Reflections on Paul Miller's article "I'm still here"
Life is about relationship. If you are feeling good, it probably has something to do with a relationship. If you are feeling crappy, it probably has to do with a relationship. I imagine 95+% of all songs ever written are about relationships. As a marriage & family therapist, this stays prominent in my mind, so it's no surprise that as I read Paul's article, I kept being reminded of this truth. In the paragraphs below, I share different ideas that came to mind as I was reading his article and watching the accompanying documentary.
Technology is anything that can store, organize, transfer, disseminate, combine, or display information. With this base definition, even a book is technology - even language is technology (see Technopoly by Neil Postman). Just like the old metaphor of a hammer being a tool that can build or destroy, the internet can hinder or enhance relationships. I can get obsessed with news or games or staying up to date on what everybody ate for dinner or I can use facetime, email and social networks to augment actual, real-life relationships.
Stepping back from the Internet and looking more broadly at technology as the theorized embodiment of the problems Paul mentioned, it makes sense why going cold turkey from the internet, only to be replaced with TV and video games didn't solve the problem. It was insightful on Paul's part to see that a vice or unhealthy habit can manifest in different ways. I should ask myself, "Am I seeking after entertainment and comfort or am I seeking after growth and relationship?" The first two are easy. The later two are rewarding.
Priorities - The priorities I list don't often match up with the way I live out my life. If you ask me what my priorities are, I'd tell you 1. God, 2. Family, 3. Friends. If I had someone watch videotape of me for a week and they had to list my priorities based off of the amount I spent with each activity, that list would not look like the list I tell people and tell myself. That list might look more like 1. Work, 2. Entertainment, 3. Podcasts. (That hypothetical is a scary exercise to consider. You should try it).
Another way to look at the issues going on is to think in terms of boundaries. What are healthy boundaries around technology and the internet? Am I going to be present with people that are in the room with me or am I going to be addicted to tweeting about what a great time I'm having? If you set and keep good boundaries around technology, many of the reasons Paul cited as why he left the internet won't become issues for you. What might a healthy technology boundary look like? When I'm out with friends, my phone is on silent and either stays in my pocket or remains face down on the table while I stay present with the people sitting at the table with me. If I'm home, my phone could be sitting on my night stand while I engage with my family in the living room or kitchen. With choices like these, you positively answer that old question, 'Are you controlling the technology or is the technology controlling you?'
A danger with technology is that we let Urgent things take precedence over Important things. The phone ringing is Urgent, but it could be a telemarketer. I could put off doing that workout and I won't die, so it's not urgent, but it is important (enough choices like that and it starts to become urgent - e.g. not taking care of your physical self could turn into a heart attack). Things that are opportunities for growth (Mentally, Physically, Spiritually & Socially) are often not Urgent, but are definitely Important.
Pride is a continuum. On one end is what we normally think of as pride: Big-headed, conceded, narcissistic, etc. On the other end is low self-esteem, depression, letting yourself be a doormat, etc. The thing that ties it all together is a focus on self and comparing yourself to others. You either say, "I'm better than him." or "I'm worse than she is." Humility is focused on meeting other peoples needs. Also, it acknowledges we all have significant value (not better or worse than).
Depression (or any other form of pride), as Paul mentioned in the video, is not about a relationship to technology. It is about relationship to people. Are those relationships being neglected because of a 'too strong' focus on the Internet specifically or technology as a whole?
Paul's experiment was quite a commitment. It prompted some worth-while pondering. I appreciate that he was willing to share his experience and I hope that it benefits others and I hope that we are encouraged to focus on things that matter while allowing technology and the Internet to have a subservient role in our lives.