A tangible experience with tech overload

and how I beat it without giving up the mobile

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Nobody around, just scrolling your life away...
Last year, while injured and healing from Achilles’ Tendon surgery, I had little else to do but rest and scroll – in fact, the world reduced to that and my new wife (only married about 20 days before being injured!). Instagram, Facebook, and all the web + iOS had to offer became my world.

The effects were fairly telling and the two biggest changes were:

1. I felt a constant urge to buy the next new thing, regardless of actual positive life value, which in retrospect makes sense as all these platforms are set up to make money and promote consumerism by commoditizing our digital selves and identities.

2. I wasn’t happy when I should’ve been. Granted, an injury of such magnitude that it is immortalized in Greek mythology should bring with it a degree of disappointment, but this went deeper. I wouldn’t call it outright depression, but I stopped appreciating the things that were good in my life. I was mending, my wife was staying strong at my side, our dog was being gentle and laying on my lap, and I was able to catch up on some reading. Call it a serious case of FOMO? Regardless what it’s called, it wasn’t good. There was tension in my relationship 

Toward the end of the summer (if you get to choose when you’re on crutches choose summer instead of winter!) when I could walk again I went to a few therapy sessions to get to the root of what was going on. One of the first things that were suggested to help was turning off the social media influence to my life and being more present with where I actually was. The subsequent effects were practically instantaneous.

1. I had more time. When you’re not hearing or seeing notifications and being distracted by them it’s amazing how much more time you “find.”

2. More clear thoughts and thinking. With more time came more focus and the ability to think, process, and engage with my world. I’ve since read “Deep Work” [Cal Newport] and can see the benefits through methods Mr. Newport lays out through just reducing your phone-screen time.

3. Easier to meditate. The benefits of meditation are known to most who will ever read this, but the catch-22 is that I used my phone to help me meditate (Headspace to start, and then Giam’s Meditation app).

4. More funds. Not being inundated by the constant consumerism of the aforementioned apps, I had more money so my experiences got better.

5. More gratitude. This “stat” going up had many more benefits that went through the rest of my life as well.

Beat it: try just turning off notifications for your email (work and personal!), Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn…for a day. By “a day” I mean turn them off before you go to bed, set the alarm, and don’t look for the notifications once you wake up. Go through your day focusing on what’s in front of you: people, work, places, the road, your fellow commuters, etc. Notice what you’re feeling and jot it down, good or bad. 

I think everyone should do a tech-detox. I’m thinking about downgrading my phone when it finally breaks – see if I can find an old Nokia brick. For those who want to really go for it – and have the assistants to help – there are “dumb phones” (The Light Phone is one) that connect with your full smartphone to only send you calls or basic text messages. This, to me, would be worth every penny – I don’t have to give up the conveniences of having a computer in my pocket but I can limit my interactions to those that are truly meaningful.

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