Do you remember the fear planted into our minds by the harbingers of doom in the build up to New Year’s Eve,1999?
Planes would fall out of the sky, microwave ovens would blow up, traffic lights would fail, just to mention a few of the scare stories. And the reality – nothing happened, although it is estimated that US$300billion was wasted worldwide seeking to eliminate a problem that didn’t exist, (there are some people who argue that the money was well spent and cite the fact that nothing major occurred as their evidence, however as some countries, notably Italy, spent US$0, and had no issues at all, I know what I choose to believe).
If only this was the sole technology myth I wouldn’t raise the issue, despite US$300billion being an awful lot of money, however there is an even greater ongoing cost caused by the biggest lie of modern times – that technology will give you more time when actually the reverse is true.
Now I’m writing this on my Mac whilst on a train and have just checked the Y2K stat from Google via my iPhone so can rightly be accused of hypocrisy as this is, hopefully, a useful investment of my time that technology has enabled, but is it? What might I have been doing in the pre-internet era? Reading a book maybe, having a good think about something, chatting to another passenger, (strike that, that didn’t happen before we were distracted by smartphones and tablets) or just having a snooze? And are those activities inferior to writing a blog post?
Walk into any restaurant, bar or coffee shop and you’ll see people on their phones and tablets ignoring the company they’re “with” even answering their phones with calls from complete strangers in preference to communicating face-to-face.
Last weekend, on a cycle through the park, I gave up counting how many parents were on their phones as they pushed a pram or buggy, even worse when they are holding their child’s hand whilst dialling with the other. Also when visiting friends for lunch or dinner I’m often amazed at how many allow their children to spend the whole meal plugged in to one device or another.
I cite these examples as I’m confident they are universal and most of us have experienced similarly. And yet something else just about everyone can relate to is the cry that “I just don’t have enough time” and in particular, time for yourself.
My belief is that we have become addicted to technology to a degree that is now harmful, bordering on dangerous. I’m not in denial of the many benefits social media provides, nor the convenience of having the world’s knowledge at your fingertips but the price of this is the reduction in quality of relationships and in particular the relationship we have with ourselves.
In my opinion, taking time out to properly reflect as well as to imagine, plan and prepare is essential to be highly effective and yet so many of us now seem compelled to fill every moment by being connected via technology. My suggestion is to unplug, switch off, go silent and to do so every day for at least one block of time. Which is what I’m going to do now this is finished.