In Jerry Seinfeld’s new comedy special on Netflix “23 Hours To Kill”, he brings up five incredible insights about our relationships with technology. These comedic points he makes are clean, light, humorous and are guaranteed to make you LOL. They have to be because...well...Jerry’s a comedian. But most of the time, there is some truth behind a good joke. Sometimes this truth is good, bad, or indifferent. This is probably one of the reasons why we laugh at them. When it comes to technology invading our lives, the truth isn’t always funny though. How we engage with apps, games, news, devices, and social media shapes our lives in so many ways. Some of those changes and influences we are completely unaware of and this is a scary thought.
After reflecting on these insights, we thought it would be helpful to address each of them and offer practical solutions to overcome the incessant encroachment of technology on our lives and relationships. This isn’t to say “technology is bad.” Technology is capable of doing incredible things. But when we don’t put it in its place, it can rule our lives. We’ve solicited the help of the Tech Reset Project to guide us in those solutions. Whereas Jerry has brilliantly pegged the craziness of our relationships with technology and devices, the Tech Reset Project has a mission to help us navigate those dangerous waters to find meaningful ways we can use technology to benefit life instead of taking away from it.
Technology Insight #1: The Device Dictatorship You Live Under
Device Dictatorship. Just the sound of it feels icky. It feels oppressive and ominous too! And it should! Many times we are at the mercy of technology. In some weird twist of fate, we are almost prisoners to our smartphones and our other devices. Sadly, some of us experience anxiety and worry if we don’t know where our phones are at all times. In fact, there are probably people who have better tabs on their devices than they do their own families. Sad, but true. We’ve all witnessed it at our kid’s sporting events, practices, at the park, grocery stores, or just hanging out around the home.
As Seinfeld puts it, we live in fear of our phones. We’re afraid of missing out (FOMO) on the next thing. We’re afraid of other people handling our phones for longer than a few seconds. Why is this? We enter a feeling of fear where our behaviors radically change once our devices get down to that dreaded level of 10% remaining. We’ve become as Seinfeld cleverly labels it, “Hypno-phonified”.
Solution #1: Ask Important Questions About Your Relationship With Technology
Here are some important questions to ask ourselves. It’s equally important to give honest answers to them. Take a minute to think about each one and if you feel inspired, write down a well-thought-out response to each one. If you want to take it to another level, talk to a friend, your spouse, and children about these questions.
- What do you love about technology?
- What happens when you use that technology too much?
- What else does it take from you (time, money, connection)?
- Is it stealing your attention away from other meaningful connections and conversations?
- Is technology taking you away from real people in your life?
When we make a conscious effort to answer these questions in an honest way, we begin to peel back layers of awareness with just how “Hypno-phonified” we’ve really become when it comes to not just phones, but to all of our devices. These questions lead to a deeper understanding of what the Tech Reset Project has labelled “Positive Relationships” where the objective behind this principle is to enable safe, open, productive conversations and environments focused on positive outcomes in regards to healthy tech habits.
Technology Insight #2: The Myth That We Need Our Devices To Stay In Touch With People
Yes...staying connected with our friends and family are important. But...it was important before the advent and intrusion of technology and smartphones. Right? Of course, it wasn’t as easy to reach out to people over a decade ago, but consider for a moment how we treat others online. The interweb is full of animosity, loathing, hate, unfair criticisms, and vitriol. The ability of anonymity exacerbates this even more.
Furthermore, at some point we’ve collectively and sub-consciously bonded with our technology to the point we feel it is part of us. Is this by the design of those engineers and creators of the smartphones and social media apps to trigger brain chemicals to make us want to continually feel those connections? Quite possibly, yes. Seinfeld makes a very poignant point when he says, “We are not separating from the phone. It’s a part of us. Who are you without your phone?” As if this philosophical question wasn’t enough, Jerry doubles down and makes a good point that we ourselves don’t really want to talk to people unless they have a phone. And we laugh, but it’s so true. We’re so deeply and emotionally connected with our devices that it’s not far-fetched to ask: What is the purpose of people anymore?
Solution #2: Put Technology In Its Place!
The Tech Reset Project is about putting technology in its place with us comfortably in the driver’s seat. Will it be a utility to save you time and allow you to engage more fully with the people in your world? Or will it be an all-consuming distraction, keeping you from what’s most important in this life? Do we believe the myth that we desperately need our devices to stay connected with family and friends all the time? Or are we going to manage our time and focus on the quality of our engagement not the quantity? It’s time for every one of us to make a conscious choice and then take action. The solution is simple: To use technology at the right times, in the right places, for the right reasons.
Technology Insight #3: We Call Them Phones But We Don’t Even Use Them As Phones
Time for some real talk. Be honest. When was the last time you picked up the phone and talked to someone? I mean really had a serious conversation with them? It happens so rarely. Talking to someone on the phone for more than 10 minutes at a time will be like seeing a unicorn a decade from now. We call them phones, but hardly anyone uses smartphones as phones. According to TextMagic...
- Smartphone users in the United States send and receive nearly five times more texts than they make and receive calls.
- Americans on average spend 26 minutes per day texting compared to 21 minutes per day calling.
- In a recent survey, three out of ten consumers would give up phone calls to use messaging.
Talking is obsolete. Just watch people in public. Watch your teenagers. Pay attention to how many times they actually talk on their devices with other people. Pay attention to how much you talk on your phone. In one poll conducted in the UK, researchers found that 27% hadn’t made a phone call in over a week, 5% admitted to NEVER making or accepting a phone call, and over 60% said they’d never even answer a call unless they knew who the respondent was. Sure, you can blame spam calls and telemarketers for part of the decrease in talking on phones, but perhaps there’s more to it?
Solution #3: Determine If You Are Creator Or a Consumer On Your Devices
There’s a tremendous difference between our time spent creating and our time spent consuming with our screens. If you are a creator you’re actually doing things and creating and engaging with the mindset that you are accomplishing something constructive or working towards a goal. Not all technology is bad. We just need to embrace the good and put it in its place. Examples of creating are: doing homework, learning a new skill, creating art or music, paying bills, researching your next hiking destination, budgeting your family finances, and ordering groceries.
On the flip side, when we consume we’re no longer trying to accomplish a task. It’s all about satiating boredom and trying to pass the time. Examples would include social media, entertainment, games, or any activity which is dependent on mindless scrolling and consumption. These activities consume your time and more often than not...derail us from our goals. So ask yourself, ‘Am I a creator or am I a consumer?’ Write down those activities you engage in the most with your devices and determine their purpose. Determine if they help you achieve goals or if they are just helping you kill time.
Technology Insight #4: The Ludicrousy Of Text Messaging
We don’t really know when texting became a thing. Jerry cleverly observes that texting just appeared out of thin air. It’s kinda true. The best description is to say text messaging was a gradual explosion. And text messaging has its own esoteric ecosystem which makes it nearly impossible to stay up to date with unless you are ALWAYS texting.
There’s acronyms, emojis, gifs, and more. Who can keep track of it all? There is an abundance of absurdities when it comes to the world of texting. And a lot of them deal with how it’s made us lazy: lazy spellers, lazy communicators, lazy with ideas and formulating compelling thoughtful conversations with each other. No doubt it also has hurt our relationships. Healthy relationships with technology will improve our relationships in life. Period. To a certain extent, texting has changed the dynamics of how we communicate. Sometimes a simple voice at the end of the line or even going so far as visiting face to face with people can do wonders for our emotional and social health.
Solution #4: Discover Healthy vs. Unhealthy Technology Relationships
Kevin Kelly says, “99% of both our problems and solutions come from technology.” It’s true! A healthy relationship with technology enhances our individual lives, connects us to each other, helps to solve our problems, and saves us time and money.
An unhealthy relationship with technology does just the opposite. It takes away from the quality of our lives and disconnects us from real relationships. It can cause more problems, and ultimately takes too much of our time and money. It can even result in dangerous behaviors and unhealthy addictions.
Technology Insight #5: Why Cameras On The Phone Have Crippled The Human Lifeforce
So what about the camera in the phone? Is it really a big deal? Yes! This one feature has completely changed the dynamics of human interaction in so many weird yet impactful ways. Seinfeld brings up a really good point: Was it really a good idea to even add cameras to phones? Think about it for a second. Think of all the repercussions just from adding the simple component of a camera to our phones. Seinfeld says this simple act has drained the lifeforce out of so many areas of our lives.
We are what he says “Picture addicted”. We want to take pictures of every minute detail and event (important or otherwise) in our lives. Our food. Plants. Concerts. Recitals. Pets. Toys. Sports games. Maybe we should go back to the flip phone as Jerry suggests. There is genius behind the standard flip phone. They’re simple. They have only a few purposes. They’re not complicated. They’re just as effective at communication as the expensive high-end smartphones. They’re not distracting. Our private information on them is super limited. The camera in the smartphones is nice, but an important question to ask ourselves is: Are we so caught up in getting a snapshot of a moment that we forget to actually enjoy the moment?
Solution #5: Get Into The Habit Of Asking Why
We all need to be in the habit of asking WHY? Why am I picking up my phone right now? Why am I logging on to social media? Why am I _____? Don’t be afraid to try and discover the emotion behind the action either. Am I feeling anxious and that’s why I’m pulling out my phone? Are my values and goals in life not front and center, so I’m feeling extra boredom? Why am I checking facebook ten times a day?
Too often, we pick up our devices to escape something we deem as uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a situation as common as being in an elevator with strangers, waiting in line at the grocery store, or awkward moments with friends. Rather than reaching OUT and CONNECTING, we’re reaching for our devices in order to avoid emotions that we might not want to feel. This is where the addictive process starts—when we start using our devices as coping mechanisms. And many of us don’t even realize we are doing it! One of the greatest hacks to putting technology in its place is to get into the simple habit of asking ourselves: Why?
The Most Important Questions To Ask Ourselves
The beautiful thing about comedy is it allows us to sometimes laugh at serious situations and see them in a different light. In some cases, a simple thought can magnify a problem or give us new insight and perspective on life. In other situations, a simple image with no words, no joke, or punch-line can remind us about whether it’s important to engage in life’s moments or be obsessed with capturing them. The most important question to ask ourselves is “What role do we want technology to play in our lives?”
As stated above, for this article we solicited the help of the Tech Reset Project in offering practical and proven methods and solutions in dealing with technology’s role in our lives. This organization is dedicated to individuals not only interested in resetting tech habits but also resetting the way we think about our relationship with technology and each other. Without a change in mindset, our habits inevitably return to default. Yeah, we can laugh at a comedy sketch by arguably one of the best comedians of all time. But...is there more substance and seriousness behind those chuckles? Consider the solutions above and get serious about tech and what it means to you.
Tech Reset Project teaches parents and families about important issues such as: appropriate ages for cell phones, parenting through the social media age, screen time usage, and creating environments in the home which in turn create healthy digital habits for your family. Their services are packed with trainings, resources, guides, technology plans and more to help individuals navigate their way through the issues and problems we face when it comes to technology and families. To learn more, visit www.TechResetProject.com or take advantage of their free eBook on managing screen time which will give you a small portion of the tools and tactics they’ve developed to help you create healthy tech habits with your family.