5/15/2013

Technologists Anonymous: How to Unplug


Hello, my name is Nick, and this is my first time at Technologists Anonymous. I’m addicted to my gadgets.

(This is where you say, “Welcome, Nick.”)

If Technologists Anonymous really existed, several of the people I spoke with for my column this week would probably want to be members. Increasingly, some in Silicon Valley who build the technologies so many of us are addicted to are trying to wean themselves off a 24-hour tech diet.

Tech junkies have come up with some interesting ways of trying to push back, even just a little. Here are a few tips from people I spoke with:

  • Set up gadget-free zones in your home — maybe the bedroom or kitchen table, or both. In those settings, make it a strict rule that there are no smartphones, tablets or laptops allowed.
  • While a lot of people want to take a break from their devices, they now rely on them for listening to music, taking photos or jotting down notes. If that’s the case, switch your gadget to “airplane mode,” which turns off the wireless data connections, when you need a break. That way you can still use your device for capturing and creating information, but you won’t be prodded by texts, tweets or e-mails.
  • Follow in the footsteps of Evan Sharp, a founder of Pinterest, and his wife, who go on long drives together until their cell signal drops out. On a weekend, use a cell coverage map and find a place that has a dead zone, then go there for a drive and a stroll.
  • If you absolutely need to be connected without being connected, turn off all the notifications on your phone, including Facebook, Twitter and text messages, so you’re not constantly disturbed. That way, only phone calls will pop up when someone really needs to reach you. And given that phone calls are a dying breed, you don’t have to worry about ephemeral interruptions.Some readers of my column indicated that they had the willpower to resist the pull of their devices without resorting to such measures.

“I do not feel the need to create a gadget-free space or time. I use my smartphone as a tool, and I use it as such when needed, to find something, look something up, etc.,” wrote Roger from Newark, Del. ”I do not have to reject it in order to be free from it.”

Or as another reader put it quite succinctly: ”These are communication devices and not thinking or imagination devices.” Via NYT Bits