Activating the off switch

I want to share with you a great new technological advance. One that will take humankind forward in ways never before imagined and afford us an opportunity to realise a capacity for deep reflection, mutual connection, and to live and experience in ways that have not occurred in at least the last 50 years.

It’s a subtle, underestimated technological advance. It’s been in front of us, staring back from our technology for many years. Occasionally we take advantage of it but in a 24/7 culture, with every incentive to integrate technology into all aspects of our lifestyle, we fail to take advantage of this technological wonder.

The “off” switch…

A statement of the obvious, you may say! But the fact of the matter is that technology has become so abundant we are reluctant to switch it off. We are terrified of missing something, we feel obliged to check our mobile phones around 150 times a day and our emails almost as frequently. We often respond a bit like conditioned rats in an experiment every time a new email flashes upon our screens. We jump to attention when the little box calls out to us. Our televisions are often left on even when we are not actively watching anything. We cannot stand silence, to be cut off, to be left with our own thoughts.

What does this say in terms of our mental wellbeing, when we are expected and expect others to be connected round the clock? Friends fretting when a text is not responded to at lightning speed, the concern when someone is not answering their mobile when, in your opinion, they should be free to talk, leaders who check their office email on an iPhone before they’ve even brushed their teeth. It is incredibly difficult to have a healthy approach to your work when technology means you never leave your office.

Our millennials have led us to integrate technology in such a way as they are hyper- dependent upon it. People no longer integrate information internally through the use of actively processed human memory. They simply become experts at searching for it in cyberspace, accessing a brief overview of knowledge bases and disciplines that have taken many generations before to master. This results in the belief that somehow an “edited highlights” approach to knowledge somehow equates with expertise. It can certainly equate with breadth of an issue, but not necessarily depth, and there is a subtle difference between knowledge as data and knowing as an experience.

Technology has fostered such a stimulus-response society, that we insist on Amazon delivering the next day, or, as will be the case shortly, within a matter of hours by drone. We simply work on an ever-increasing approach to instant gratification, where if we don’t get what we want, we simply switch providers until we do. We never realise that many choices are made on impulse and rapid sense gratification. This action does not promote long-term discernment and judgement in the choices we make. Instead, it encourages a propensity to make more bad choices even more quickly.

Minimalists tend to understand this idea best. They recognise that things rather than people are now occupying the world more, and the love of objects rather than family and friends actually underpins much of the malaise that exists in our societies. Relationship breakdown, unfulfilling interpersonal relationships, mental health problems, social anxieties and the like all come from this increasingly materialistic phenomena where, in our secular world, we abandon values of love, harmony and acceptance in exchange for communicating with by materiality or simply the ubiquitous “like” on social media.

Well, the technological solution is here. Switch it off. Have periods of your life without technology around you. Become re-sourced and re-connected to your inner self, reliant upon communicating with people on a face-to-face basis or at least by the good old-fashioned telephone. Begin to realise and interpret people’s needs. Acquire introspection into yourself and understand yourself more fully. Meditate, think and be involved in deliberate acts. Switching technology on should be a deliberate act, as should switching it off. This will restore control and sentience to you, rather than leaving you some conditioned ape, worshipping at the secular altar of Techne and all of its demigods, such as Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft.

In a busy world, humanity needs to define itself. A world of acquisition, materialism and unsustainable growth will create not only have and have-nots, they will impact upon the planet in ways that will impoverish us all.

I wonder if you’ve operated the “off” switch in your head to this instead of perhaps now operating the “off” switch to the medium upon which you are reading it and going and doing something else. Both off switches exist. The choice is yours.