arif

Gadgets of Distraction

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Earlier in the week, Reverend Justin Schroeder, asked a simple question as part of his series of blog posts on spiritual practice. His question: “what’s at the center of your life?

I commented, asking whether center is determined by word, thought, or deed, and Justin agreed that it’s action more than anything else that points the way toward what’s central for us. As I read his thoughts on spirituality and the things we feed vs. the things we let lie fallow, I couldn’t help but reflect again on my relationship to being connected.

You see, I’ve come to suspect that I am an addict. Some are addicted to alcohol, some money, food, various other drugs, sex, reality TV, etc. My addiction: electronic connection, via facebook, twitter, email, etc, facilitated by my smartphone.

Justin’s comments rang strongly in my heart: if the center of our lives are best viewed through our actions and the things that we spend the most time on, what does it mean that much of my time is spent in relationship with electronic devices for the purpose of connecting with people far away – often at the expense of relating to the people right in front of me.

Interestingly, in the blog post above, Justin suggests that the things that we spend the most time and intention on are in effect the things that we worship. Applying that rubric to my relationships with Gadgets of Distraction, it’s pretty safe to say that my GoDs were looking an awful lot like my gods.

Strong language? Perhaps, but it’s telling that my phone would sit at my bedside, the last thing I looked at before going to bed, and the first thing I’d look at upon awakening. Why?

Why on earth would I need to look at my email, twitter, facebook, etc even before getting out of bed? Sure, I can tell myself that I just want to look at my schedule, use the first few moments of waking to reflect on my day and think about how I want to spend it…. But let’s be honest, how often does that really happen?

And so, yesterday, I pulled the plug, and exchanged this, for this

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It’s been almost 24 hours now, and I’m happy to say that nothing bad has happened to me. I have however noticed a number of rather disturbing habits that I was dimly aware of, that have now become radically visible. Chief amongst these: the number of times that I reach for my phone to check and see if I’ve got notifications of any kind. Phillip Lund once described this compunction to check in as being the modern equivalent of smoking, and as a former smoker, I think he’s absolutely correct – social media, delivered via smart phone is a whole lot like the experience of smoking.

And so, I’m actually feeling a bit of withdrawal. There’s almost a physical sensation of disconnection and missing-ness, and often, that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, almost a panicked sense of “what am I missing right now?”

And conversely, there’s a far greater feeling of slowness. All day yesterday, a day in which I got a lot done, I had a feeling of calm and ease. I felt slower although I don’t think I was actually moving any differently than usual.

So, we’ll see how this experiment unfolds. I’d like to say that I’ll stick with this practice – no smartphone when I’m home and have easy access to internet if and when needed. I’d like to say that this experiment will lead to my creating more and better boundaries on where, when, and how the internet and social media find their way into my life.

The truth is that I don’t know where this will go, but it’s a darned interesting experience, and I hope you’ll come back to check in on how it’s going, and perhaps experiment with it a bit yourself.

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