Make the most of digital technology

FOMOMore and more often we hear terms such as 'socialbesity', 'digi-stress' or even 'digi-burnout'. Really it is all about being overloaded by and addicted to social media, news stimuli and such. Herein we are driven by FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. We are so engrossed in our little world of media stimuli that we are afraid to fall behind if we miss the media flow for a while. I too experienced a period when I felt flooded and hunted by messages. I also used my smartphone as an alarm clock, which made it tempting to even look at night when you are awake for a while.

If you are of the generation born after, say, 1995/2000, you probably didn't read a problem in the paragraph above. You are used to a life immersed in a 'layer' of Internet. You can skip the rest of the text or enjoy yourself wondering about the problems of the older generations. I myself am of the generation (1978) that wasn't yet 'offline' if you WEREN'T online. All of life was 'offline' and I remember the calm and focus you could then muster for a good book for example, but most of all the feeling of freedom you could experience when you were on vacation. You could really get away from it all for a while. Nobody knew what you were doing, nobody could reach you, you returned refreshed and with a head full of impressions. This feeling of being 'disconnected' is very important, I think. On the other hand I also remember that a lot of things took a lot of effort, and that I dreamed of futuristic solutions that have now long since been overtaken by reality.

While brainstorming about this, I came to see the problem of FOMO and 'socialbesity' as a part of a bigger problem. Namely, how to get the maximum benefit from technology in the end. So how do you make sure that the time/money/pleasure/ease benefits of technology doesn't get cancelled out by social media obsessions, endless googling and using apps? How can the added value of technology to your life be as optimal as possible, without the technology running off with you? How do you make a slave out of your app, rather than the other way around?
How can you book a trip efficiently, without then throwing away the gained time on useless tweets? How can you lead a company efficiently without overstretching yourself with a technical application that barely has any added value? Of course there is nothing wrong with occasionally losing yourself in the digital world, but it is tempting to go too far, and there are no borders except for the ones you impose on yourself.

To deal with this in a better way, I have made a couple of decisions. This way I am trying to regain the old-fashioned feeling of freedom, combined with the digital conveniences of the present time.

First of all I have stopped using a smartphone. A smartphone is the ultimate disturber of both rest and (efficient and effective) work. Apparently nowadays the average user stares at and taps the screen for almost three hours a day. In addition, he looks at the screen 221 times(!!!) per day. With some discipline you can teach yourself to limit this, but simply the fact that you are connected to the digital highway is sufficient to create a sense of nervousness. In my opinion it is better to use the discipline this takes for something else.

In order to still use digital conveniences I use a stand alone Smartwatch with SIM card and I don't use 3G. By default I don't install any social media apps. But I can still look things up on Google and use apps like Sonos, Spotify (via Bluetooth Headset), Evernote etc., these all work well, Netflix, Youtube etc. I can cast to my television. I take photo's with a WiFi camera, that are automatically synchronized to the cloud. In addition I have created a separate Gmail account, on which I'm only accessible in emergencies. I do synchronize certain folders with, for example, photos and important documents with other accounts. I can also record memos, that automatically reach my Virtual Assistant through the cloud. Then it can take action or make a note. The GPS feature is ideal for walking and cycling.

To resist the temptation I use Secure Teen, that blocks all work related websites and apps. 
To summarize, I do use the Internet, but it's mostly a one way traffic. I automatically send things to the Internet, but there is no redundant information coming my way in reverse. I block all things that can create stress. Of course you can do the same thing with a smartphone, but the smartwatch has the convenience of always being on your wrist, and especially on vacation it is lovely to have your hands free and not worry about your phone.

Another aspect that occupied and occupies me is some sort of automatic sense of duty that comes over me if I use online sources. You can find websites and forums concerning almost all problems and challenges. For every little issue with Magento (the webshop system) there is someone with a solution. I find this overwhelming and it causes a sort of sense of duty along the lines of wow, I also have to contribute. In fact, an enormous digital world has been constructed, just like the real society. The difference is that everything is available in the digital world by typing in a simple URL. It isn't possible to contribute to all roads and buildings in the world, just like this isn't possible online. We live in a free, capitalist world (sort of) where we are being driven by our heart, brains and stomach. This system has been sufficiently proved to work, and instead of fostering feelings of guilt it is better to focus on the things that hold my interest and for which I have the necessary skills. If a lot of people do this, apparently a society like the one we know arises. 

I hope these tips prove to be useful. They gave me a lot more peace of mind. In the following time I will further explore how technology can make your life more enjoyable, more adventurous and simpler instead of more complex, more routine-like and more slavish. I will also dive into the downsides of the Internet and technology and how to do something about it without letting go of the benefits.