Maybe I’m just a control freak, but I can’t stand how technology tried to control us. You’ll notice that I use the past tense. That’s because I’m happy to admit that: a) It did control both Mr Sidestepping-normal and myself. b) We had a technology addiction. c) We clawed the control back. d) The female praying mantis eats the male after mating? I know, the last one shocked me too. Ok, the last point is completely irrelevant but I thought you might be interested to know.
I know, I know, isn’t this blog supposed to be about living in Greece and renovating a ruin? Indeed it is, but, the finer details are significant too. Part of our quest is to find the true meaning of happiness and how to improve our wellbeing. Plus, renovating a ruin is slow, and I don’t have enough news to write a whole blog post on it yet, so tough.
What do I mean by technology addiction?
I suppose I’m primarily referring to modern technology. Admittedly ovens, washing machines and kettles were all modern at some point, but I can’t imagine anyone became addicted to putting a wash load on? I’m talking about televisions, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, smart watches, gaming and the internet. These are the culprits I’m talking about.
Don’t get me started on self service check-outs, automated machines at the bank, virtual home assistants (echo, dot, etc) and automated-wireless smart-home technology. It’s suffice to say that I’m not a fan. I want to see a friendly face and have a chat at the supermarket, and I’d rather make a fire to heat our home. I can’t really rant about the latter, as I’ve chosen not to buy into them. But no doubt, before long, these will be replaced by new improved versions that leave us even more isolated from human interaction. Continue reading for more ranting (no preaching), our technology addiction/recovery and a couple more facts about praying mantis.
Why we began to feel that technology was taking over our lives…
We hardly live a technology filled life. We own a laptop, a phone and have access to the internet. I can’t pin down what triggered our realisation that our technology addiction had an unhealthy hold over us. But as soon as the the thought formed, there was no way of ignoring it.
When Mr Sidestepping-normal returned to Crete after 5 weeks in the UK, I noticed a massive change in him. It wouldn’t be fair to attribute his lack of concentration and short attention span solely to the technology vortex that had sucked him in whilst being in the UK, but it certainly played a part. The busy lifestyle he’d fallen back into goes hand in hand with technology addiction. The quicker pace of life leaves you unable to relax and in need of distraction.
“The quicker pace of life leaves you unable to relax and in need of distraction.”
Over the following days as he adjusted back to a slower pace of life, I noticed how addicted to the phone he’d become. Every spare second was spent on facebook or you tube. He found it impossible to spend a few minutes doing…well…..nothing. The Greeks know a thing to two about doing nothing. We’re all familiar with those old men sat outside coffee shops or old ladies dressed in black. They while away the hours staring into space, deep in contemplation, sipping Greek coffee. They have mastered the art of content; I think they know something we don’t; I think doing nothing is what it’s all about. Nothing is the new everything.
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that I too had become a little addicted to technology. I checked the phone every time I had a spare minute. Every time it pinged, beeped or buzzed, I’d hastily stop whatever I was doing to catch up on messages or emails.
Beautiful moments were being rudely interrupted and we were only just starting to acknowledge it. Cue, an action plan. Operation ‘take control back’ was devised and we started to change how we use technology.
Realising what the problem is…
I would imagine that our situation is more unusual than some, because we share a phone. Although we were addicted to it, there was only one phone, which halved the problem. I think I mentioned before about how Mr SN accidentally blew my phone up. In fact, maybe it was a blessing in disguise. We were reluctant to buy a new phone because there isn’t much of a second hand market in Greece. We didn’t want to spend silly money on a new phone. I’m glad that we didn’t make any rash decisions, because we quickly adjusted to the fact that one phone would have to serve both our needs.
First of all we realised that social media was the biggest waste of our time. We started to get sick of how obsessively we’d check it for ‘likes’ and notifications. Similarly we began to get tired of witnessing the minutiae of other peoples lives or their political views. Don’t get me wrong, we were just as swept up by it as anyone else. We posted about where we’d been, what we’d done and what colour underwear we wore. But realistically, most of the ‘friends’ we had on social media weren’t truly friends. We took the stand-point that we’d rather have a close relationship with a few real friends, than a long list of pretend friends with some tenuous link to us. I started to question why we were craving acceptance and approval from people that we’d probably avoid if we saw them in the real world.
“I started to question why we were craving acceptance and approval from people that we’d probably avoid if we saw them in the real world.”
Furthermore, current events and news were bombarding us from every direction. Social media is yet another way for negative events to access our consciousness, and we all know how depressing the news is. The television was telling us what to eat, how to behave, what products to clean with and which chocolate bar to eat. The radio and newspapers were influencing our thoughts and opinions and social media was leaving us feeling empty and dissatisfied.
“We used to find out about everyones recent holidays, marriages, new babies and other such significant life events via facebook.”
For a few years we were like a lot of people. We used to find out about everyones recent holidays, marriages, new babies and other such significant life events via facebook. We never even talked to people about things in detail anymore, because we’d already seen the photos, or supposedly knew their thoughts.
I remember a time when people used to print out their holiday snaps and arrange to see each other to explain the adventures they’d had. It wasn’t long ago that people kept their private lives private. I for one would like to know a little less of what people had for lunch or how much they drank on Friday night. If I’m good enough friends with someone then I’ll naturally know what’s happening in their life because I speak to them regularly. That applies in reverse too. I don’t want anyone except my close friends and family knowing about my daily life, thoughts feelings or political views.
Technology isn’t all bad, I love tech too…
I’m not completely anti technology, in fact as time goes on, I appreciate it more and more. There was a time when the purist in me dreamed of an existence free of technology. I’d be spinning wool by candlelight and washing our clothes in a stream. Mr SN would be weaving baskets from the wood coppiced from our land, wearing a loin cloth…Ok, scrap the loin cloth, maybe that’s a step to far.
Living with Mr SN means that we both have to make sacrifices. Without my influence he’d have every gadget known to man on a credit card, working 9-5pm to pay for it all. Similarly, without his influence I’d be living a primitive solitary existence…perhaps flying carrier pigeons as a way of communicating with the outside world.
The collaboration of both our ideals means that we live with compromises, but that’s ok. I’d rather share my life with Mr SN and his extensive DVD collection than live an extreme existence on my own.
Technology isn’t the problem, it’s the control it has over us…
I love Pinterest for ideas, our portable speaker for playing music, and posting pictures on Instagram. The key was taking back control of our life and making technology fit into our life, rather than being at it’s beck and call. Technology has become an extension of ourselves and it’s infiltrated our lives from a young age. We’ve been sat in front of the tv since we were babies, programmed to stare at screens and dissolve into a virtual reality. No wonder so many of us have a technology addiction. It’s moving in on us like a tactical chess game. Televisions and games-consoles control us from the living room, the radio blares in the car and we are glued to our phones at every other intervening moment. Will the ‘checkmate’ move be a refusal to feel comfortable with our own thoughts?
We are living at the mercy of technology companies, who have it all mapped out for us. They know what’s in store, whilst we stumble about in the dark looking for some direction. They’re programming us to lead an existence dependant and addicted to the products they sell, and we’re willingly handing over our minds.
Living in the moment…
We’ve all been told to live in the moment. I used to say it without understanding the true meaning. Do you think being present, aware, grateful and mindful are linked to mental well being and happinesss? For me it’s a resounding yes. However, I get it. We’re all trying to escape from life, and technology offers the perfect distraction. But maybe we’re avoiding looking in the mirror and facing ourselves because we won’t like what we see? Would we need a distraction if we were truly happy? Sticking our heads in the sand is not an option, problems need to be tackled head-on.
Technology promotes isolation and loneliness. Social media can feed your ego and lead to a negative self obsession. Both discourage real human interaction, and guess what the end result is? A society filled with depressed lonely people with a warped sense of reality. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other contributing factors. Technology isn’t the only problem, but lets tackle one issue at a time. Baby steps will get us back on track. Talking of babies, praying mantis females lay around 300 eggs in a foamy pouch called a ootheca. I can verify this as we watched one laying eggs a few weeks back. It was really fascinating.
Changes we’ve made to combat our technology addiction…
Over the last few months, we’ve made the following changes to our lifestyle:
- We don’t use facebook for personal use. Mr SN has shut down his account and I have deleted everything that was formerly on my page. It was so cathartic to erase the past. Not because I’m ashamed of anything I did or said, but because I didn’t like the permanence. The things I said and did were of the moment, and the beauty of life is that we grow and learn. I have no need to constantly look back, I’m living my life now.
- Social media is only used for inspiration, gaining ideas or to inspire others. We use instagram and facebook to promote this blog, which could be construed as a double standard. I’ve placated myself by realising that I’m not trying to leach anything from anyone. I only want to share positivity and inspiration, and to find like minded people to share the journey with.
- Audio notifications are turned off which means that we aren’t interrupted by pings and bleeps every five minutes.
- Aps on our phone (such as whatsap and social media) have been relocated from the home screen to the second page. This means that we aren’t forced to see the messages waiting for us; we’ll check them when we’re good and ready.
- I try to post a picture on instagram every day to share ideas and inspire others, but I’ve implemented a rule. Once I’ve posted a picture, I won’t check who’s ‘liked’ it and how many new ‘followers’ I have until the following day. This means that I can enjoy instagram without getting obsessed with it and fuelling the technology addiction.
- We don’t use our phone whilst in the company of other people, or each other. It’s rude and bad manners and there isn’t anything that can’t wait until a suitable time. There are of course moments when the phone is used to refer to something in the conversation or to verify something…like the fact that when praying mantis females lay their eggs, they die soon afterwards…I know, me neither.
“We don’t use our phone whilst in the company of other people.”
- No phones at the dinner table. We now don’t have our phone near us at dinner time. It’s about breaking that invisible connection that makes us feel lost when we don’t have the phone on our person. Dinner time is for catching up, chatting and exchanging the days events. Not for getting lost on the internet or reality tv programmes whilst clumsily spooning food into our mouths.
- We leave the phone behind when possible.; we used to carry the phone everywhere with us. Before, we felt lost if it was left behind or in a different room. We now put the phone on top of the fridge; there’s no need to have it with us all the time. When we pop out, we often leave it behind. It’s become a relief to have broken free of the shackles.
- We only use the tv for films, documentaries and series. We never watch anything in ‘real time’ because we don’t want our lives to be ruled by time. When we have to endure adverts, we turn the sound off and talk whilst making a cup of tea. I refuse to let those companies influence what I buy and eat. No thanks, not interested, try someone else.
- The tv is redundant in the summer when the weather is hot and we can be outside. During the winter we enjoy snuggling down in the evening to watch something, but not every night. The television is rarely on during the day and if people come round then it is turned off.
How we use technology to our advantage…
- We use the phone to arrange meeting up with friends. Additionally, we use it to speak to friends and family that are in the UK or further afield.
- The internet is used to research things we want to know about.
- We use the internet to get ideas and inspiration
- Technology is a way to inspire people to follow their dreams. This blog wouldn’t be possible without the internet.
- We use the phone to check what the time is and what day it is. We don’t own watches or a clock, so most of the time we are unaware of what the day is or what time it is. That suits us perfectly, because time in a man made illusion that we’ve broken free of. I doubt if praying mantis’s know the time.
How we feel and what we’ve learnt about technology addictions…
We’ve successfully clawed back the balance of technology in our lives, and we feel so much better for it. It wasn’t easy at first, and it took a few weeks to transition. At the beginning we would pick the phone up, before remembering that we no longer have to check facebook. It felt strange not to have the phone with us when we went out, and we wondered what do do with the stray minutes here and there.
Nowadays you’ll find us more present and aware, less distracted and more flabergashted that we let technology sink it’s claws into us. We recognise so many friends and family that are still ruled by technology and we’re glad that we’ve made some changes to our life. So, there you have it, now you know everything there is to know about our former technology addiction and the sadistic habits of preying mantis.
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4 thoughts on “Technology addiction: Our story”
Cal Newport is an author/professor who talks at length about this important topic. If you are ever looking for a book recommendation, I’d suggest “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” & “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. I listened to both via audio books, and loved them.
Hello! Thanks for the book recommendations, I’m always after a good read. The audio versions will suit Mr Sidestepping-normal as he’s not much of a reader.
I like reading your blog. It’s been 8 years since my new wife and I first visited Crete. It was so beautiful that leaving was hard. Sad. We were wannabe escapists. As we revisit most years we have come to terms with our(mainly my) unrealistic dreams. We actually live in a more remote place than you. No near neighbours. The Finnish archepelago. As you can imagine it’s colder than Crete. That’s where the attraction lies. I hate snow.
My wife calls me a techno dinosaur. Maybe I’m too lazy. My age too,I’m 66. I can see no point in the phone except for the need to make a call. We have a fiber optic connection. So we have the internet.
Striving to minimise the tech is an admirable pursuit. Society around us forces its use. So my wife has the smart phone and tablet. I can’t understand TV usage. But we too have screens and DVDs….
Your blog archive is coming up to 1 year. Congratulations. May you go on for a long time. I’m sure there are plenty like me who enjoy reading your posts.
Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment. I concur with your thoughts completely. We, like you, have picked out the parts of technology that we want, but we refuse to be forced into the rest.
Your remote house in Finland sounds idyllic – We have never seen proper snow before!
Thanks for your support, it means a lot.