I’m a big fan of technology. Technology is a big productivity leverage and general contributor to a much higher quality of life. But as any leverage, it’s a double-edged sword. Technology is like fire, you can cook yourself a meal with it or you can burn yourself. How you burn yourself with technology is pretty simple.
It’s when you stop using technology to your advantage and start abusing it instead. There are two pretty common ways how people start abusing technology. The first one is about quality and the second one is about quantity.
In this blog, we will talk about how large quantities lead to abuse, but before we get there let’s just scratch the other type – the so-called quality abuse. It’s pretty simple. You have one of the most capable computers in your head available for use, a product of billions of years of evolution.
Next to that, you have most of the knowledge ever created by humankind available everywhere you go on your mobile phone. This is so revolutionary, so groundbreaking, and we’re often not even aware of it.
If you tried to explain to someone from 200 years ago that they would be able to carry all humankind knowledge on a small device in their pocket, they’d think you were nuts.
But here comes the important question: Why would you use your brain and the internet for browsing funny pictures of cats?
That’s what 90 % of people do, and with that kind of actions they’re on the wrong side of the double-edged sword. Make sure you’re on the right side by setting up a proper infostructure.
Now let’s move to quantity.
As mentioned I’m a big fan of technology, but I’m an even bigger fan of regular technology detox. The average person checks their smartphone a few hundred times a day. A few hundred times. Doing that continuously day by day, week by week, month by month and even year after year, of course, leaves negative consequences.
Too much of anything, even good things, becomes toxic.
There are many negative consequences of abusing technology:
- Being unable to focus and concentrate
- Reducing the ability to live in the present moment
- Stifling your creative potential
- Losing connection with yourself
- Running away from real-life problems
- Damaging your posture
- Hurting your eyesight, etc.
The only way to make sure you don’t abuse technology is to set very strict and hard limits, when and how often to take time completely off and away from technology.
Here are the suggested minimums for technology detox, how often you should turn off all devices that need electricity:
- A few hours before you go to sleep, if you want to get quality sleep
- One whole day every two weeks (two days a month, basically)
- One extended weekend every quarter (3 – 4 days)
- One or two whole weeks during the summer vacation
The main catch is that it may sound much easier than it really is.
Don’t just agree, really try it for yourself
One thing is to read about “a day without screen” concept and somehow agree with it, it’s a completely different thing to really implement it. We’ve become so addicted to technology that it takes severe discipline and preparation to really follow this trough.
If you think having a day without a screen is easy, it’s not. There are screens everywhere.
First of all, you have screens everywhere. In most cases that includes your:
- Mobile phone
- Smartwatch (if you don’t have it, it will probably be your next one)
- VR headset (if you don’t have it yet, you’ll have it soon)
- Kindle (discussable whether it’s a screen or not)
- And probably another device or two
Now when you wake up, you probably look at your smartwatch, especially to see how many people liked your statuses on social networks. Then you take your smartphone to the toilet and check all the emails. And this is only the beginning of a day.
Then you spend the whole working day behind a computer or a laptop. And before you go to sleep, you browse news on your tablet and then watch a bit of TV, just to relax and forget about the daily worries.
Even if it’s weekend, you may not work that much on your computer, but you definitely play a game or two or watch new funny vines or try to relax in some other way (by staring at a screen).
It may not look 100 % exactly like that – funny vines may be replaced by the daily news, TV with Netflix, playing games with a VR headset, but anyway, you get the picture. There are screens everywhere in your life, and there’s going to be even more screens in your life in the future.
Fridge, car, closets, clothes, glasses, windows, mirrors, you name it. Everything will have a screen, everything will be connected to the internet and interact with you, which is awesome. But only if you have the discipline and the will to manage all this technology and not let the technology manage you and dictate your life.
With a day without a screen, something magical will happen to you
Instead of just agreeing with how abuse of technology can be toxic, really try to have one day without a single look at any screen. Because it’s hard, you have to strategically prepare yourself for that kind of radical action. The best way to do it is to dramatically increase the transaction costs for starting to use any type of screen.
That means completely unplugging your TV, locking all the devices in a safe and making sure you don’t know the unlock code, but only someone you trust who won’t give it to you for that day. You have to drain batteries from all your devices, make sure there are no “urgent” emails to answer, and so on.
You have to do it the day before, and you have to make sure that every single electronic device is dead and locked away. It may sound silly, but you’ll see how hard it is.
But even more importantly, you will see that without any screen something magical will happen.
You may get confused the moment you wake up. There is no watch, smartphone or whatever to get distracted. What to do? Hug your spouse. Be grateful that you are alive. Stretch a little bit. Pay attention to your body and how you feel.
If nothing else, you’ll probably have to go to the toilet. Sitting on the toilet, you may again get confused. There is no email or 9gag. Should you read labels on shampoos? Should you think about the meaning of life? Or maybe about what you should do through the day.
But what should you really do throughout the day? Remember, no TV, no computer, no tablet. It’s really confusing. Since you aren’t a robot and can’t just shut down, this is the point where the magic will start to happen. You will naturally and slowly get drawn to really interesting and inspiring primal human activities.
You may actually go out into the nature and play. You may start talking to your spouse and reconnect. You may pick up a book and start reading. You may take a notebook and start brainstorming or planning your future.
Confusion will slowly start turning into clarity. You will become more relaxed. You will be more present. You will start feeling more connected to yourself. You will become more alert to your surroundings and how you interact with the world.
You’ll be able to think better and more creatively, connect with people on a deeper level, and you will start to feel your batteries recharging. You will feel FUCKING ALIVE. The electronic devices’ batteries will be empty, but yours will be full.
Here are a few ideas for what you can do when you decide to have a day without a screen:
- Go on an adventure (hiking, traveling …)
- Talk to the people you love for hours and hours
- Go out and meet new people
- Make love, again and again
- Write down 100 ideas or business ideas
- Write down everything you’re grateful for
- List all your past accomplishments
- Prepare a 100 days’ plan
- Write a love or a thank you letter
- Visualize your goals
- Do self-reflection
- Draw or make any other kind of art
- Read a book or two
- Play board games
- Well, here you have 100 ideas for what else you can do
And what not to do:
- Go to the movies (obviously)
- Read the news
- Plan meetings
- Fight with people
- Think negative thoughts
- Feel bored to death
- Bitch, whine and complain
The first few hours may be very confusing and alien to you. But after a few hours, oh boy. You will completely forget about email. You won’t care about all the likes and messages anymore. You won’t care what will happen in the next episode of your favorite show.
Because suddenly, you’ll realize what you’ve been missing out on. Real life. Being really connected to yourself, nature and other people is what makes you feel alive. And it’s so awesome. Just try it for one day, as an experiment.
Have the best of both worlds
I see many parents who forbid their kids from using technology. I think that’s silly. Because mastering technology is a really big advantage in life and an important competence. Technology helped me so much in my life advancement and following my goals, and it’ll be even more important in the future.
Technical literacy has become as important as general literacy. So, you shouldn’t be afraid of technology, avoid it at all costs or see it as a bad thing. Technology is not good or bad. It all depends on how you use it. If you ignore it, it’s definitely bad. And if you abuse it, it’s also definitely bad.
Mind the quality and the quantity and you’ll be okay.
All you have to do is set healthy limits. Like with everything in life. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of anything. You should have the best of everything life has to offer.
Having the best of both worlds means being connected to yourself, nature and other people, and using technology to your advantage – to be more productive, to learn faster and to have fun from time to time. And to communicate with people on the other side of the world.
The best way to meet healthy limits regarding technology is to set daily limits of technology usage and to plan a day without a screen from time to time.
As an experiment, open your calendar and select the most appropriate day, when you’ll give priority to the people you love instead of emails, enjoy life in nature instead of watch TV, and listen more to yourself than poke people on social networks.
Make sure technology isn’t turning you into a zombie. Use technology to your advantage, don't abuse it.