I did, however, want to talk about the importance of taking a break. Yours truly, at MacTalk:
We all laughed at Qualcomm at CES earlier this month when they opened their keynote with three individuals who, for want of a better phrase, proudly proclaimed they were “born mobile”. And while they came across as completely bizarre, their message was sound, even though their delivery wasn’t: we’re now in a generation where people have screens in their faces all the time. If we’re not looking at our iPhone on the street, we’re looking at our iPad, on the bus. If not the iPad, then the MacBook Pro at work. Or the iMac at home. The LCD TV connected to the Apple TV and/or Mac Mini in the lounge. And even when we’re in bed, the screens don’t stop: maybe we have a Kindle. Or maybe we have the new-fangled iPad mini, and look at that before going to bed. And when we wake up, the first thing people do is check their iPhone on their bedside clock radio.
It’s scary how much time we spend connected. We invented things like push email to get our email delivered directly to all our devices, all at the same time. We invented push notifications so we could always know when people mentioned us on Twitter. There’s no denying that we live in a fast-paced world these days, and maybe you love that. But I want to stress the importance of taking a break every now and again — not just for your sake, but the people around you, too. Maybe it’s why everyone is ditching their iPhones and going back to dumb-phones. Or maybe why The Verge’s Paul Miller is currently spending a year away from the internet.
So you see, maybe it’s not about cable management or the importance of cleaning your Mac at all. Whilst those things are both important in and of themselves, it’s the underlying premise of both that’s the real message here, the need to turn off. Think. Read a book — an actual book, not one that you’ve just purchased and downloaded with Amazon’s wonderful one-click purchase system, which instantly pushes the book to your eReader of choice. See what I mean?
It’s actually something I’ve talked about before:
Think about it: when was the last time you went without staring at some array of pixels for some amount of time? If you’re not looking at your computer, you’re looking at your phone. Or playing with your iPad. Using a digital camera. And so on, and so forth.
The question then becomes: where and when do we draw that line in the sand and say: “hey, I just need a moment to myself.” A little alone time, time away from Twitter, time away from Facebook, time to just sit, think, and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?
Not even thinking about anything in particular. Just the chance to have a little down time every now and again. The chance to get offline.
Paul Miller is doing without the internet for an entire year. Strange, for a technology writer, but he’s writing about it at The Verge, where his Offline series of posts are always bring up an interesting point from the disconnected world.
And he’s not the only one. In this ever-connected society we live in, people are leaving their iPhones behind. It’s not that they don’t find 24-7 access to the internet inconvenient or anything, it’s just that, well, it can be a burden as much as it can be a blessing. Using your smartphone to find any information on anything is great and all, but you know what’s even better? Having time to yourself where you’re not staring at some pixels, no matter how pretty they may be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually very appreciative of being able to look something up quickly, fix something wrong with a server in a different state, or whatever else. It’s great to be able to have that constantly connected access in the fast-paced life of today. We may not have flying jetpacks or hoverboards like sci-fi movies predicted, but we do have these pocket-sized devices that mean we’re a moment away from the collective knowledge of humankind, devices that can connect us instantaneously to someone on the other side of the world. But sometimes, just sometimes, that can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Being constantly switched-on, being constantly connected is a chore when all you want to do is do the exact opposite.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Maybe you know someone that goes on hikes for days at a time. Someone that spends a lot of time, not necessarily alone, but away from technology, away from those pretty pixels. Maybe they take a day away from technology every week. Maybe they have a policy of doing as much exercise as they do sitting down and playing computer games. These are all good things, to be sure, but what if they’re not for me?
Maybe then, the answer to this business of switching off, of taking a break, is not to do less interaction with technology, but to do more of the other stuff. In my opinion, a big part of the problem is how much time we spend doing technology-related things — leaving precious little time for the other things, the non-technology stuff. Somewhere along the way, we lost our balance — if you seem to be spending your entire life in front of the screen, maybe that’s because you are. The solution then, is simple: do other stuff. Get the balance back.
I don’t make many New Year’s Resolutions. But if I were to make a resolution, right now, it would be to simply read more books. I mean, I have a Kindle for a reason, right? (And I’m talking about the book-reading reason, not the “I’m an avid technology enthusiast” reason.) I didn’t read many books in 2012; one book on Kindle, maybe a handful of paperbacks. I want that to change in 2013.
Read more books. I can do that.