I find myself explaining this particular set of things I do and believe to other people a lot, because I think they demonstrate a decent amount of variation from people my age and younger.
So, the thing that usually brings this stuff up in conversations with other people is that I do not usually respond to texts, phone calls, or emails immediately. For me, there is usually a significant delay before I get to responding back to any form of communication other than in real life face to face conversation. But even then, my responses face to face sometimes take awhile, because I prefer to think about what I say before I say it.
The discussions that usually follow focus around four core ways that I approach things to try to manage my stress and anxiety: The Moment, Relevancy, Memory, and How It Relates to Technology.
The short gist of all of these four beliefs is that I find myself the least anxious and least stressed when my life is lived like a squirrel, which is for the most part, primarily concerned with my immediate surroundings and immediate past, present, and future. This sense of now-ness, presence, and immediacy to life is when I usually feel the least stressed.
In my life, I believe in a thing that I simply refer to as "The Moment." I think of The Moment spatially as the people, places, and surroundings that are immediately surrounding me and that which I can experience and perceive with my direct human physical senses. Also, within The Moment, I think of it temporally as the events that are happening currently and right now, along with very recent past and future events. I think of The Moment as a sacred thing, because staying in The Moment is one of the primary things that brings me peace of mind.
And this segways into the part of the discussion- Relevancy.
In the sorting of information in my day-to-day life, I try my best to base things around The Moment and how relevant they are to The Moment. If something is not within the immediate physical space that I can experience with any of my senses, then I do not classify that thing as relevant to me. Some of the things I might classify as irrelevant include: news from outside the limits of the city I currently reside in, text messages from people in other states, or emails about events that are weeks or months away or beyond the distance I can get by foot, bus, or bike.
I do make some adjustments for relevancy depending on the "presence" that different individuals have in my life, which accords them a certain level more relevancy than others (e.g. a very good friend). I do not treat all individuals equally, even within or between social circles or family ties, which also gets some people a little surprised. I handle my relationships on a 1-to-1 basis.
This may be partly related to my history of depression, but I try my utmost to devote as little time as possible to any form of recall memory. The way I would describe my memory to people is this way. I do remember a lot of information, but most of my memories are "encrypted," and I do not have the "keys" to access most of my memories. For me, access to my memories is mostly key-based, which primarily consists of either certain sounds, smells, tastes, textures, or visual cues. If the proper key/cue is present, then, I have access to that memory. This is part of why I really don't know a lot of people who say they know me, don't remember a lot of places I have been to, and nor do I remember much of anything I have done.
However, what I do keep in the front of mind is what I call "essence," which is what I describe as procedural or experiential memory. The strongest memories and thoughts in my brain are of the methods or process of how I solved a problem, handled a sticky social situation, navigated a mountain trail, or some other form of sequential or procedural memory. With regards to the encrypted memories, before I have access to a key, there is usually an "essence" that I can recall. I can usually recall how I felt about this place, this person or that thing, but I may not remember what happened or occurred to make me feel that way about said thing until the proper cue or key occurs.
Part of why I practice and prefer keeping my memory and brain functioning and this way is that it does lessen the pain of harmful, sad, or traumatic events. For me, it provides distance. But also, the process of continually encrypting my memories helps to keep my perspectives on the world fresh. I find that sometimes the weight of everything I know and have experienced can give me shit-stained lenses that damage my views on others, myself, and the world. So, hiding my memories from myself helps me to continually renew as a person. This is also why I like this quote from Alice in Wonderland "I could tell you my adventures–beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." I think that I am continually changing over time, and I think this kind of process of letting go helps to give me peace of mind, but enough of an intuition that I'm able to avoid manipulation from the same person over again.
My Relationship with Technology
And this finally brings me to my relationship with technology. I have muted, bound, and gagged my cell phone and laptop as much as I humanly can to create a specific type of relationship. I think of all forms of technology as tools to be used. Because I think of them as tools, I think it is important that I give attention to my tools when I choose to use my tools. I do not think it is appropriate for my tools to be demanding my attention, which is how I interpret notifications (e.g. dings, pings, vibrations, etc).
I think the ability to communicate with others beyond my physical space is a useful innovation, but I do not think people or things spatially or temporally have higher priority than whomever or whatever is inside what I define as "The Moment." Whatever is inside "The Moment" receives my full attention is highest priority. Because of the way I have setup my cell phone, all phone calls, text messages, and notifications are silenced and invisible. I do not know anyone has been trying to contact me unless I open up said application and choose to check it. This is also part of that relationship dynamic. I do not think my applications ought to be able to request my attention; I think my applications ought to receive my attention only when I specifically and consciously choose to give them my attention. I think this maintains the relationship of "these are tools." Also, the lack of awareness of things outside of my scope of "The Moment" gives me peace, because I do not find myself wondering about whether I missed something or someone. I just find out about said thing or said person when it naturally comes to my mind to think or check.
I am aware that this means I will not be able to respond to loved ones in emergencies or such, which has come up in these discussions, but I think I am okay with that, because, I think I would be kind enough to aid those in my immediate surroundings who need help, and I think there is enough goodness, compassion, and luck in all surroundings that those I care about will receive the help they need when they need it.
And finally, my relationship with the Internet and social media. I mostly refrain from using social media, because I do not find that much or any of the information I receive is relevant to The Moment. If someone does not believe something is important enough to share it with me in real life, then, I do not think it is important for me to know about it. Spatial and temporal nearness/relevancy seems to me to be a good way to to manage my relationships and the information I consume. I also kind of prefer physical books for this reason- they have "presence." I do not think people or information that lack "presence" is as important to me. I am aware this the way I sort information and handle relationships may has consequences, both good and bad, and I think I am mostly comfortable with that.
Above all else, I just want peace of mind in my life. I desire my life to be filled with as much peace and calm as possible, and these are some of the ways I make that happen for myself.
What about you?
How do you create peace and calm in your life?
Why is peace and calm important to you?
What kind of spirituality or connection to nature does this have?
How does a desire for peace and calm affect your relationship with technology?
Hey, Dave. I am still much more focused on this little glass slab than you are; I have battled social isolation, loneliness, and lack of intellectual stimulation (stuff to read, people to talk to) my whole life, and the smartphone/connectivity era has for all its faults been very good to me. A lot of the withdrawal/restriction strategies other people are adopting with respect to technology and social media would be, for me, just a return to the bad old days.
That said, I am very on board (albeit slow to get on the boat) with the idea that the devices should serve our true wants/needs for connection, not manipulate us or demand our attention inappropriately (however we define that). And unless we have a better-than-average understanding of all the menus and deeply-granular settings, it’s HARD to get just the notifications you want (and just the KIND you want) from your phone, but none of the others, the ones the app-makers have engineered to virally hijack our brains and keep us hopping with irrelevant fears and anxieties and excitements.
The following link is recommended for its first several numbered sections, which go into exquisite granular detail about how to make your phone (especially your iPhone) give you only the notifications YOU want, when YOU want them. Fair warning: the context is the author’s tech-bro life-coaching-seminar sensibility for improving “productivity” in the Silicon Valley tech world. Which means that, at least for me, the more deeply I read into the article, the more alienating I found it, until I could not proceed. I expect many Permies will feel similar. But the how-to for taming phones and social media is, IMO, quite valuable — whether one is trying to cage the beast or merely carry it around on a proper leash.
It sounds like you have chosen to have keys to memories, which I find very interesting. My memories are encrypted, but not by any choice of mine. I never really know what will send some of them flooding back. Typically it is smells or certain touches, needless to say, I don't like to be touched.
I enjoyed reading your post. I have turned off most notifications from my phone and computer, and currently I only have cell service with wi-fi, which is only in the big house, so my house is quiet. I need lots of time alone and time outside to keep myself sane and happy. Most people don't understand my need to be alone, and are continually tries to convince that I'm wrong, it's weird.
Each of us finds peace in our own way. Even though I freelance full-time online and have since 2000, I refuse to use a smart phone. Having been on call 24x7x365 for most of 23 years at IBM, I have no desire to be immediately reachable unless there is a true emergency (defined as someone or something will die if I can't be reached).
I use computers, but only at a desk. I have nothing cordless or wireless in or on my house, paying to get rid of that infernal smart meter - at least on the house I live in. The neighbor's smart meters still wake me up from a sound sleep. I did offer to pay to get rid of them, too, and to pay their monthly cost to keep them off. (They weren't interested; maybe someday they will be).
When I am at the computer, I will answer. If I'm not, I don't. When I'm gardening, or feeding and watering animals, or foraging, I have no need of the interruptions. And if people become difficult - as they often do - I finish with them and walk outside for as long as I wish.
If money were not required to pay my lease and utilities and accomplish some current goals I have, I could happily turn off all technology and spend my days gardening, foraging and training my new LGDs and my horses.
No doubt, many people who know me think I'm weird. That I don't even own anything with wheels anymore except a wheelbarrow and only leave the place maybe 3 times a year is what blows their minds the most. To each, their own.
Gail Gardner @GrowMap
Small Business Marketing Strategist, lived on an organic farm in SE Oklahoma, but moved where I can plant more trees.
He does not suffer fools gladly. But this tiny ad does: