The technology trap

One thing I weirdly enjoyed when I lived in Kenya was when we had power cuts.  Yes, it could be frustrating when I was in the middle of something (like baking a cake in my electric oven) but most of the time I loved the simplicity that came with it.  We would take longer to cook and longer to enjoy the food.  Lox would tell stories about how him and his brothers would sit around and tell jokes by the light of an oil lamp or catch fire flies and put them in a jar to get a bit of light… And then release them before going to bed… but that the occasional one would fly back into the hut and they would see it flying about the place over the next few nights.   I loved how the stars would be so much clearer in a remote village which had limited electricity and how the sounds of nature sang all around.  And most of all, I loved how these were the moments to just be with people.  To listen and be heard.  To laugh or cry and have a good old heart to heart.  I loved life which wasn’t dependent on technology and being able to hold a conversation without glancing at my phone.

Working by lamplight during a power cut in Togo
Working by lamplight during a power cut in Togo

Then came the great lockdown of 2020. Like most people I have to admit that technology has been a life saver. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Zoom before this lockdown but now I feel like I’m a zoom pro! Through technology I’ve been able to keep in touch with family and catch up with friends. I’ve been able to get food delivered and clothes for my kids… A job which I planned to do once I was on maternity leave… Which began on the first day of lockdown! And, like most other people with kids, I’ve been able to get some time to get something done or occasionally even steal a moment for myself by plonking my son in front of a cartoon while my baby naps.

But here’s what I’ve discovered… The days when we’ve all been glued to our screens seem to be the least fulfilling days. Yes, they are often also the grey, boring, rainy days when I’m not expecting much to happen; but if I allow myself to be on Facebook and Pinterest and to watch cartoons the whole day then by the end of the day I just feel this kind of void within me and a bigger need for real human interaction or to do something productive and at the very end of the day I don’t sleep well either… Does this happen to anyone else too!?

And so, even though technology has been a big help I can’t help but wonder if it really is as helpful as it seems. As someone who works with young people I see first hand how people can get addicted to technology. At some point last year I played a game with the young people I work with called the minute game. It’s simple: everyone closes their eyes except the person who’s watching the time. That person says go and when the others think they’ve reached 1 minute they quietly put their hand up. The person who puts their hand up closest to the minute mark wins. Some young people couldn’t keep their eyes closed because they needed to check their phone. They couldn’t leave it for whole minute.

I may not be as bad as this but all too often I find my eyes glancing at my phone in the middle of a conversation and 2 minutes later I have no idea what was just said. Or I miss something my son says and just say yes even though i have no idea what he’s just asked because I was looking at a funny post of Facebook. Or I go to bed nice and early and an hour later I’m still browsing on my phone.

Technology should be a help not a hindrance and I’ve made up my mind that I need to take charge of it instead of allowing it to be in charge of me. There’s a few things I’m starting to do to help me:

  • Have phone free times and zones. Do I need my phone at the table when I’m already breastfeeding my daughter and playing play dough with my son? No. I don’t need it by my bedside table when I’m going to bed either. So I’ve decided to make some times and areas phone free for me. Lox stopped bringing his phone to the bedroom at night time a while ago and we both sleep better for it.
  • Delete unnecessary apps and turn off unnecessary notifications. As soon as my phone pings, vibrates or lights up I automatically want to look. I’ve found it so helpful to delete what I don’t need and to turn off notifications. I often put my phone on total silence too so that I’m less likely to look when I should be doing something else. I’ve unsubscribed to e-mails which I never read either. It all helps.
  • Have a plan for the day. It’s not usually anything elaborate, costly or time restrained. It’s often simply that we’re going to go for a walk in the morning and bake in the afternoon. But I find that having something in mind however simple it may be helps me resist the temptation to just use screens.
  • Decide when you can best use technology. My personal aim is not to be totally technology free but to make sure I can give my best attention where and when it’s needed to those around me. I do like to look at what’s going on in the lives of my friends or to get a great recipe idea from Pinterest so I’ve decided that the best time for me to do these things is in the evening once my son’s gone to bed. At the moment baby Roxy cluster feeds in the evenings so there’s not much I can do, so for me this is the best time to do those things I do want to do on my phone or to watch what I want to without feeling that I’m not giving my attention where it need to be.

So those are my top tips to taking charge of technology. What are yours? Comment below, I’d love to hear what works for you too 🙂