I really like my iPhone. This little machine can keep up with my (five) email accounts, my (three) social networking accounts, my blogs. It can help me figure out where a restaurant is, how long it would theoretically take me to drive to New Orleans instead of work, and what the weather will be like when I get there.
What I don’t like is how I use the iPhone. I probably check my email, Facebook, and Twitter apps roughly forty to sixty times per day. Why would I do that?
I’m not a doctor, my wife is not about to go into labor, and I have no friends traveling and waiting for me to pick them up at the airport. In other words, nothing is pressing. So why has this little device become an extension of me body? Why do I have to take it everywhere?
I don’t know!
I don’t know why I carry it around, why I compulsively check for little icons indicating that somewhere, someone I know has done something. What is the benefit?
An obvious one could be that it’s to alleviate boredom. But when was I ever bored to begin with? If anything, I’ve got more than a full plate as it is. My options of what to do with my time are nearly limitless.
Another reason may to be to stay connected with people. But if I’m in a room full of friends and we’re staring at our tiny machines, are we really connected? Am I actually closer to someone because I know that someone I went to high school with is at the mall?
For me, checking my phone and going down these rabbit holes has become a habit, a compulsion. It’s a rabbit hole.
I don’t like the way that it makes me feel. I scroll through apps just because. I skim articles without really thinking, I share things that I haven’t fully through myself. I feel anxious, disconnected, uneducated, partially full.
I read an article last week about slow internet. (Not the NPR joke from a year or two ago.) For the life of me, I can’t find it. I do that Maria Popova linked it. (I didn’t provide a link here because I didn’t want to send you down a rabbit hole. There’s a link to her website at the bottom.)
My version of slow internet involves me not thoughtlessly consuming, not skimming, but spending time with a small number of articles, sites, blogs with which I want to engage. This way I can actually learn, think, and hopefully contribute.
My version of slow internet means that I only check up on email and internet reading once or twice per day. The rest of the time I’m freed up to play music, write, work, think, exercise, or fully enjoy an action movie or a video game.
Last week, I found myself checking Facebook while playing a video game. Why would I do that?
“Joey,” you might be saying, “What’s the big deal. It’s free time.”
Yes, that’s true. The big deal for me is that I feel anxious, disconnected, uneducated, and only partially full. My brain is confused. I’m doing too much at once.
Instead of trying to revamp my life with some sort of self-help plan or a half-baked rule of living (monk style) or a resolution, I’ve just decided to relax with my iPhone and internet use.
I’ll let you know how it goes. And, if you don’t hear from me except for once a day, please don’t be bummed out about it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have a conversation with you. It means that I want to have a real conversation with you.
Wish me luck, friends!