Technology, Peace and Sanity

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A few years ago, I sat down and did some math.

I tallied up how many minutes I was spending on Twitter each day.

Then I multiplied that number by 75 years, because I’m hoping I’ll live that long.

Here’s what I discovered: if I continued using Twitter in the same way, by the end of my life, I would spend 1.8 million minutes of my life on Twitter. That’s 1,250 days. Or, about 3.4 years.

I kept staring at that number — 3.4 years — and I felt sick to my stomach. It didn’t seem possible. But math doesn’t lie. This was the future I was building through my daily choices.

After that little math equation, I decided to make some changes. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to “quit” social media all together, so I started with a short break just to see how things went.

During that break, I also began to examine my entire relationship with technology. My relationship with my phone. With my laptop. With email. With online metrics, like measuring how many people visit my website, and whatnot. I tried to explore each area with curiosity. “Why is this part of my day? Is this crucial? Do I really need that?

I changed some patterns. I deleted numerous apps. I began using technology in a more intentional way — “selecting” rather than “sleepwalking.” To this day, I’m still figuring out how technology fits into my life — what feels healthy, what feels meaningful, and what doesn’t. It’s a relationship that continues to evolve.

Here are my current policies and preferences:

– I don’t keep my phone in my bedroom anymore.

– I switched to this alarm clock instead of using my phone to wake up.

– I keep my phone on silent (on the other side of the apartment, face down) all day long, almost every day, unless I’m expecting a call from a friend or client.

– I deleted all my social media profiles. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, bye. It feels beautiful. I have more space in my brain. Yes, I still have friends. And no, my business has not suffered.

– I have a website where I share stories and articles, and I have an email newsletter. I focus my energy on these two communication channels rather than social media.

– I love email (I think it’s magical) but I don’t reply to emails instantly. Sometimes I reply within 30 seconds. Other times, it might take me 30 days. It depends on the request. I state this on the Contact page of my website to set realistic expectations.

– I delete all of my text messages at the end of each day — except for texts from my partner, Brandon. (I like to re-read B’s texts, especially if I’m traveling and we’re apart.)

– I have a few websites / apps that I love and use regularly, like Spotify, Postmates, Wave, Hulu, and ClassPass.

– I have a few podcasts that I love and download regularly, like 2 Dope Queens, Invisibilia, and Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

– I try to invest in digital stuff thoughtfully. Do I really need a new Macbook Air or the latest smartphone model, just ’cause it’s available? Not really. Do I want a pair of Bose headphones with incredible sound quality that I’ll use for 6-8 hours every day? Hell yes.

– As much as I love the efficiency and portability of an iPad, I still love reading actual, physical, tangible books. I always will.
Nobody has the right to tell you how you should — or shouldn’t — use technology. It’s entirely up to you. We all have different preferences, different goals, and different needs.

Deep down, though, we all crave meaningful human connections. We all crave serenity, peace, and space to breathe and think. We all crave less clutter, less noise, and more beauty. Technology can help to deliver these things. Or technology can hinder these things. It just depends on how we choose to use it.

Almost everything in life is optional, not mandatory. This includes email, social media, smartphones, Netflix, Amazon, all the other facets of modern life. It’s important to question everything. “Is this necessary? Is this meaningful? Do I truly need this in my life? What would happen if I made a change? If I took a short break? A long break? How would that feel?”

Rather than sleepwalking through our lives, let’s stay awake and curious, and keep asking these questions.

 

This article was originally published at www.AlexandraFranzen.com

Alexandra Franzen

When it comes to being a better writer — and a better human being — Alexandra Franzen has a ten-word philosophy: Start with love. Keep it simple. You are not confused. Alexandra’s refreshingly simple communication tips have been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, The Daily Love, The Daily Muse, MediaBistro, MindBodyGreen and The Huffington Post — and on radio programs from coast to coast. Learn more at www.alexandrafranzen.com.

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