Men have become the tools of their tools – Henry David Thoreau
Every time I turn on my phone now this is what I see: BREATHE. I love that a humble screensaver can remind me to find stillness in the midst of chaos, bring me a moment of peace between tasks and engagements, and make me pause in the present before I lose myself in the technosphere and forget to breathe again.
There’s something both strange and fascinating about using technology to trick yourself into reconnecting with the real world: I feel like I’m sowing seeds for my future self and reaping the benefits all day long.
However, this experience is also a reminder that life in the digital age is changing so fast that we need new understandings to make sense of it, as well as techniques to master our relationship with the technology that often seems to be controlling us.
Putting Technology to Work for Us
We have the power to use technology like any tool: for good, or for ill. It’s one thing to pick up your phone and mindlessly scan your Newsfeed because you’re bored (which I do all the time), it’s another to open Messenger and tell your friend on the other side of the world you are thinking about them and sending them love.
One is passive and one is active. One fills our brains with information that may or may not leave us feeling better than if we’d chosen instead to go for a walk, draw a picture, or sing a song. The other puts the technology to work for us, helping us connect with friends and family all over the world, instantly and regularly.
Imagine if Justin Bieber asked his millions of followers to help save the planet – Lotus Casuarina, Seeds of Love
Likewise, revolutionary platforms such as Twitter can be used to complain to your millions of followers about what your entertainment rival said in an interview last week, or it can be used to shine a light on injustice and empower those who are suffering. We have the gift of global communication literally in our hands, yet so many of us forget that every post is an opportunity to inspire healing, create peace, or share ideas and ideals for our collective future.
Thankfully, according to a recent study, positive emotions are more contagious than negative ones on Twitter, which is all the more reason to use your precious 140 characters for good rather than ill: as well as being a net benefit to humanity, more people will end up reading your tweets!
Taking Charge of Your Technosphere
Whether you were raised on an iPad or are continually humbled by having to ask your 8 year old for tech support, we can all – to some degree – choose how we engage with the reality of the digital age. You may not be able to master technology, but over time you can master your relationship with technology.
Start by taking charge of your technosphere. Fill your Newsfeeds and Home Screens with stories and images that inspire you. Follow inspiring sources of information and unfollow anything (or anyone) that continually brings you down. Share your heart and wisdom with your Friends and Followers online just as you would with your loved ones in your living room.
Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories – Laurie Anderson
Most importantly, put the phone down when you know you’re better off spending some time in nature or connecting with the people around you, listening to the birds or even just the beat of your own heart. Then pick up your phone when you have a seed of love to share with a friend or with the world.
That smartphone in your hand is the culmination of thousands of years of human invention, so powerful that most of us only use a fraction of its capability. But even the most up-to-date version can’t come close to matching the genius of the neural network in your brain, or the power of the love in your heart. You, yes YOU, are the most advanced piece of technology on the Earth. Your device may be the ultimate power tool, but you have the power to use it wisely.
De-digitizing my Future
I’ve watched how technology has gradually taken over my life. Day after day staring at screens of all sizes. Committing to tech-free evenings then finding myself checking my Notifications before and after dinner, then sometimes during dinner, then when I get a text or remember something I wanted to Google, then before I shower, after I shower, when I get into bed, and then one last time when I go to put my phone on Airplane Mode.
We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phone, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are. ― Jefferson Bethke
I know that I’d be better off going for a walk, reading a book, or simply watching the clouds. And yet here I am on a beach, staring at a tiny screen while my thumbs type these words and the sun goes down without my noticing. Once again I have been sucked into the technosphere while the world passes me by. But this time I am determined to use this lost moment to inspire a future where I won’t have to use technology to trick myself into remembering to BREATHE.