One day last week was a gruesome nightmare from technology hell.
- There was an electrical “event” of some sort in the night necessitating calling an electrician to make sure everything was OK. (It was.)
- Trying to set a digital timer for a lamp almost enraged me enough to stomp the timer to bits after 30 minutes of exasperating failure with this non-intuitive digital gadget designed by satan himself!
- We have an ridiculous number of old and new Apple devices around the house. The new “Continuity” feature on all of these devices now sends the house into a cacophonous uproar when a phone call or text message comes in because every device rings and dings and spits and sputters. (Remember text messages ding a second time when ignored. Now multiply that by 9+ devices for every text message that comes in! Good god! It sounds like I live at a train track crossing as the railroad gates are coming down for the approaching train!)
- The iPhone inexplicably, spontaneously rebooted itself as it now does for no discernible reason at least once ever week.
- Apps on my desktop computer started crashing and then the machine completely locked up requiring I pull the plug out of the back of it to show it who was going to ultimately win that fight, by god.
There was even more, but you can tell, it was just a really bad, frustrating, maddening day with the tools that are supposed to make my life better?! They were making this day a living hell. This is happening too often for my serenity to remain unaffected.
I’ve come to the very bold realization that using my digital devices, as much as I use them, is just not good for me. Doing so gives me an unrealistic expectation of “instant.” I’ve always been outrageously impatient and expend a tremendous amount of energy desperately trying not to show this fact to others. But, even though my driving has slowed down significantly after great effort on my part, my fevered level of impatience has become unbearable to me.
I now expect to know the answer to a question in an instant with one flawlessly executed internet search. I expect a page to load, without any hesitation, as soon as I click the link. I want the music I selected, from virtually an unlimited library of music access, to stream instantly—the same goes for Netflix, iTunes, and HBOgo. I increasingly demand instant and fail-proof gratification so I can move on to next, whatever “next” happens to be at the moment. I find even a split second of delay immensely frustrating, but this is ridiculous! Life just doesn’t happen at the speed of the electron. And technology is riddled with failure.
I find this expectation for the immediate to frustrate my interactions with people as well. I increasingly demand others see my point immediately. Must I explain something again after explaining it well the first time?! Well, of course I must. Dealing with people is utterly different than dealing with the immediate cause and effect of “click” and immediately attain the desired outcome. So, my constantly plugged in lifestyle is negatively impacting how I manage relationships with people. This can not be sustained with any good outcome.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the analog/digital worlds are out of balance in my life and need to be re-adjusted. I need more time unplugged. I need to re-adjust my expectations of the external world and the virtual world around me. So, I’ve decided to slow down expectations, attempt to become more attentive to my environment and relationships, and be more mindful in general.
That Music Thing
As a classically-trained musician, I craved and, with a ridiculous level of attentiveness, responded to the physical feedback of the vibrating, analog, piano keyboard, carefully weighing and adjusting what I was hearing with my ears and what my fingers were sensing and doing and what my mind envisioned as the perfect musical expression I wanted to create. The feeling of the musical vibration in the instrument was one of the great joys of the musical expression itself. The performer actually experiences the performance in a vastly richer way than the mere listener.
I will never forget the first time I played an electronic keyboard. The digital instrument’s keyboard was utterly devoid of this essential vibration feedback loop and therefore felt fake. It was little more than a collection of 88 switches with only 256 digital steps of possible speed from off to on in each switch.
But I let go of those precious analogue keyboard vibrations, without much hesitation or thought really. I was bitten by the digital bug: the promise for what the digital age would and has allowed me to do. But today, I’m feeling more like I need my vibrations back to return to a more balanced approach to living in the real world, the analog world, the world of time and space and place and the very subtle but profound nuances of life experiences, such as the vibrations in one’s fingertips when creating music, to name just one. This is about savoring mindfulness, being more fully present.
I mean, mindfulness has always been one of the main points of my blog.
So, I’m creating a new blog category: Unplugging Tim, where I will share some of this exploration, and an exploration it will be. Truth is, I have no road map, no plan for this adventure really. I’m not sure how exactly to go about unplugging myself—and I have no desire to completely unplug, just to recalibrate by purposefully unplugging. I’m not sure what unplugging myself will end up looking like. These are some ideas I’m considering:
- Setting some purposeful limits on my being online and plugged in, replacing that time with being attentive to the analog world around me
- Listening attentively to more great music—I’m talking about the art of listening while doing nothing else
- Spending more time reading considered works and less time consuming the transient and fleeting blog posts of others1
- When appropriate, doing more things with analog tools instead of digital ones to gain a greater sense of the analog feedback from the world around me
- Not using an iOS device at all during mealtime with others or even allowing notifications to interrupt my being present in those moments
- Spending more time with my thoughts as well as more time considering the thoughts of others
I’m sure I’m missing other ideas. Thoughts? Suggestions?
Yep, this is part of my digital backlash: The Unplugging of Tim.
Maybe I’m just getting old.
Make no mistake, I read some bloggers who I believe create considered writing, but the majority of what I read is little more than consuming for fleeting amusement. And, I’m not suggesting amusement to be a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a needed delight. ↩
One thought on “Unplugging Tim: An Adventure in Analog Living”
Welcome to Unplugged! I suspected you would eventually round a corner and in disconnecting might find yourself more living in the moment. The artist in you had to eventually persevere!
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