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The Benefits of Taking a Tech Holiday

The Benefits of Taking a Tech Holiday

When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” ~Marshall McLuhan

It is hard to imagine that we have already come full circle in our relationship to technology. The relentless drive for more access, smaller devices and ever increasing speed is hitting a wall for many of us. Yet, it isn’t so surprising that the wonder has worn thin when you consider the sheer number of hours that Americans spend in front of a screen. Between 2005 and 2009, our time spent in front of a screen doubled to include at least 8.5 hours per day. Television viewing, likewise, has also steadily increased Nicolas Carr, in his revelatory best-seller; “The Shallows” has documented how these technological trends are shaping not only our days, but the very wiring of our minds.

I have witnessed this burnout in my relationship toward my own technology devices. Many a Friday night, I leave my computer bag by the door, often untouched until Sunday evening. It isn’t for lack of work or even a waning desire to write, but rather a visceral need to unplug and live more in real time, focus on the people around me, or do the stuff of real life. Daily tasks that were once tedious chores, such as stocking the pantry, cleaning, or taking long walks with the dogs are rejuvenating.  I remember again what it feels like to follow a slow train of thought as it meanders through my head on a hazy afternoon. These moments of discovery often disappear when one is constantly immersed in an endless stream of information and digital stimulus. When faced with hundreds of emails and texts a day, the beauty of solitude is lost.

I think about this topic often since reading the New York Times article,The Joy of Quiet, which I have been carrying around with me ever since it was published on New Year’s Day. It is the only essential re-thinking of my life that I have held onto since the New Year and now in retrospect has become a kind of un-stated New Year’s resolution.  I intend to live more fully in the amazing and beautiful world we inhabit.  I am happy to know, from the article, that I am in good company, as this is also the new trend of the very wealthy as they now search for “black hole” resorts, destinations where you pay more to get unconnected. Who knew that the power of inner stillness was what the most original and ingenious designers today credit their innovative creativity and pride themselves on the unconnected and uncluttered lives they lead.

Even Intel has come to realize that the relentless pace of high-speed technology comes at a high cost. It is amazing to have a computer company experiment with creating a mandatory weekly block of four hours of uninterrupted quiet for their engineers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 300 in the control group recommended extending this program company-wide. It is good to note that most workers routinely get no more than three minutes at a time without digital interruption.

The human brain needs quiet time and still space to process and hear its own thoughts. As Carr points out in ‘The Shallows,’ extensive neuroscience research has demonstrated that our neural processes, which involve deep thinking, developing empathy and building relationships, are inherently slow. To relinquish the depth of our human experience in exchange for the constant distractions coming at us makes the gains of computer technology worth considerably less.

Our technology was built to serve humanity, and yet, as Einstein noted, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” The paradox in all technology is that it comes without an instruction manual. Increased access to information does not equate to wisdom. Faster communication does not necessarily create connection. We need our innately human capacity of emotional interpretation and moral clarity to discern the best use of our technology.

The best way to come back into yourself is to find quiet green space with someone you love.  Give yourself a day, maybe even Earth Day, to live screen-free. Dive deep into your natural surroundings and listen for birds or to the wind. Follow your train of thought to the end of its meandering stream and soak for a minute in silence.  Be a kid for a couple of hours and practice the old skills of play and wonder. Let your curiosity go unquenched without a Google response. Heck, just mow the lawn and remember the first time you smelled fresh cut spring grass.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

9 comments

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7:32AM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

anyone catch an evening new item that filmed infants (10 days old) and babies preferring i-pads over 'mommy'?

it's true

these digital toys are quite attractive, even when a newborn just barely opens its eyes,...

no wonder all the interest for those of more developed years,...

the caution [sadly, not taken from a large % of the population] is that babies, and people, are not getting enough 'face time' with actual humans to become tuned into our human emotions and developing our ability to feel compassionate towards the 'living'

that said; bullying is rising faster than momma's home baked cakes!!!

the tidbit of advice [like i said, usually ignored,...:( ] is that technology is a great tool for teaching - and it's best not to use it as a baby-sitter or main source of entertainment,...

it is a wonderful invention and tool! no doubt~

personal observation, is that, whatever weaknesses and foibles that human nature embodies is spilling out over the digital network and perhaps - just possibly,... - we can look at ourselves with a critical eye of discernment - and make corrections and adjustments, and, WITH this technological advantage, do so much more quickly than we ever could have accomplished previously

4:31AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

Ironically we are reading about it online....

12:06PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Thanks!

6:50PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

Very hard to take a tech break, though, when I require it for work, school, and for a portion of my socialization. I agree it's important sometimes, but it's very imbedded in our lives now.

2:20PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

great advice thanks!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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