I have discovered the antidote to technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech. I love the buttons, design, functionality, the possibilities, and the experience of a great user interface design. I don’t love what it’s doing to us. Computers, communication, and social media are such an ingrained part of our lives now, it’s no longer about how to use them but about how not to let them rule our lives.
I spoke at the Northbay Biz Magazine’s BIZNOW event April 19, 2012 and I was given a very specific request. I was asked to talk about how computers and social media are changing us and how to cope. Normally, I’m asked to speak on social media in general or about an individual tool such as Facebook or LinkedIn. This presentation had an Ignite style delivery (see my O’Reilly Ignite talk titled “Everyone Is Afraid”) and was a welcome deviation from my every day speech. To cap off its dramatic flair, it was delivered in an air hangar beside a fleet of jets.
What did I talk about? We have added work loads, increased stress levels, amped up demands on our physical and mental health, and invasive wireless wavelengths. How do you counterbalance all of that? I won’t simply give you the answer but show you how I arrived at it.
I am a California Community Colleges trainer for the Interactive Internet and Mobile Applications for Business (iima4biz) initiative and was brought down to Los Angeles to run a pilot of the course material in May of 2011. Let me set the scene for you. I was seated halfway down a long table in a conference room with 8 small business owners. There was one prospective trainer behind me watching my materials over my shoulder. The grant coordinator and the curriculum writer were witnessing the interaction from the far end of the table. I had my laptop, an iPad with instructor’s notes, a paper workbook so I could see the attendees’ materials, my phone for texts of guiding direction from my coordinators and as a session timer, an overhead projector, audio equipment and a video camera. I delivered 6 hours of curriculum, demonstrated websites, moderated conversation, and managed all of the people and technology like a social media dj. Then I did it again on Day 2.
After flying home, my family and I went to a property my husband manages near the Russian River that has little or no cell phone reception. It was a bright and sunny Mother’s Day and I ended up in the garden weeding. Now I’m not a gardener and I’ve never really had a desire to get my hands dirty. As a kid, weeding was practically a form of punishment. But when my husband asked me and my five year old if we wanted to help so we could get out of there faster, I agreed. I started to pull plants out of the ground, warmed by the sun, I was spending time with my little girl, and putting my hands in the dirt, I realized something. I was having a wonderful day. I had just spent two straight days with electromagnetic and wireless waves beaming through my body and the lack of cell reception plus sun, earth and family, I was in heaven. I felt healthy, happy, and alive. After weeding the whole garden, my daughter and I walked down to the river’s edge and I sat peacefully while she splashed in the water. It was the most profound and simple Mother’s Day I have ever had.
I didn’t put it all together then. As the year has progressed, I started to pick up signs and pieces of the puzzle. It wasn’t until I spoke at BIZNOW that I had been asked to verbalize it. The antidote to technology is Nature. Not just dirt and trees but anything natural. From silence and meditation, working all of your muscles in exercise, interacting with humans and animals, not just being in a natural environment but experiencing it with your physical body, as well as self preparation and enjoyment of whole foods. We are biological beings and we are experiencing organic elements less and less in our daily lives.
We are stressed out. We are tired. We are sick. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a walk. Play more. Eat fresh food. Dig in the dirt. Watch or swim in natural water. Listen carefully to your body and the world around you. The solution has no batteries. The power source is the sun.