(3 Minute Read)
I lost my iPhone at Coachella last week. It turned out to be a strange blessing in disguise. Or maybe I tricked myself into thinking that it was a good experience. Either way it worked.
Taking a break from my cell phone for just one day is surprisingly therapeutic. This time I was forced to go a full week. For that week, I indulged in an emotional experience that I hadn't truly felt in a long time-- boredom.
With a smartphones now, I rarely feel bored. Like really bored. At any moment I begin to feel the slightest inclination of boredom I find myself automatically and unconsciously being sucked into the flashy screen of my iPhone.
Today, we live in something called the "Attention Economy". Because of the current advertising model, the more attention a platform gets, the more money it will make. Makes sense right?
There's a hidden side effect of this: Although Facebook tries to "create a more open and connected world", it doesn't measure it's success by that mission statement. It measures it's success by how much time people spend on Facebook.
Virtually every online platform operates this way. This is great if and only if the site you're spending time on is intrinsically good, for example an app that convinces you to exercise or to meditate daily.
However, when asked in surveys most people report that they regret spending their time on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. And the reason why those platforms are "succeeding" is because they are the best at persuading us to spend more time on their site.
Some of the techniques these platforms use are designed to give us anxiety when we haven't used them in a while. Think about how you feel when you get the notification that says, "Your friend tagged you in a photo".
A majority of our lives is spent in a habitual, automatic, and unconscious fog of chasing the next stimuli. Here's the illusion: We think that by satisfying each craving as it arises, that will somehow accumulate into a fulfilling life.
I'm not pretending that I have some kind of answer to this but I think the Amish are onto something.
The Amish are basically just late adopters. In fact, they're the latest adopters. It's not that they have zero tolerance for technology, but instead they're extremely intentional with what they allow into their lives.
In some Amish communities, there's actually one person who is appointed to "test" certain technology. If approved, that person will start to use said technology, and the rest of the community will carefully observe that person. They want to make sure that piece of technology is truly adding value in their lives. So before allowing it into entire community, they see how it affects one person's life.
Now, contrast that with the way average Americans chase the newest piece of technology. Computers sat on our desks, moved into our pockets, and are now on our wrists. We invite them into the privacy of our lives without any question at all.
So, I don't really have any answers, but I hope this was some food for thought.
Writing is just an attempt to understand myself as an individual. It's also an attempt at trying to answer questions about what it means to be a human being today, how that's changing, and how that change affects what it means to live a "good life".
I guess life is just an attempt at that understanding until we're on the other side of the ground. Sounds good to me!
P.S. Listen to Sam Harris podcast "Waking Up" episode 71 "What Is Technology Doing to Us?" for more where I got a lot of this info from.