Most of us use smartphones on a daily basis. This has created a deep reliance on technology, which for some, has led to strains in our personal lives and relationships. Many of these can be avoided though, if we took control of our tech habits.
Joshua Fields Millburn noticed something about getting online at home: it was gobbling up all his time.
Millburn, a writer and passionate minimalist, decided to cut back time spent on the internet at home, get out of the house and meet new people. He embarked on an experiment to get rid of his phone for 60 days. The experience radically transformed Millburn’s phone habits as well as his views on technology.
“My cellphone usage (today) is more intentional than before,” said Millburn. “My phone is a tool, not an appendage.”
Not only has he learnt how to be more productive with his time, he also feels less distracted and stressed.
A Return to Nature
The problem is that for most of us – checking messages, social media and news feeds compulsively – can be difficult to overcome. This obsession with technology has prompted calls for an examination of even disconnecting with the world around us.
“Today, people who work and learn in a dominating digital environment expend enormous energy blocking out many human senses – including ones we don’t even know we have – in order to focus narrowly on the screen in front of the eyes,” said Richard Louv, the California-based author of The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age, and other books about the importance of embracing our natural surroundings.
“That’s the very definition of being less alive. Who among us wants to be less alive? The point here is not to be against technology, which offers us many gifts, but to find balance – and to give ourselves an enriched life and a nature-rich future,” he said.
Louv also suggested that American biologist Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis may explain our need to reconnect with nature. The theory posits that humans are innately attracted to nature and other forms of life. It could even be an evolutionary mechanism that boosts survival.
Striking the Right Balance
For years, Louv has been doing techno-fasts and escaping it all – including electronics and the data we are surrounded in. And the idea has been catching on. A growing number of travel retreats are appealing to netizens to set their smartphones down and instead, look at and enjoy the world around them.
Australia-based Intrepid Travel, for instance, offers what it calls a Digital Detox Trip to Morocco that focuses on experiences, instead of hunting for Wi-Fi and snapping Instagram-worthy photos.
Furthermore, Louv believes that we need to balance our need for modern tools with regular immersion in natural environments for psychological benefit.
“The ultimate multitasking is to live simultaneously in both the digital and the physical world, using computers to maximise our powers to process intellectual data, and natural environments to ignite all of our senses and accelerate our ability to learn and to feel. In this way, we would combine the resurfaced ‘primitive’ powers of our ancestors with the digital speed of our teenagers,” said Louv.
“We need to imagine a future in which our lives are as immersed in nature every day as much as they are in technology, and this includes a new kind of city that incorporates nature into every building and on every block – which serves to restore residents psychologically, physically, even spiritually. That vision requires advanced, even futuristic thinking. We need to go forward to nature.”