There are lots of good reasons to step back from technology and today's media intensive world. One is that it can keep you away from the more important parts of life. Another is that it can take over your life and divorce you from reality. People can become addicted to their smartphone, to online gaming, or even watching YouTube videos. I am not going to beat you up if you watch the average 4.7 hours of television a day or spend hours on your tablet, but I will tell you that I am more of the .7 hours of TV per day kind of person.
I am certainly no Luddite and technology has been a huge part of my life. My desktop environment would cause all but a few computer users to take a deep breath and my home office even includes eleven plus terabytes of Network-attached storage. I have a Droid Maxx smartphone which I use for everything from mapping my boat rides to controlling a digital camera. I even write about technology and explain to others how to use the tools of the Internet.
Also I spend a lot of time in front of the computer as part of my job and I create a lot of content for the web. So why do I think we need a technology antidote?
First of all I think our focus should be on the people around us and not the technology in our hands. I wrote about the wrong kind of focus last year and as far as I can tell the problem is getting worse. I see more people walking who can hardly take their eyes off of their iPhone and that is even when they are walking with their young children. I seriously doubt anything on your iPhone is more important than something really cool that your children might share with you.
I wish I could shake some parents and explain to them that they only have a short window of time to hear the thoughts of their children before they turn into teenagers and retreat into their own worlds. Finding a connection with a teenager can challenge even the best of parents.
The next thing I have discovered is that people using technology to communicate can be really nasty. People will say something to you on the Internet or in an email that they would never say to you in person. The phenomenon prodded me into writing a post, The Plague Of Incivility. This trend also seems to be getting worse.
Finally in many subtle and some not so subtle ways, technology is making true human connections harder to make. Most people have stopped sending letters, printing pictures, writing postcards, or even sending cards to people. The "Thank You" note is truly an endangered anachronism.
Even in business the personal sales call is rapidly disappearing. Our face-to-face meetings are often video conferences.
While much of this might seem to simplify life since you do not have to buy a card, write a note, get a stamp and mail a birthday car or get into your car or on an airplane to visit with a customer, we are losing the human connection that comes with that effort.
A birthday card in the mail often prompts a telephone call to say "Thanks." A visit with a customer sometimes turns into a lunch and some customers end up being friends even long after you stopping selling them things.
As we were cleaning out our house in Roanoke in 2012, we went through boxes of cards that we had saved and I even thumbed through business cards that I had collected over the years. Most of those things brought back pleasant memories of people that I met or got to know.
When you figure out how to thumb through the emails on your hard drive let me know. So what is my technology antidote?
First and most importantly when I am choosing what to do with my free time, I always chose the activity that will be memorable and which usually draws me into that wonderful world where I live. I like to talk about a life without walls but also I really live it. People often end up happier as they learn to appreciate the natural world where they live.
Watching a football game or going kayaking is not even a choice for me. Kayaking would win no matter who is playing in a game. Given a chance to go on a hike or play a video game, I would have to admit that I have not played a video game in over twenty years and would much prefer to spend hours walking a beach that touches my soul than hours touching a keyboard.
Some of the small things that I do are pretty easy. Facebook is not even on my smartphone. I enjoy posting pictures for my Facebook friends who are not as fortunate as I am to live in a place that I like to call our coastal paradise, but what is happening on Facebook is of little concern to me.
Many of my morning hikes are taken without my smartphone. I do not want it to interrupt the time that I focus on the natural paradise that I call home. I used to keep a computer on the kitchen counter all day so I could check things when I am away from my office. I have taken to putting the computer away after I have my morning coffee.
A big part of my early morning revolves around gardening. I get my hands dirty and often work up a sweat producing food that we enjoy eating. While I often share pictures of it on Facebook, I do not get caught up in Facebook. As for text messages, I use them where I find they might keep me in touch with someone that is hard to reach in other ways. However, I always look at text messaging as a first step to building an actual relationship.
If I can I skip the text and make the personal contact, that is what I choose. On July 7, I walked over to our neighborhood pool. I had some HOA business to get done. I could have initiated it by text, but the walk to the pool was a much more personal way to accomplish the same thing and I got to talk to some other people.
Our area has so many things to do that are so much better than what you can do on a tablet or a smartphone, I am always disappointed when I see someone sucked into technology instead of spending their time on the area's pristine waters.
Technology is not going to disappear from our lives, but if each one of us just uses it a little more intelligently and refuses to let the non-stop media in our world consume our lives, we can control technology instead of letting it control us.