Weapons of Mass Distraction

Do you ever feel that Life is lining you up for something? Stacking the deck for, or against, you? I do!

Step One

Late last year, I started going to the library again (Toronto has a truly excellent public library system) to take out a couple of audio books to edify my long car commutes to and from work. Particularly in the evening, 33 km pass very slowly on packed and crawling highways. And there are only so many ’80s songs on the radio that a person can take!

The other week I got a little book called The Art of Stillness by an essayist and travel writer called Pico Iyer. At first I thought I’d made a bad choice, but on the second try I listened more attentively, with growing appreciation. Iyer builds a convincing argument that advances in technology that seemingly have made connection faster and easier than ever before have left us feeling unconnected to ourselves. An increasing number of people have started to unplug from it and be still, some for one entire day a week, an “Internet Sabbath.”

… you will be happier if, on occasion, you slow down, relax, and with a broad and open mind take a good hard look at yourself and think about life.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Step Two

My new cellphone arrived. Technology is not my field of knowledge, so I took it to my go-to techie expert to transfer the info and apps in my old phone into the new phone. When he had finished I noticed that some apps weren’t there, and I made a mental note to install them later.

On arriving home I tried to install Instagram, but I couldn’t seem to get it working and resolved to try again the next day. Now, I love Instagram, so I felt uncomfortable to not be able to access it from my phone. The other important missing app was Facebook. But, tired by my futile Instagram attempts I decided to leave that for another day, also.

Somehow, the days rolled by, and – fortified by repeated listening to Iyer’s book – I still hadn’t loaded those two “crucial” apps. To my surprise, I wasn’t jonesing for them, and visiting Facebook once a day on my desktop or laptop, and likewise Instagram occasionally, satisfied me.

As with other addictions I’ve had, that bit of space away from the object of my craving gave me clarity. In hindsight I saw myself with that friendly little device comfortably cradled in my hand, compulsively scrolling through video after photo after meme after reel after… anything at all!

Add to this the countless number of times I tell myself, “Just one more,” and an hour later I’m still stuck in it, addictive personality that I am. Plus my feelings of guilt when I momentarily raise my eyes from the screen and realise I have a cat sitting on my lap looking up at me with adoring eyes. Love that I have been totally ignoring. Not present at all.

Step Three

One night last week, out of curiosity, I took my old phone off Airplane Mode. It aurally exploded in a clamorous cacophony of dings, blips and chimes that reminded me of walking through the insanity of a casino in Las Vegas. (Which I did NOT enjoy doing.) It was horrible! And it cemented my nascent intention to leave Facebook and Instagram off my phone.

Especially when I reminded myself that I’d started calling Facebook “in-your-face-book” due to the ceaseless unbidden suggestions to friend this , that and the other person. And while Instagram wasn’t invasive in the same way, it felt good to me to focus on my work, or on my colleagues, when I was at work. To be present.

I also recalled a quote I heard recently that I loved:

Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behaviour.

It turns out this quote comes from James Clear, whose book Atomic Habits is also helping me to reshape my life. Later in the same paragraph, he says:

…especially over a long time period, your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment.

Whoa! No thank you. I much prefer to shape my virtual environment so it serves my greatest good. And to stop giving away hours every day of my precious time and attention to watching other people’s lives, instead of living my own.

When you stay conscious, keep your mind present, you are the creator of your life.

~ Bruce Lipton

With thanks to ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash for the photo