How does one learn to cope with technology?
July 21, 2005 10:18 AM   Subscribe

When I leave the 'grid' for vacation — weekend or week-long, it does not matter — I feel liberated. Free. Refreshed. When I return, ubiquitous media (especially television and internet) really get me down. Then, after a few days, I'm back on the grid, sucking from the teat of technology. I feel dirty. And guilty. Still, I love technology. It's like I'm addicted (especially to the internet), and only quitting cold-turkey helps. How does one cope with technology? Without becoming a Luddite, how does one break free of the addiction? How does one find balance? Note that I mean all technology — cars and phones and iPods, too — not just television and internet.
posted by jdroth to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If your looking for complete relief of all forms of technical novation I would suggest daily meditation or Yoga, the lattr can be a great work out and very mentally stablizing while giving you the retreat from your daily tech issues you're seeking.
posted by crewshell at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2005

Everything is tradeoffs. Make a case by case decision on the costs and benefits of a given technology. For me, music helps my long bus commute pass faster and more plesantly. While on the other hand, I found I was blowing off whole evenings watching television just because it was there.

So, iPod yes, cable TV no. (for me).
posted by Capn at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2005

Someone in a thread long, long ago said (and I'm paraphrasing, to be sure) that it's impossible to be addicted to the Internet... that you can only be addicted to something it's providing. What are you addicted to? The constnat information? Start yourself on reading an actual newspaper, instead of an online one. And so on and so forth....

Although I'd also examine why you feel guilty about using technology- it's certainly not criminal. Why do you think it makes you feel bad, jdroth?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:41 AM on July 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself. - Oscar Wilde
posted by caddis at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2005

It sounds like you're not just looking to break an addiction, but to simplify in general.

With each piece of technology, you have to decide how and why you are using it, whether you want to reduce that use, and go from there.

For example, if you wanted to get rid of your car, you would need to move somewhere with good public transportation, that was in the delivery areas for needed services, like groceries. Luckily, most things are easier.

Though I've been able to limit my use of most technology and media, I do still get sucked into the computer from time to time. The best trick I've found is using a timer (I use this very simple, free one). Fifteen minutes surfing, fifteen minutes doing something else away from the computer. I get a lot done, and I feel like I'm in control of my computer usage.
posted by frykitty at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2005

I'm a programmer. I try to think of my computer as a carpenter might think of his hammer. I put it away at the end of the day and don't think about it until tomorrow. I try to think of my computer as a tool to be used, and not as entertainment. I used to keep a wireless laptop out on my coffee table. I put it away and only use it when I'm travelling. It was just too tempting to sit and surf.
I set aside 15 minutes for reading the news in the morning, and then make a point to not for the rest of the day. I have a couple shows tivo records, I make an effort to turn the TV back off if tivo hasn't caught something good.
I try very hard to play outside as much as possible. When I do, I never take an iPod with me. I do yoga, and I always make sure I go once a month and buy random magazines at the local bookstore.
posted by tumble at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2005

Good answers so far. It also helps to have a sense of perspective about these things; there's no need to have the year-after-next model if the three year old piece of whatever it is you've got is chugging along just fine.

I work with technology on a daily basis, and while I can say I'd miss it if I spent some time off the grid, that's mostly just because of adjustment. No internet connection? Stock up on books, or find some other way to pass the time. Variety's always good for the spirit, so look into other ways of killing time when it's not demanded elsewhere.
posted by staresbynight at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2005

On a slightly more limited scope I've been feeling the same thing recently. My number of bloglines subscriptions that I was reading every day had blown up to over 200 feeds and I was at least scanning the headlines on all of them, every day. It was taking up way too much time so I went through and aggressivly filtered out the ones that were too redundants or that I feel haven't affected my life significantly over the last year. I've still got too many (about 50), but it's way better than it was :).

I think that analyzing the value and impact that your daily technology routine has on your life is worthwhile, and that doing some housecleaning every month or two is a good idea.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 11:26 AM on July 21, 2005

Well I think it helps immensely if you have analog analogues to fill the roles played by your digital toys. If you stop IM'ing or yakking on the mobile phone, then perhaps you should start calling on people and talking to them, or increasing your small talk with people you deal with every day. If you're not reading or blogs, then it's time to subscribe to newspapers and magazines and to take time to read them in a nice setting. Paper publications have the added advantage of not encouraging you to check them every 15 minutes. If you're checking your e-mail less, then it might be time to write letters more. If you're not playing the EA Sports line, maybe it's time to take up some club sports or get some season tickets with some friends. Software based games can be replaced with classes, board-games, and road-trips (think of the insane time suck of MMORPGs). My favorite replacement for the endless grind of broadcast and cable TV is rented movies that you can watch on your own schedule (TiVO might help, but it still encourages consumption).

As a human being you have to do something, whether it's meditating or running a Fortune 500 company, so the balancing act includes replacing media saturation with things you can approach on your own terms and that don't have built-in media ADD.
posted by Mercaptan at 11:42 AM on July 21, 2005

In my experience this has as much to do with the global advertising media stream as with the pervasive presence of technology. The media content is designed to prick and keep your attention, so that you will stick around long enough to watch/listen to/read the ads, which are designed to make you want things. I suggest focusing first on discovering ways to reduce the amount of advertising in your life.

I have answered your question in my own life with what one might call a philosophy of "partial ludditism". I haven't rejected technology, but I have become a skeptic. Instead of asking: is it newer/better/faster?, I try to filter out anything that will make my life more complicated or reduce the aesthetic value of my surroundings, and accept only those technological objects which will make my home feel more home-like and my life feel more relaxed.

This will of course work out differently for everyone. For me it means that I have a bright, colorful, state of the art 19" LCD monitor on my desk (I have to stare at it all day, so it had better be nice), but no TV (since the constant barrage of ads always leaves me feeling tired and cranky). I have a cell phone (so I don't have to stress out making plans with my friends ahead of time), but I use a hand-cranked coffee grinder (since electrical kitchen gadgets feel like frivolous clutter). I have a digital camera (no more film development or print storage) but no iPod (I listen to enough music already, while sitting at my desk). Instead of a stereo, I got some really nice speakers for my computer and use iTunes.

Of course you will have to decide for yourself which pieces make your life easier, and which do not improve your life enough to compensate for their weight. Some people feel like cell phones are nothing more than a leash; others are unbothered by television programming. Whatever works for you, the important thing is that you are in control: that you choose what you will adopt and what you will reject based on what will make you happy.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:58 AM on July 21, 2005

Avoid TV. Try to spend time on the net reading only what you really care about. Don't have too many gadgets--learning how to use them and keep them organized is a huge time waster. Choose tech that makes your life better, not stuff that's trendy or simply affordable. Resist being an early adopter or constantly upgrading to the latest whatever. Don't respond immediately to every email or IM (or cell phone call for that matter). "Convenience" is overrated.

Take control. Don't let technology control you.
posted by ldenneau at 12:00 PM on July 21, 2005

Try scheduling an at-home "vacation." I am exactly the same way as you and sometimes I have to really force myself to get up, have a long leisurely breakfast, and instead of hitting the computer sit and read on the couch or go for a walk / bike ride.

If this forced-relaxation doesn't work for you, then consider taking up a hobby of some kind. If you have a garage, start a wood working shop or something in there that will keep you busy with your hands, doing something simple, away from the giant technology teat. Pottery. Making models. Gardening. Something. Cooking works well for me, actually.
posted by scarabic at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. (And whoa! The live preview this cool.) I don't actually watch much television television. By this I mean that maybe I watch two hours of actual television each month. However, I watch ~15 DVDs a month, and I download certain television shows (Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica) in order not to be tied to television schedules.

The computer, on the other hand, is a problem. My wife says that it's surgically attached to me, and that's not far wrong.
posted by jdroth at 12:10 PM on July 21, 2005

I have the same experience. It's so strange to me that I'm happier and more relaxed when not engaged with so much technology, but unable to pull myself away from it when it's around. I'm trying to think about it like this:

Metafilter and reality TV are junk-food, good books and long articles (online or off) are real food. The junk-food tastes great and is addictive, but leaves you feeling kind of crappy and lazy. Because it isn't satisfying like real food, you tend to overdo it. Even worse, it spoils your appetite for the healthy stuff. The real food doesn't give you the same rush, but leaves you healthy and feeling better. You've got to find the right balance.

Remember: Don't spoil your appetite! Have "dessert" after "meals" and only once or twice a day.
posted by callmejay at 12:41 PM on July 21, 2005

I like TiVo for the limiting of television consumption. Ironic, I know, but it means I only watch the shows I like, for as long as I have decided to watch, and leave the rest for later, rather than feeling I need to keep sitting there so I can find out how the episode ends. I've managed to cut down to maybe 1/2 hour a day but I still get to enjoy TV. Plus no annoying ads.

The internet is harder, and, frankly, I feel the same way you do. I ask myself all the time if I would really miss any of the information I'm getting. Some of it I would - it's important for me to be appraised of the news and sometimes I discover an amazing site. But I feel better about my usage if it feels less passive, that is, if I am researching for some personal-curiousity project instead of just seeing what's out there.

But by far the best way to avoid too much technology is to get out of the house. Go to the bar and make friends, get a hobby, grab a book and go read in the park or library. I find the internet is mostly a habit, and one that is easier to avoid if I have competing habits.
posted by mai at 3:00 PM on July 21, 2005

I was about to try to think of an answer. Then I realized I was watching CSI on cable while surfing Metafilter and decided my advice was probably not very qualified.
posted by nanojath at 6:08 PM on July 21, 2005

I think I read a science fiction story about this once. Start "murdering" your appliances, only to have society at large find your motives incomprehensible. Eventually you will be committed. My plan is admittedly flawed.
posted by jenovus at 10:49 PM on July 21, 2005

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