Friday, August 8, 2014

Why We Ought to Disconnect to Connect

The world is awash in technology and many ordinary people have succumbed to symptoms of technology addiction.  Nomophobia is a neurosis named in a study commissioned by the UK post office to examine anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. Mashable reports that 38% of college students feel compelled to check their mobile device every TEN minutes. 

This obsession with cyber space makes techno-junkies oblivious to the real world around them. Geeks will log on each morning before they brush their teeth. Stupid pedestrians cross busy streets staring at their mobile screens while being oblivious to dangerous oncoming traffic.  It is sad to see adults dining in public persistently using their cell phone "phubbing" their social company in favor of connections in the cloud.

For me, the depths of technology addition was witnessed at an amusement park where a young lady took her i-Phone into a wave pool.  She was not just wearing a waterproof neck pouch to protect her handset from water. Nor was this techno-teen taking a quick selfie to boast on social media.  This person had the intense thumb typing rhythm of a text chat while chest deep in the cresting waves.  Even this Thrifty Techie finds such behavior disordered.

A Thai cellular provider used an interesting ad  to illustrate the dangers of technology addiction with their video  "Disconnect to Connect".

As wonderful as that message is, it bears consideration how I got that message.  It was an intriguing post from a Facebook friend who I have only briefly met once  "in real life".  So in reality, I was inspired by a cyber-connection.  But to use a Doug Coupland conceit from his seminal book Generation X (1991) , it would be a mistake to rely on an internet "Air Family" as opposed to maintaining real relationships

So the Thrifty Techie is not a neo-Luddite, who spurns technology to live a simple life.  Nor it is wise for most folks to go cold turkey, since mobile phones can bring a wealth of information and connectivity.  But it is discerning what is the proper proportion of distant connectedness supplements rather than supplants your immediate circumstances and social circles.

Let me offer a few out of the box ideas on weaning oneself from nomophobia.

In my youth, I felt compelled to check the time every five minutes.  When I became aware of this tick, I wanted to break myself of the habit.  So for the better part of a year, I wore a broken watch to school every day.  This definitely stopped the compulsion  But it was humorously surreal when people would nudge me when they saw my watch and ask what time it was, and I would reflexively ask someone else.  A side benefit was that people gave me about six watches to replace my stopped wrist-watch.  In this day and age, young people rarely wear wrist watches (because they can check their phones) and many may struggling in reading an analog clock.

In retrospect, I got two things out of the social experiment.  I learned that I have an uncanny innate sense of time.  More importantly, I reinforced the notion that it is better to have a good time enjoying the moment than fretting "What time is it?".

Another inspired example of thwarting techno-addiction in order to have a good time is targeted at phubbing. When gathered together for a social meal at a restaurant, everyone should make sure that their cell phones are not muted and stack them on top of each other.  Whoever reaches for their cell phone first during the meal is then obliged to pick up the check for the table.  Assuredly, this Thrifty Techie would not be the first to draw for the bill.

If one really felt motivated to "Disconnect to Connect", one could take a week-long silent retreat.  

1 comment:

  1. I respect what you have done here. I like the part where you say you are doing this to give back yet I would expect by every one of the remarks this is working for you too.