I’m going to start this post off by saying that I didn’t sleep well last night.
This happens when, every few months, I have a very strong coffee. I am usually a tea drinker because coffee gives me the jitters, but I had a strong cup of delicious cuban coffee with milk and then I didn’t sleep. So, if this post seems a little off, blame the indulgence of a cafe con leche.
That preface has nothing and everything to do with the rest of this post, which is on mindfulness is relation to technology. It has nothing to do with the post because, well, it’s about sleep and delicious cuban coffee, and this is mainly a post about technology. It has everything to do with it because it’s about mindful (or non-mindful) consumption.
In my life, I am fairly disciplined in terms of what I consume (within reason). I know what makes me feel really sick and I know what keeps me up at night (clearly); I know that I need to eat, sometimes even when I don’t feel hungry or don’t love the choices presented to me; and I know that moderation is best for most things. I also don’t always make the best choices. I generally choose well, but not always, and sometimes, I choose the opposite of the best thing for me in that moment, because, well, an occasional indulgence is part of life. But, I’m very aware of what I eat and drink because my physical and mental health depend on it.
I can’t always say the same thing about my technology consumption.
I’m (ostensibly) working on a book about intentional tech use for sustainability. (I say ostensibly because I have the ideas for the book, but haven’t actually written a lot of it…) As part of my work on the book, I decided to buy, and read Mindful Tech by David M. Levy which is about bringing more balance into our digital lives. I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile and I know I need more digital balance (I’m a Libra. I need more every kind of balance), but, honestly, I was worried that the book would prescribe some kind of technology fast (which I’ve done before, for Lent, with Facebook) which hasn’t really worked for me in the past. I mean, I fast, but then once I’m back on, the old patterns return, and I find some other tech tool to replace Facebook while I’m fasting.
Thankfully, the book really isn’t about fasting. It’s about observing technology use and then changing to be more intentional (mindful & effective), which, as someone who does action research, is exactly what I need to do, without judgment, and with a lot of curiosity and self-compassion.
Yesterday, I began the first exercise in the book, which was about observing my e-mail use. It’s funny because Levy’s first exercise is about focusing on one technology tool (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) of your choice to observe. I thought I’d focus on Facebook because honestly, I think I have more of a problem with it than e-mail. But, what was interesting was that I actually wasn’t even aware of how much e-mail rules my life. I check automatically, feel stressed when I can’t respond right away, manage mail across 3 different accounts, and allow it to distract me when a message comes up and I’m around others that I love. Whew! That’s a lot to realize in 6 hours of observation. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning, and I get extra annoyed when I see a number (signifying unread messages) next to my mail app.
What I love about mindfulness is that it’s really about accepting what’s so without judging it. I see my use of e-mail. I see how e-mail has been occupying (so much) space in my life in ways that aren’t aligned with who I am or my priorities in life. With this awareness, I can make better choices (like I tell my 3.5 year old). Even more importantly, if I can start to bring more awareness to how I’m feeling when my use of a tech tool is counter-productive (usually stressed and obligated, which means a physical pit in my stomach and tightness in my shoulders), then I can observe what I’m doing in that moment and (hopefully, eventually) work to change that behavior.
Awareness can empower change. And I’m excited about this journey towards more mindful tech use.
I love so many ideas in this post. First, I want to hear more about this book! Are you thinking sustainability as in the environment or sustainability in our lives or…?
Second, this Levy book sounds interesting. I hope the other exercises are similarly helpful and I’d love to hear about them, because from your post I want to do this one. The mindfulness angle really makes the difference. Withholding judgement—even if just for a moment—helps us take in so much more. I could see how now that you’ve stood back a bit you can make decisions that really get at a healthier balance rather than what might be an easy fix (like a fast)—that isn’t a fix at all.
Hi Anna! So, the book is on personal sustainability, or more about using (educational) technology to help us survive, thrive and provide more powerful learning experiences for teacher candidates and K-12 students. I think I need to stop using the word sustainability, but there is a natural tendency to think about environmental sustainability, which is not as relevant to the book, except in the overlap between minimizing the paper load through effective use of alternative means of submission 🙂
The Levy book is pretty interesting. It’s been on my “to read” list for awhile, and I’m glad that I’m getting to it. I’ve been noticing a lot just in the past few days, and just with e-mail. I know I need to tackle Facebook next, but e-mail in and of itself has been a really effective start. I’m less judgmental about my e-mail practices even when I notice that they don’t work so well for me. We could do a low commitment, low stress book club, if you want to get it and read along with me!