One of the reasons technology affects us so deeply today is that it changes the way we communicate, including the way we communicate with the people we really care about.
Dating websites and apps have changed the way that we begin relationships. Email, text messages and mobile phones have changed the way we continue them, and even end them.
The point is that technology doesn’t just allow us to do the things we’ve always done more quickly, it actually encourages new kinds of behavior. And, as anyone who’s ever been dumped by text will tell you, these changes are not always for the best.
But even when we do manage to come together and you know, actually speak to one another in person like we did back in the good ol’ days, technology can still get in the way. A few days ago I saw 4 people out to dinner with each other and every single person was on their phone.
I’m sure it was important stuff and they were not just instagramming pictures of their dessert, but even so, this is new behavior and it was clearly having a disruptive impact on the way these friends were connecting. If nothing else, it was a distraction.
This where it gets interesting in terms of developing new patterns of behavior with others. Technology presents an opportunity to escape the here and now. Maybe it is the discomfort of conversation drying up between friends at dinner, or the boredom of standing alone in a queue of complete strangers.
But every time we repeat these new patterns of behavior, they get stronger. So, rather than training our mind to be present in the here and now, at ease with whatever arises, instead we are training it to be distracted, to move away from the present moment, because we would rather experience anything other than this, here, now.
Truth be told, boredom is fascinating if we know how to look at it in the right way, but I’ll save that for another time. As for discomfort, how will we ever understand our thoughts and emotions if we are always running away from them?
It takes courage to simply be, to see the urge to reach out for distraction and to let it go. It is both terrifying and liberating in equal measure, but if we do not prioritize this intention, it is unlikely to materialise in our life.
That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy streaming a dog pretending to talk, whilst sitting at the bus stop once in a while, but we need to be clear about our intention. This is what it means to find a middle way with technology. It is not an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach, but instead a conscious choice to be aware of how and why we use it.
Every pause in this cycle is an opportunity to connect, whether it is with oneself or with those around us. Relationships matter. We will never look back and wish we had posted more photos, sent more tweets or more texts. But we will almost certainly look back and wish we had taken the time to find some peace of mind and be more interested in those around us.
So, maybe take a minute after your meditation each day, just to be clear how you are going to define your relationship with technology, how you are going to use it today, in a way that works for you and not against you.
And next time you feel the urge to reach for your phone, the need to be distracted, maybe pause for 30 seconds and see what happens when you don’t follow through with the impulse. The result may surprise you. And who knows, you might even find yourself talking to the person next to you, you know, like we used to do.