I’ve decided that my capacity to control my relationship to the interwebs is waning. I mean, the WILL is still there, as are the specific forms of revulsion that keep me out of most of it. But apparently something has damaged my ability to wade back out of the mire that is my email-facebook-pinterest-wordpress-cool-articles-someone-posted world.
I’m a really minimal tech-user, by which I mean that I’m a strongly utilitarian tech-user. I like to communicate; work; keep up with friends; read interesting stories; find new recipes and craft/DIY projects. I rarely get sucked into shopping; I hardly ever watch a video (except for on Netflix, which is a whole other beast and entirely under control). But even my mighty commitment to mindfulness can’t seem to turn back ON the energy that gets cut off when I head into this little loop of consumption.
Strategy goes; creativity goes; higher-order processing goes. The reflex action (moving to whatever screen I’m not currently on) kicks in as soon as the self-loathing alerts me that I’m stuck. “Oh, okay. I’ll just see if I have new email and then I’ll shut this thing and go do some work.” Yah.
The real problem is not even the time drain. It’s the loss of meaningful initiative and mental bandwidth. Today, for example, walking home across a beautiful college’s campus from lunch with a friend, I was filled with the joy of sunshine and the sense of productive possibility that a good walk and a good friend can provide. I noted the cormorant drying its bat-wings above the water in which it lay; I saw the raggedy juvenile male mallard with his head-feathers not fully in, and I thought to myself, Adolescence is a bitch. I felt the flow of good ideas within me: scraping and painting the old iron bench; working up the proposal for the new book project; calling an old friend for a conversation about work and life. But I get home, “check my email real quick,” and suddenly it’s 20 minutes later and I have no idea what I’m doing.
Sad but true.
Sometimes I want a sabbatical from technology, but more often I just want to reclaim the purpose of my work with it. Perhaps post-it notes on my screen to remind me of my goals? Perhaps giving myself permission to curl up on the couch with a novel, which is really what I seem to be avoiding most of the time? Perhaps zen-ish questions like that on my new desk-side bulletin board (what are you avoiding? What would fill you with joy right now? Who do you want to connect with?)? Maybe I’ll try them all.
Did I mention my new productivity strategy? To preserve my freedom of choice in field of work, I’m using an old trick in a new place: distinct lists for ongoing work; new work; house work; fun/fulfillment. My spiffy new/crappy old bulletin board will store the lists in plain sight — or maybe inside pretty cards? — so that I can have them present where I DON’T NEED TECHNOLOGY TO FIND THEM. That’s a cruel sideline to the whole e-document system…you get in to do work and find yourself lost in the preparation for working. Sigh.
So yes, wading in is what we’re about here, but also wading out — freedom, fluidity, and finicky discernment about what to do next. Sometimes the next best move is to sit still with your face turned toward the sun. But here on my computer I’ll never know, will I?