I heard this week that Amazon.com is expecting to begin implementing a flying drone program this year, which will get products to customers’ doors about a half hour after placing an order online. I suspect that, not long after this goes into effect, people will be standing by the door 31 minutes after ordering, shaking their heads in irritation about their “late” delivery.
In a society that is ever more fast-paced, it’s easy for people to forget that we have control of (and responsibility for) things as integral and personal as our own thoughts and reactions.
As technology advances, “developed” humans find ways to take multi-tasking and expectations of results to increasingly higher levels. Pencil-and-paper math problems were replaced by simple touch calculators, which were replaced by smaller and more complex computers. Currently, I can just ask Siri to figure out my math problem for me. And in most instances, automatic algorithms predict my needs and solve problems in the background without my ever realizing the math is happening at all.
The faces of our smart phones are arrayed with neat rows of a hundred apps, all with little red bubbles demanding that we must find out RIGHT NOW that our friend Sarah “loves peanut butter so much (!!!)” or that someone just recorded himself riding a unicycle across a rain gutter. And we have accepted, for the most part, that relieving ourselves of these red bubbles is acceptable at any time: at work, while with family, out to dinner with a friend, on the john.
I’ll be honest. Just this past week, while I was visiting with my mom and my 90-year-old grandmother (who is recuperating from recent heart-surgery), I broke my own rules and found myself reaching for my phone when I heard the familiar ::buzz-buzz:: emanating from my jacket pocket.
Need a reality check of your own? Ask yourself this question (and be honest with the answer):
If you were already running late to a wedding or funeral and realized 5 minutes out that you’d left your phone at home, would you turn back to retrieve your phone or continue on to the event?
And if you said “continue on,” a follow-up question:
On a scale of 1 – 10, how distracted or anxious would you be, not having your phone on hand during the event?
It’s not hard to see why more and more people struggle with stress and anxiety, interpersonal problems or lack focus in general.
I’m all for technology and social media. We’re using it right now to communicate ideas. There is great value in the information and connections available to us through technology. But we are still responsible for our own humanity, character and self-control. Technology doesn’t make anyone stressed or impatient or rude. Those are – and always will be – a choice.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider in your quest to be bigger than those red bubbles:
1. Limit email and social media checks. If you currently check 100 times a day (and this is about average), try cutting that to 50. Don’t estimate. Keeping track will cause you to be mindful. If it’s currently 50, cut it to 30. You will experience anxiety initially, because this is typically a real addiction. But if you can stick to plan, you will decrease its hold on you – and increase your overall focus in life.
2. Leave time for silence. Shut all electronics off. Silence your phone. Go for a walk or a drive – without headphones or the radio playing. On the whole, we as a society have lost the ability to tolerate silence. But silence is the catalyst for creativity, centeredness, self-reflection and, ultimately, personal change. This too will be uncomfortable at first. The worse it feels, the more you needed it. Like getting back into physical exercise or a gym routine, it hurts because it’s doing something good and necessary for an out-of-shape system.
3. Keep people at the center. Try turning your phone OFF when you are spending time with family or out to dinner with a friend. Leave it in another room or in the car. Remember what it is like to sustain eye contact with the person across from you. Let yourself clunk through the awkwardness of filling 45 minutes with real conversation, uninterrupted by checking texts or incoming social media messages. Before long, if you are consistent, it will feel like the most natural thing in the world (because it is).
Show those bubbles who’s boss.
I dare you.