Today has been textbook Sunday perfection.
The kind where you get stuff done and feel present and are like, “Now why can’t weekdays feel like this, too?”
I finished up Love Bites episode for tomorrow, which studies the intersection of chronic illness and breakups, and find joy and solidarity in that work. Moving down the list I’d scribbled out last night, I put the last of my bulk millet onto boil, then chopped Japanese yams into one dish, brussels sprouts into another, and small white potatoes together with zucchini into a third, roasting them so I have food for the week. I mixed toothpaste (will journal soon) and poured my essential oil blend into my bulk lotion.
All the while, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me poured through my speakers; the phone otherwise by the wayside. By the time I’d scooped millet and sprouts into a bowl I’d transitioned to the TED Radio Hour podcast episode Screen Time – Part 1. Now in my corner chair shoveling it in, I halted when anthropologist Amber Case started talking about the effect of constant device overload on our sense of self:
“….One I’m really worried about is that people aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore, and that they aren’t slowing down and stopping…. They’re not just sitting there. And really, when you have no external input, that is a time when there is a creation of self, when you can do long-term planning, when you can try and figure out who you really are. And then, once you do that, you can figure out how to present your second self in a legitimate way, instead of just dealing with everything as it comes in — and oh, I have to do this, and I have to do this, and I have to do this. And so this is very important.”
The “second self” she refers to is our digital one. When this bit from her TED Talk was repeated on the TED Radio Hour, my breath caught for a second, then released into a smile. Because I did a presentation the other night, swirling lessons of this Year with the idea of Managing Online Personality Disorder. Physically I climbed Everest to do it, and returned home to collapse in a pile of over-exhausted, pain-wracked sobs, so depleted I was from the effort.
But without realizing it (and the phrase “without realizing it” seems to be a throughline of this Year), I came to the same conclusion Case has in her work:
I’d begun the talk addressing my 40 days off of social media, and the shift felt when I recognized the precious value of being alone and facing both the bad and the good of my life. Then how that time inspired this whole study. And how now I’m feeling so constantly present and grateful for what I can do with the body, mind, and resources I have. Nothing about the struggles I faced in June have technically changed: I’m still in the same financial and romantic boat, and physically weaker. But I find my tie to the current so much stronger; my course straighter.
“The most successful technology gets out of the way and helps us live our lives,” Case says towards the end of her Talk. In the planning stages of mine, I was thinking I’d end with inviting the audience of designers and geeks to help in creating new technology that does just that. Because I don’t think we need more to add onto our lists of to-do’s, to give more of a digital dopamine rush, or to have something lighting up our phones with distraction.
According to Case, “we are all cyborgs now.”
I like to think I’m still mostly human. And becoming more of one, every day.