitive and prestigious university. She and her co-teacher had clearly written on the syllabus that no cell phones were to be used during class. The students were appalled. My reaction was the same as hers: why were the students allowed to check emails, send and receive text messages, etc. in other classes? To the students’ credit, in their year-end evaluations many commented that they deeply appreciated the level of “interaction and connection” they shared in this course. There was nowhere else in their campus lives --in other courses, with their roommates, in coffeehouses, etc.—where the students experienced the depth of thoughtfulness, conversation and connectedness that they did in this course. Though raised in this era of vast technological advances, these students recognized the positive effects resulting from taking time away from their cell phones, specifically as it relates to their depth of thinking and relating with others.
How many of us recognize the effects that our growing use of technology has on us? Personally, I noticed changes as more and more of my tasks require the use of my laptop, tablet and smart phone and, therefore, more and more of my time is spent "plugged in." I noticed a simultaneous sense of my brain speeding up and being easily exhausted. I noticed a growing desire for more and more information. I noticed a serious deterioration of the creative time/ space I covet. As a result, I decided to do an experiment. About six months ago I began shutting everything down for two hours every day and leaving my cell phone at home while walking my dog and taking my own walks at the beach. I immediately felt a great sense of relief as I realized how overwhelming and, therefore, counterproductive it is for me to be "on and available 24/7". I immediately slowed down and began enjoying my more natural, unhurried pace. My attention and energy were freed for deeper interactions with the myriad people I see in my neighborhood as well as those I am close with.
Modern life is busy for everyone as we juggle multiple tasks and deadlines, responsibilities, relationships, creative projects, self-care and leisure. When clients are overwhelmed with the daily demands of their lives, we work to establish routines and schedules for checking email and voicemail, as well as ways to streamline and routinize tasks required for their personal and professional lives. We always spend time creating routines to manage email, voice and text messages. Once these are established, I often ask if my clients are willing to forgo the use of technology for a particular period of time every day, or even each week. I suggest they choose one or two specific hours on a consistent basis. They can choose to shut everything down every evening or for a particular day on the weekend. About half of them choose to try this. It has been amazing to help people track the effect that shutting technology down has had for them. Without exception, they initially balk at the idea, struggle at first with implementation and ultimately feel a great sense of relief. Some people have had experiences close to the students in my friend’s class. Some have felt a sense of calm and relief. Others haven’t noticed much at all.
I invite you to try this. Turn off all your devices for a specific amount of time every day. Choose one or two particular hours. Try this for one week to begin. Then, please share your experiences by posting it here: http://barbaralipscombcoaching.com/2013/08/06/connection-in-an-isolating-age/. I think it will be interesting for all of us to hear from a number of people on this topic, to share our experiences with one another, to connect electronically about our experiences of the internal and social connections that result. I look forward to reading what each of you offer to the larger conversation.
I worked with an amazing twelve-year-old this year. He said, "I will never text or use Facebook. I believe communication should take place between one person’s mouth and another person’s ear." Einstein would be happy!