At the end of my last article, I mentioned that the fundamental advantage to my constant research was that “I am never unaware.”
While that melodramatic statement made a great stopping point for my rant, I want to assert that there are many rewarding effects to living intentionally with technology. To preserve my pride and the drama of the last post, it seems a new post is the best choice to enumerate these benefits. I’ve always been a sucker for a dramatic exit.
It took me a while to come up with a suitable list of benefits to living this way. As someone who prides herself on divergent thinking (video below), I was floored by my incapacity to be positive with my lifestyle choice.
I was recently visiting a friend and shared with him my struggle to create positive outcomes.
My friend, somewhat cryptically, replied:
Don’t try to tease the positives out of a situation. Rather, simply endeavor to be aware of them as they unfold.
I don’t know why my friends choose to speak in an obfuscatory manner, but my theory is that they know I will eventually arrive at a meaningful conclusion, even if their words are complete nonsense. Forget Cassandra, just call me Apophenia.
Regardless, I was successful. What my friend stated earlier is that, in all things, one experiences the positives and the negatives. It falls to us to shift our focus from one side to the other.
This idea of an intentional shifting of perspective guided me down a path of recreating what led me to my current relationship with learning. The shift began when I looked at how I spent my idle time. With any free moment, I would reach out to Facebook, Twitter, 9Gag, sitcoms, Buzzfeed, certain Youtube channels, video games, the list goes on. I used to brag about how many gigabites of data I would use each day. It was so natural to me to turn to my phone for stimulation that I would often stare at my phone screen for minutes on end, doing nothing. These activities all had one thing in common: they forced me to turn my brain off and passively consume whatever I was viewing.
None of this media was providing any substantive benefit to my mind. It was as if I was feeding my mind a steady diet of potato chips. These activities are, in essence, a snack that one can autonomically eat with no mental trigger of when to stop and no nutritional benefit.
I decided that I no longer wanted these things in my life, so I started to phase them out.
I first removed any apps on my phone that I looked at on auto-pilot and replaced them with news apps, which I used far less frequently but more actively. Knowing within seconds when Maya Angelou died, or that another bombing had taken place, or what major corporations were doing activated my civic responsibility. Pieces of what was happening around me slid into my perspective, and I felt truly connected to the world for the first time. Also, my iPhone battery started to last for days without charging.
My next step was to remove Facebook. I did this despite having a page with over 350k followers, as well as a healthy amount of meaningful connections through the site. Oddly enough, it was my self-confidence that flourished in its absence. It was just a lot harder to judge my actions as successful or unsuccessful without the constant updates from my extended network. People who I hadn’t spoken to in months started coming out of the woodwork and engaging me through text, phone calls, email, and Skype. My relationships grew stronger.
I had enough spare time that I started avidly reading. My friends and I would take trips to the library and grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee. Since I would often carry a book with me, new connections emerged with coworkers and strangers on the nature of the text I was reading. The type of conversations I had became more and more inspired and the frequency of these conversations grew as well. I saved money.
I started to notice how much stuff I had that I didn’t use. I found the minimalist game online and reduced everything I owned to two suitcases and maybe a duffle bag. One by one, my social circle endeavored to play the game as well. I’m sure we amassed around 50 bags full of useless things that we donated, traded, sold or left by the curb for some unsuspecting passerby to find. I made money.
Since I had made it a habit to cut useless things out of my life, it just made sense to stop eating junk food. I cut back considerably on processed and refined foods, and started to do more research about the food industry. My diet is now pretty similar to the paleo diet, and I have increased my cooking skills by at least three levels.
Being able to fill my mind on my own terms means that I no longer have constant interruptions chipping away at my attention. I have the ability to stay focused on a task for hours, days, weeks; however long I want. I go on long and lovely walks alone or with friends and hash out some silly ideas or some serious ones. My self-directed focus has now become my lifestyle.
My uncle used to tell me:
Anyone who can set aside distractions and concentrate on a problem for 5 minutes has the power to solve any problem that humanity faces.
It never occurred to me that he could have been right, and yet the notion still intrigued me. However, in the light of my newfound freedom, the wisdom behind the thought experiment seems more and more possible every day.
If you like what you read, feel free to share. Basic Rules: Be civil. We are all people and deserve respect. That’s a hard and fast rule, by the way, it is not optional. Other than that, anything goes.