Microwaves, cars, phones, computers, food, and trains – what do these all have in common?
If you said, the faster, the better, then we’re on the same page.
It seems that speed is the metric by which we measure so much of our lives today. And to be fair, I’m rather pleased that I can get from Johannesburg to London in 12 hours and not three months, so we’re not slamming tech or human advancement.
The problem is that our lives have become a race to get to the top, to the end, or the finish line spurred on by the ever-increasing invasion of technology in our world. And the actual living part, you know, the bit in between that we remember and treasure – well that’s just getting lost along the way.
The Problem With Tech
To clarify, the issue we’re discussing is not about tech per sé. Instead, it is about the way we use it, and the time we spend on it.
We need to check for ourselves whether our use of tech is preoccupying us to the point where it’s detrimental to our lives.
Can a ‘slower’ alternative benefit us more? Do we need to be constantly checking our phones? Do we need to reply to those work emails at 10 pm? Are we interrupted continuously by apps demanding our attention? Is technology in its various forms taking up too much of our time?
The understanding that our obsession with technology has blurred the lines between living and life has been creeping up on us for several years. It has given rise to the slow tech movement and is something worth considering with an open mind.
What is Slow Tech?
Slow tech is a focus on intentionally changing the way you interact with technology. The idea is to become deliberate and mindful in our technical experiences, as opposed to a reactive and involuntary response.
Slow tech differs from a digital detox in that it does not require a complete ban on everything with a battery. Instead, it is making less use of tech, as opposed to a full digital detox which is, as you would expect, no tech at all.
The slow tech movement
The slow technology movement is putting into play the fundamental premise of slow tech.
The intent is to control the effects of excessive use of technology on our lives. Social media, cell phones, movies, ads, the constant influx of emails and instant messages can, if left unchecked, suck us into an almost trancelike state.
(Those of us with teenagers can vouch for the zombie-like effect of smartphones, which somehow manage to render our offspring deaf and wholly unresponsive to everything except certain foods and the speed of the internet.)
The slow tech movement is part of the slow movement, which is a cultural shift toward slowing the pace of life.
Carl Honorés, the author of the 2004 book In Praise of Slow, says of the slow movement, “It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed, savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
Whether we like it or not, this incessant interaction and obsession with tech damage us in ways that we are just beginning to understand.
Take a look at these points.
Slow Tech to Increase Productivity
Yes, we can do things faster and better, much like the 6-million-dollar man back in the 70s, but it hasn’t necessarily made us more productive.
Too much of a good thing, ‘eh?
A TED talk from President and Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris, offered some sobering facts on how tech distracts us.
He made a point about the way our communications in the workplace are set up for us to fail explaining how we bulldoze each other with constant, mindless interruptions which wreak havoc on our productivity levels – but that’s the only choice we’re offered by the available tech.
Another super-fast, super-useful, trackable, emoji-enabled, emotionally-enhanced Google Hangout message chips away at our time and productivity.
Mindful Use for Better Productivity
If you have a thought that you need to send before you forget, keep a little notepad next to you, or put it in an electronic sticky note as opposed to sending a string of messages to someone. Respect their time and space. Turn your own messaging and email off when you need to focus. Mark yourself as away if you need to.
An instant message will instantly distract you.
Using Slow Tech to Find Your Family
“We had a power outage today, so I went downstairs and spent time with the family. They seem nice.”
It’s true that phones, in particular, are the villain when it comes to family relationships and connection. How often are you having a conversation with someone and their phone buzzes and, that’s it, they’re gone.
It’s rude, but it’s also damaging to relationships with the people that we care about.
On the topic of the effect of tech on families, one article says, “Research shows that technology is producing higher rates of anxiety among children and adults.
“Apps are influencing child development and short-circuiting identity formation. They’re also discouraging face to face interactions and creating superficial intimacy.”
How many times do you find yourself telling your child just to wait a few minutes because your fake carrots in your fake town are about ready for harvesting and you need to get them on the virtual train? Pronto.
Mindful Use in the Family
Designate tech-free times, such as dinner or breakfast times when the family can be together and converse, face to face. Have a tech-free room in the house where personal interaction is the only choice. Remove tech from the bedroom and instead of watching three hours of YouTube every night, chat with your partner and build your relationship.
Unplug and Get Creative
We may have the knowledge of millions at our fingertips now, but this has come at a hefty cost to our creativity.
The creatives among us know that those blinding flashes of genius or that elusive solution to a problem we’ve been working on very seldom come while we’re plugging away at work or watching videos on why cats are jerks.
No, they are more likely to surface when we’re in the shower, or while we’re driving.
The science is fascinating.
Washington University Psychologist, R. Keith Sawyer talks about this exact thing in an interview with Time.
He says, “In creativity research, we refer to the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged. When we take time off from working on a problem, we change what we’re doing and our context, and that can activate different areas of our brain. If the answer wasn’t in the part of the brain we were using, it might be in another. If we’re lucky, in the next context, we may hear or see something that relates—distantly—to the problem that we had temporarily put aside.
So, you’re more likely to enjoy a creative spark when your mind is at rest, or when you’re doing something mindless like weeding or shelling peas. Logically, that means we must give our minds time away from the constant demands of our digital commanders.
Mindful Use for Creativity
Allow yourself the time and space to let your mind wander. Put your phone away, or turn it off, and take up a notepad and pen. Doodle. Rest your mind and allow it to explore different routes within itself.
Slow Tech Makes You Bored
Parents well know the eye-rolling, deep-sighing drone of “I’m bored!” from their children. While it’s tempting to fling an iPad at them, it may be that you should leave them to be bored.
There are many surprising benefits to allowing ourselves and our children to just be, instead of trying to fill every spare moment with learning or doing or some form of technical entertainment.
An article in the New York Times discussing boredom in children says, “When you reach your breaking point, boredom teaches you to respond constructively, to make something happen for yourself. But unless we are faced with a steady diet of stultifying boredom, we never learn how.
“The idea isn’t that you suffer through crushing tedium indefinitely … It’s that you learn how to vanquish it. This may come in several forms: You might turn inward and use the time to think. You might reach for a book. You might imagine your way to a better job. Boredom leads to flights of fancy. But ultimately, to self-discipline. To resourcefulness.”
Slow Tech and Boredom
Removing tech from the equation forces us to look for something else to do. Those alternatives very often become the things that we remember fondly, like fishing frog’s eggs out of the pond or learning how to paint with watercolours. We’re likely to be more active and more interactive.
Reconnect with Yourself
When you think about it, the original intent of technology was to improve our lives. The idea was to take the mundane tasks away from humans and give them to a machine, such as how a printer eradicated the need to write stuff down.
What’s happened, though, is that technology has not just simplified our day-to-day lives, but it has replaced them.
We do things fast and not well. We view life through a lens which we upload for the approval of people we don’t care that much about. We spend our days working hard to earn time, and then we fritter it away on the latest mind-numbing app on our phones. We spend our days unenthused and time-poor because we are achieving and doing nothing worth remembering.
We’re scrolling and swiping our way through life, with minutes turning into hours, and hours into days. Our children are growing up with American accents because they spend more time on YouTube than chatting with their families.
Ironically, the one universal cry from humanity is one of freedom and personal choice. Logically, that means that we want to choose how we spend our lives.
The flip side of that coin is the world’s business brain which has developed the most efficient and the most addictive ways to keep us looking at a screen. As long as we’re taking what they’re dishing out, we’re puppets.
Will you join the slow tech movement? Will you look up from your device and live in the real world?