Digital Detox: An Introduction

If you’ve read anything I’ve written—or talked to me in person for more than a few minutes—you’ll know about my tumultuous relationship with technology.

And you’ll probably also have picked up on my penchant for overthinking.

When it comes to technology, I have one solidly foot in each camp: I’m half enraptured by the amazing advances we’ve made in the five years since I bought my first smartphone…and half ready to toss said smartphone into the Cumberland River and never look back.

Like I said: tumultuous. 

For one, I make my living writing about technology. I spend my workweek thinking, reading, and writing about the latest software innovations and the incredibly smart, visionary people behind them. I am fascinated by the way that technology is transforming our world for the better. Outside of my professional pursuits, I love how technology is able to connect me to old friends, expose me to perspectives beyond my immediate circle, and enable me to keep learning even though I’m no longer a student.

Then there’s the other part of me. The part that’s living day-to-day life in the world that this technology has created and seeing it change me at a fundamental level. Things I always considered to be intrinsic parts of myself—creativity, a love of long novels, the ability to write uninterrupted or focus on a single task at once, the desire to be alone with myself—are being voluntarily traded in for hours of mindless screen time. I spiral into a mild panic when I think I’ve left my phone at home (it’s usually just buried at the bottom of my purse) and I’ll nearly flip over a table to get to it when it vibrates (it’s usually just my stomach growling).

Mostly I worry that I’m on track to spend my life in a digital fog but, when I look up in 40 years, I won’t remember any of it. Because when I reflect on the past, my best memories are never of the digital world. They’e of the analog one: bursts of early morning inspiration, weekend adventures, unplugged romance with my husband and uninterrupted conversation with my best friend. These are the moments that will make up my life story—not the hundreds of hours I spent on the internet. 

I’ve read enough articles to know that I’m not alone in my ambivalence, and that neither approach (digital disciple or digital doomsday-er) is an adequate response to the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. Bottom line: Technology is an incredible tool for something. But, if we don’t know what that something is, then having the tool isn’t helpful.

In this Digital Detox series, I’m going to explore what that something is for me. I want to figure out how to use technology as a tool for meeting my goals, rather than distracting me from them. To help me make real connections with the people around me—without sacrificing the things that come from disconnecting, like reflection, depth and creativity.

In the next post, I’ll be talking more about the things I want to reclaim from the digital world (spoiler alert: I need more boredom in my life). Before then, I would love to hear about your relationship with technology: What are the best things it does for you? And the worse? What habits do you wish you could change? What good things do you think it could enable?


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