Yesterday’s post on MIT thinker Sherry Turkle’s warnings about the perils of over-connectivity got me to thinking about a fundamental question. How do you limit usage of social media, smart phones, and the Internet generally in ways that enable you to extract the benefits of the new media without turning into a junkie of constant connection? Is it even possible these days to live outside the hive mind?
Fortunately, I’ve made my share of false starts and mistakes in new media, and I like to think I’ve learned from them. So here for the first time in print is the wisdom of RasoirJ, all of it gleaned the hard way. I realize this seven-step program is highly individualized. It works for me – most of the time – but maybe not for everybody.
- It’s OK to carry a cell phone, but make sure it’s not a smart phone. The ready availability of the Internet and all those tantalizing updates from the Webverse on a smart phone are just too tempting. This is what I think of as the Potato Chip Principle. I freely acknowledge I’m addicted to potato chips. The solution? Don’t allow them in the house.
Step 2 – Never text anybody. My fingers tend to be too big for those little keys anyway.
Step 3 – Limit your Facebook sessions to a max of 15 minutes per session and two sessions at most per day. The same for Twitter.
Step 4 – Don’t play games on line. Ditto for downloading apps.
Step 5 – Never watch TV on your PC. You spend enough time there already.
Step 6 – Answer email twice a day – in the morning, first thing, and at close of business. Never in between.
Step 7 – Get out of the house several times a week for face time with actual human beings, preferably good friends.
And here’s the eighth principle: stay unconnected one day a week. This one is aspirational for me. I’m convinced it’s good idea, but I’ve never been able to do it. But since I’m PC-dependent, it’s happened for me on a couple of occasions when our whole neighborhood had an electrical outage for several days at a time. Astonishing how time slowed down during those periods.
These tips may sound like the musings of an ur-luddite, but I’m really not that. Ask my wife how many hours a day I spend at my PC if you doubt it. But, admittedly, these prescriptions are made easier for me by the fact that I’m by nature a late adopter of new technology. It’s akin to another happy accident in my life: I’ve never had to quit smoking because as a kid I never took the trouble to learn how to smoke.
One more note: I’m not an absolute neophyte on the smart-phone issue. Some years back I found myself toting a State Department-issued Blackberry when the head of the bureau I worked for decreed that all executives above a certain level would stay in touch pretty much 24/7. I did this for about six months, but never acquired the Blackberry habit. Two things bothered me. First, the idea of being constantly connected, of being on call for work at all times annoyed me on a deep gut level. I like to think that one’s time is best spent on matters of importance, the eternal things, evergreen issues , not the buzz of the moment.
Stephen Covey’s admonition to distinguish in an over-stimulated world between what’s urgent and what’s important is one of his best insights. I buy it. But I have enough trouble making this distinction without the allure of a Blackberry.
Second, I hated that god damn little keyboard and those little keys which I never really mastered. So it’s been relatively easy for me to heed Sherry Turkle’s warnings and reshape my usage of new media. It’s the kids I wonder about.