I have always been pro-technology in terms of the ways we can use it for the betterment of humanity. I was so pro-technology that I wrote a series of posts on it. My life has been made possible because of technology.
I used to smirk silently at people who needed to go on digital detoxes. I lived and breathed on the internet. But lately, I have become increasingly aware how un-present it made me feel, like I was scattered all over the place. I think we do not notice how something is affecting us if it has become the everyday norm. I remember experiencing a state of calmness while on a vacation two years ago and I was like omg I have gotten so used to being anxious that I didn’t even realise it existed until I could be in a place where it receded.
Recently, I experienced two distinct periods when I actually felt centered instead of feeling like my brain needs to be constantly defragmented. The first time I was busy with moving and setting up our new place. The second time is just the past few days being a host to a friend. Both periods I was away from the computer. I still had my phone, but I became aware of a certain sense of togetherness that is present when I am not incessantly clicking on the internet.
This is the first time since I had fallen in love with the internet in the 1990s that I am questioning its role in my life.
Before the mobile phone existed, people would accept that you could call someone on land lines for days without being able to reach the other party. These days, I can’t deal with the flux of messages from all the platforms. I try to be there for people as much as I can, but there are days when I just need to have my own space and yet guilt eats me up with I leave messages unanswered. It feels like I have to become some sort of a detached asshole to protect my sanity. And then there’s always something happening: some new technology on the verge of saving humanity, some atrocity that is going to destroy us. I used to thrive on such breadth, and I think I was in denial, but now I feel like in order to live and feel truly alive while living, I will have to intentionally cherry pick where my attention goes.
The thing about being perpetually exposed to millions of voices on the internet: it feels significantly harder to feel my own edges – where I begin and where I end. I experience the reverse of this when I settle down to read a book. I notice my own thoughts bubbling slowly towards consciousness, whereas I am not even sure if I have the space to think when I’m connected online.
I think anything taken to the extreme has its unsavoury consequences. I still love the tremendous power and potential of the internet, except I have to find out where the moderation lies for myself. I want to be able to sit on my commute and think, without feeling the urge to open Facebook. It is only recently that I remembered that this phenomenon/addiction to that device in our hands is relatively new – my phone before the iPhone was a flip-phone that was only capable of sending multimedia texts. I remember spending hours as a child purely listening to music or reading some epic fantasy book. I had to relearn how to read fiction again a few years ago. It is a skill, to be capable of immersing our minds in some imaginary world.
It is interesting to observe how new beliefs or worldviews take time to fully settle into an everyday consciousness. I could think of a ton of things that would be unthinkable for me to contemplate just a year ago, or stuff that would cause me severe anxiety is no longer doing so.
Having spent most of my waking life in the past 2 decades on the internet, it seems unthinkable for me to intentionally spend considerably less time on it. But instead of thinking of it as a detox, I would rather think of how can I spend quality time both online and offline, rather than being un-present no matter where I am.