“We don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. We need to allow ourselves to be bored and have time that’s not that time.”
Amber Case, in an interview for The Me, Without, 2018
Nothing about our addiction to technology seemed to surprise tech designer and cyborg anthropologist Amber Case when I interviewed her last year. “Norms and anthropology,” she said simply after I asked how we all got so hooked to our phones and computers. She offered the image of the proverbial frog in the pot of water, not realizing it was slowly coming to a boil: we gradually use machines more and more and see those around us doing the same until we assume “this is the way things have always been.”
The exciting thing? We can choose to jump from the pot.
Especially when we feel disconnected, we should take a critical look as to whether we’re using things like social media, text messaging, video chatting, and email to our true emotional advantage:
- Do I feel genuinely connected to my friends, loved ones, and co-workers?
- To myself?
- Am I comfortable with boredom and silence?
- Can I see the progression in my learning of a new skill?
- The growth of my relationships
- The completion of pastimes I enjoy?
Letting ourselves be bored makes space for complicated sticky emotions to process. To sometimes force ourselves into harsh conversations or awkward self-reflection. To let ourselves be messy and human rather than digital and pixelated.
While I fully explore the relationship between tech connection and emotional disconnection with further sources in The Me, Without (read that first chapter for free here), I find myself returning to Amber’s list of ways to disconnect from technology. She fired it out so quickly in our interview that the raw, genuine, obvious simplicity of it truly does the trick.
We can disconnect from technology and reconnect with ourselves and each other.
13 Ways to Disconnect from Technology
From Amber Case, Tech Designer & Cyborg Anthropologist
- You want instant intensity? Get analog cameras or instant cameras. I just bought like a Fujifilm instant camera and I bring that to parties. Nobody’s afraid of that camera! They love it. Kids find it hilarious. Or go through your photos and print some of them out. But I think having an instant camera is better. People are like, Oh it’s too expensive! It’s like, well, don’t drink your $3 coffee every morning! Don’t eat the avocado toast! Don’t eat your mortgage toast!
- Put your phone on Airplane mode by default.
- Don’t do any digital stuff in the morning. There’s this thing called Monk Mornings where you just don’t do anything.
- Don’t charge your phone next to your bed. Get yourself a physical alarm clock.
- Don’t get distracted by new mail. Install Gmail When Ready for Chrome, which just shows your inbox when you click “show inbox”.
- Get an old flip phone if you want.
- In that time that you’re usually going to answer stuff: invite people over to dinner and use physical cookbooks and make mistakes and make ugly stuff — don’t be perfect. We need to allow ourselves to be amateurs again and stop comparing ourselves to people’s highlight reels online. You don’t need to take photos of everything. We should draw pictures and journal — nobody journals anymore. Get a special notebook. Keep a diary. Have some reflection time. At the end of every week, write down what you thought. We don’t have that time.
- Don’t just drink! There’s this thing where women joke, “Oh, it’s a bad day, I’ll drink wine.” STOP! You’re covering up the fact that you are miserable. Stop doing that. Write something. Talk to an 80-year old woman and say, “What did you do. How did you spend your time?” Allow yourself to be miserable, and allow yourself to hate yourself, and start to like yourself again. Monitor all those bad thought loops.
- Don’t binge-watch stuff. Make it special. Make your time special. Don’t just try to fill it up with everything because you’re bored! Let yourself be bored!
- Take a road trip! Have uncompressed time. Everything is about compressed time — it’s awful. It’s like junk food. All of our time is junk food. It’s not meaningful, it’s not memorable.
- Go on a binge on the web: This is what I like to do, which is super awkward. Binge news. spend half an hour. Then write down what you remember. Nobody remembers anything from that binge.
- Go on a walk without your phone. It’s almost impossible for people, even 20 minutes.