Tactics for a happier digital life
I have some beef. Rage, even. For the past decade I've owned an iPhone and had access to the infinite power of the Internet in my pocket.
Do you remember 2006? It was a year when most people looked up when they walked, when asking for directions was normal, and when there wasn't a constant temptation to hide behind a constant flow of distraction.
Then the iPhone happened. And its imitators followed. Suddenly we became a culture immersed in handheld screens. I remember, in my rebellious youth, decrying television as a tool to dumb down an entire generation. And yet, somehow, we were sold on the smartphone as some sort of revolution.
And ... it has been. Tools like Google Maps and Uber fundamentally change the way we interact with the world. I carry a more powerful digital camera in my pocket than even existed 20 years ago. Technology is powerful augmentation for the real world.
But I have a confession: Until recently, my smartphone was more a source of escape from life than an enhancement of it. I'd use it to avoid life: browsing social media, reading toxic articles by people whose main interest is selling me something, or catching up on the latest outrage porn.
"But it's just entertainment!" "It's fun!" "You're being too serious!" Then why does it seem like most of my generation is chronically depressed or anxious? I posit that all this information is doing something sinister to our minds and bodies and that the science will say so soon enough. Could it be that we'll soon find scientific consensus that chronic Internet use is as harmful as chronic sugar consumption or smoking?
So... I decided to quit. I decided it was time to turn back the clock—back to when I remember feeling more contented and less stressed and more creative. The year was 2003.
Remember 2003? There were no smartphones. The Internet was gaining in popularity. Facebook hadn't quite launched. It was a simpler time. A time when you could leave the Internet back at your house and spend your time uninterrupted. Remember?
That's why I quit all social media. I communicate with my friends just fine via SMS, email, and phone calls.
That's why I sold my iPad. I don't need another black glass distraction machine in my life.
That's why I used iOS's Restrictions to disable Safari and the App Store on my phone. I don't want infinity at the touch of a screen in my pocket anymore.
Remember when you could leave the house without getting interrupted? That's why I also disabled all my notifications on my iPhone, except for phone calls. That means no text message notifications, either. Life's just better when you're fully engaged.
That's why I'm vowing to read paper books and magazines again. I want to feel the pages on my skin. I want to feel a sense of commitment to what I'm reading. I want to know infinity isn't a home button away. I want to feel safe.
Those are my tactics for a happier digital life.