It feels like a million years ago that I was completing my undergraduate degree in Media and Communication and my Blackberry was an extension of my hand.
Having grown up as the cell phone was evolving (and also knowing a life without cell phones) probably helped to fuel my addiction to this powerhouse phone. For the first time ever I was able to share ideas on Facebook when I wasn’t sitting at my computer; I could respond to emails while on the go; and of course I had 24/7 connection with my friends.
I was on my Blackberry constantly. I carried with my charger everywhere because the battery life either wasn’t that great or I was using it too heavily. The Blackberry revolutionized communication as we knew it and I didn’t want this revolution to miss me !
I started noticing I may have a problem, when I started bumping into people on campus – people I hadn’t seen because I had my head down in my phone (admittedly, they probably didn’t see me because of the same reason). But, when I REALLY realized there was an issue was one day when I had been rushing to get to school and left my Blackberry at home. I got to school, and I felt like a piece of me was missing. I couldn’t get through the first class. I had to borrow someone’s phone and call my mother, asking – well pleading – that she take the phone to me. When she brought it I felt whole again.
This is a problem.
So, I decided to quell my addiction by going on a “Blackberry Fast”. I challenged myself to go 12 days without my Blackberry, and i blogged about the experience. Here is what I had to say about the first 24 hours:
How have the first 24 hours been?
This has been DAY 1 of the 12-day fast. I have not been having Blackberry urges just yet, however I did try to get WIFI to use Twitter on my phone but it didn’t work. Surprisingly … I sent more texts and made more calls today than I did for probably the whole of last month.
It feels sort of liberating so far to be without it, and to show that I am strong enough to get over my addiction. I have been so accustomed to using my BlackBerry while doing everything else: using my BB while taking notes in class; using my BB while talking to a friend; using my BB while having meals, using my BB while reading books… I think it’s time that I prove to myself that I can do without it.
I was tempted today to change my cell service provider, so that I could get a cheaper Blackberry plan that would include just social networking … luckily willpower prevailed.
The only set back is that, before my BB I was a horrible “e-mail checker”. I would check emails once every 3 weeks / month – so I responded to emails VERY VERY LATE, with the BB I was able to receive and respond ASAP to emails but now I am going to have to make a conscious effort to remind myself to check my email.
Needless to say, I did not make it to 12 days. I did 7 days without my Blackberry and decided I had proved the point to myself and my friends, but with a big event coming up and all the emails I had seemed to be missing – I was going to stop the fast. I would love to say something deep and meaningful like this changed how I would forever interact with technology or it allowed me to be more mindful of my use in the future… but that was not the reality.
I fell right back into the trap and I think I may still be there. So let’s talk about tech shabbats, and a method that may actually work to help us take a break from technology.
WHAT IS A TECH SHABBAT?
“Technology Shabbat or Tech Shabbat is a term coined in 2010 by Tiffany Shlain and Ken Goldberg to describe a day of rest or cessation from the use of all technology with screens: smartphones, personal computers, tablets and television” (source: Wikipedia). So instead of my 12 day fast, which turned out to be a 7 day fast from technology, this is a more sustainable approach. I first heard of the term while interviewing John Fitch and Max Frenzel for these podcast episodes on rest (which you should definitely check out):
“The word “Shabbat” derives from the Hebrew verb shavat (Hebrew: שָׁבַת). Although frequently translated as “rest” (noun or verb), another accurate translation of these words is “ceasing [from work]”, as resting is not necessarily denoted” (source: Wikipedia). It is related/ is the same as the Christian sabbath – the idea that God, while creating the universe, took a break on the seventh day.
In that 2-part interview series with John and Mex, we spoke about the way to succeed at anything – to make the new habit so small, you can’t fail. This sheds some light then, on why this might be a more useful and more helpful method of changing our relationship to technology than my 12-day ban, which ended up lasting 7 days.
BUT WHY DO WE NEED A BREAK ANYWAY?
We are glued to screens. Literally glued. Recently I decided I waned to take a break from screens as I was scrolling through my phone. So I turned to my laptop to write something – then realized that’s still a screen. I decided I would go read something then and grabbed my tabled – and realized that’s still a screen. Alright, I will go watch something on TV – then realized that’s still a screen. Eventually I just went for a walk.
We work, play, and live in this world of screens. But also in a much more dangerous world, one competing for our attention and our bucks. As technology continued to develop we realize that large tech companies no longer produced products. Remember when Microsoft was a giant among men? They are now rich because of our data. The data they use to optimize apps and ads and pretty much everything else to keep us glued to our devices. If you watch the Netflix documentary”Social Dilemma”, you probably cringed when one of the interviewees said we are the product, and our attention is for sale.
But other than that, technology is affecting how we interact with our environment and is literally changing our brains. A study from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, shows that technology use can affect how we process information. So, when met with a flood if information: instead of reading, we skim. You may read the full report HERE.
Our handheld devices are really tools of distraction. It allows us to separate ourselves from things we don’t want to see, problems in our lives, and things we just don’t want to deal with.
How many times after a bad day have you gotten lost on Instagram? Found yourself in an endless loop of videos on YouTube? In listening to the audiobook of “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle, she speaks about how technology use affected her children and how she began introducing it later and later to her three kids. Outside of “wanting to keep up with the Joneses” and those #couplegoals posts, there have been serious implications – especially on youth. There have been a number of teenage suicides and suicide attempts due to events that occurred via social media or in some other online space.
Technology is’n’t always bad, but it also isn’t always good. Maybe you and your family should try a tech shabbat and see how your relationship with tech changes.