Technology and mental states

Tanya Gold gave up computers and mobile phones for a week. She reports ‘Life seemed slower, and slightly more rewarding’.

These electronic toys are skilled at making you believe you are achieving things – working or interacting with those strange things I think are called other people. They give you the illusion of occupation and purpose. But it is false. You do nothing. You fritter and buzz and beep and shout “I’m in Swindon!”, all the way to the grave.

But she picked back up her mobile phone, and logged back on to facebook I’m sure. Maybe, like Oliver Burkeman says, we like feeling busy and the self-importance (and distraction) that it brings.

I also like being busy, and without a certain amount of freneticism I don’t get as much done. But I also like the mental breathing space of not having a mobile phone, or not feeling like I need to check my email. I think technology can make us smarter and happier, and if people constantly twitter or check their email or whatever I think it is probably because they like things like that. But there is a trade-off, a state of mind that is lost when you adopt the continuous partial attention mode. The conundrum is how to get the benefits of energy withouty the costs of loss-of-focus (or, from the other perspective, how to keep the benefits of calm while still being in touch and efficient). Answers on a postcard please…

3 replies on “Technology and mental states”

I do that every time I stay at my mum’s: no mobile signal; no internet; no computer. Very relaxing and highly recommended.

I wonder whether twittering, blogging, and facebooking, instead of being a creative outlet, are truly naught but a way to keep oneself overly busy…but busy doing nothing constructive/productive, like the article states. Just as many other timepass activities, if one sees a loss of value from occupying one’s time in a particular activity, they usually drop it and acquire a new hobby. The current preoccupation and constant questioning of people’s choice to timepass via technology and social media are a little troubling. Seems to come from an assumption they are unable to evaluate on their own, how valuable or productive their activities are or can be. We can’t always force people to do or not do according to our own perspective, it would be risking an authoritarian state, no?

Although it’s quite evident that the value, if any, from social aspects of technology and social media use are coming under fire daily lately, if one manages to leverage technology for learning or financial returns on investment the criticism subsides somewhat. It may be a capitalist perspective shared by many in regards to what is and is not appropriate use of one’s time.

We could, if we chose, use our technologies to liberate us from distractions and task-switching, and use them to maximize our ability to reduce stress, concentrate, pay attention, and use our creative skills. Put the phone on Do not Ddsturb, let voicemail take messages, reply to your calls and email in batches a couple of times a day rather than as soon as it comes in.

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