The Tyranny Of Connectivity

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The Tyranny Of Connectivity

So I pick up a new iPhone over the weekend after cracking the screen on my old one. During the 3 hours before I get it home, something amazing happens.

The phone is blank. No apps beyond the factory installed ones. No email. No twitter. No facebook. No nothing!

My previous killing-time-default-to-screen mode vanishes. I can’t check what isn’t there. So I stop thinking about it. Instead, every time I stop the car or pause at a street corner, or wait for an elevator or a gluten-free nosh or a check-out line, I just “am.”

Lost in contemplation. Thinking, pondering, ideating, integrating, singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs (with the windows rolled up, y’all deserve that much).

New ideas for experiences and content flood in. Patterns and connections I’d been struggling to make just kind of happen. Because every morsel of ideative space is no longer being squeegeed out of me by the addiction to see who needs me and for what.

I feel free. Light.

Then…Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

Has my pocket-lurking gateway to the world so disconnected me from the space needed to fertilize ideas that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be dialed not into my device, but into Source? Me? C’mon, I’m the presence guy. I’m BETTER than that!

So, I finally get home and, while waiting for the elevator, I notice something else…

Five other real-life humans linger, every one of them heads down, gaze cast into upright palms, bathed in the appified glow of digital disintegration. Not a word is uttered. Five people standing within five feet of each other, yet we might as well be 500 miles apart. Hell, that would be better, because then at least we’d be texting, updating and tweeting each other through our phones. Oh the humanity!

It gets worse…

In his phenomenal book Where Good Ideas Come From Stephen Johnson shares how bignormous, breakthrough ideas rarely come as the classic lightning bolts from above. Rather, they’re the result of two people each working on their own stuff, serendipitously colliding, starting a conversation and seeing patterns and ideas that unlock the potential of the other’s not-quite-robust pieces of the puzzle.

All too often, random interactions seed epic revelations.

The constant default to appified space-evaporating remote connectivity kills not only our ability to reconnect with those right in front of us, but the possibility of serendipitous collision that’s so important to next-level ideation, problem-solving, innovation and art.

It all but eliminates the possibility of two ideas bumping into each other to form a third better idea. Because we’re all too busy filling every free moment with our heads shoved firmly up our apps.

Can you still have serendipitous collision in the digisphere? Sure. But, at least in my experience, it ain’t the same. You lose so much of the subtlety and nuance, the nonverbal communication, spontaneity, rapport and trust that feeds the fornication and incubation of ideas worth birthing.

Technology is good. I’m not a luddite. But only when we tap it to serve, rather than own us and the world.

So, I get home and I’ve got a decision to make. Restore my new iPhone to it’s former 5-screens-of-apps glory or cut the cord.

I decide to do a bit of an experiment. A partial appectomy…

I delete things like twitter and facebook and 36 other apps I use largely to fill and kill time. I think about losing Instagram, but I find that having this app on my phone actually draws me deeper into the world. I’m constantly looking for more things, people and interactions to capture. It helps me see what’s right in front of me.

I leave email on the phone, but I may delete that soon, too. Yes. Really. Pretty sure there was life before mobile email, and there’d be life after. Especially considering you can already find me with my a macbook pro on my back a good part of any day. I think the only real challenge would be retraining everyone else not to expect me to be checking and responding to email in near-realtime. More on that to come.

So, what about you?

 

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81 responses

81 Responses to “The Tyranny Of Connectivity”

  1. Vincent says:

    I think my not having a data plan truly is a blessing. There are so many times when I am out having fun with my friends I would get the strong urge to check email, twitter, Facebook, etc. Luckily, I don’t even have a data plan so checking those without WiFi is impossible. So I went on WiFi.

    Now my phone’s calling gets glitchy when I switch on WiFi so I haven’t turned it on in weeks. It is VERY liberating to be unable to access these things when I’m out. It doesn’t matter if I think it’s urgent. I worry about it for several minutes but then I realize how free I am. I’m finally able to stay in the present and have fun with everyone. All because I’m disconnected.

  2. Ali Davies says:

    I have almost no apps on my phone and I don’t give the number out for business purposes. I keep it predominantly for personal convenience. I think technology is good and adds value to a certain extent but I feel we have become overdependent on it to the extent that it is becoming detrimental in many ways and on many different levels in life and business.

  3. The only thing I can think to do after reading this is to raise my wooden sword in the air, adjust my sheet-cape and yell: I SAY WE DO IT YOU GUYS!!!!!

    kc

  4. EmmKay says:

    Funny. I was just on the road and gave myself permission to not check email as much. Turns out, *I* was the only one who needed email retraining. People used to me responding in seconds were just as content when I responded in hours or even days later. The urgency was all mine.

  5. As one of — what? — three people left on the planet who doesn’t own a cell phone and isn’t on Facebook, I’m still having trouble figuring out what I’m missing. I have plenty of screens in the office, and when I’m not in the office a screen, to me, defeats that purpose.

  6. Henri says:

    Great points, Jonathan.

    I lived for a few years without a phone and it was a relief. If anyone wanted to contact me, they could call my girlfriend or shoot me an email.

    Last year I had to cave in because I needed a phone for business, but I frequently leave it home and shut it off when I’m out. I’ve found that it’s much more enjoyable to “just be,” instead of constantly checking email.

    Things can wait. Email can wait. Facebook can always wait.

    When do this, I notice the same thing: people glued to their screens constantly checking something on their phone. And it reminds me to breathe and enjoy.

  7. TomC says:

    “Killing time”… What a unwelcoming phrase. I don’t know how much sand is left in my hourglass but I know it is a set amount.

  8. Lynne Klippel says:

    I moved to Ecuador 8 months ago and don’t have a cell phone. It’s bliss.

    My next goal is to be on my computer only 20 hours a week but I’m not there quite yet!

  9. Jay Versluis says:

    I’m an iOS Developer, and as such I have several iOS devices. Some are completely empty and need to be restored to “nothing” every so often – and every time I have the same sensation that you had: WOW. The liberating nothing-ness on an iPhone, the empty screens, the empty badges. Serene bliss!

    One of my favourite features in iOS 6 is “Do Not Disturb”. It not only silences your devices, but it also means the screen doesn’t even light up when a message or a phone call comes in. Prior to that, 3 devices would “ding” when an email comes in (over 100 times a day… it eats away at you).

    Technical features aside, we all have to re-learn to live with less connectivity. It’s not the phenomenon that is bad, but the overindulgence therein that is a growing problem in our society. Just like too much food or too much drink, too much app isn’t good for us. Don’t get rid of it completely, but don’t use it 400 times a day: check emails once per day, select 50 and hit delete, then attend to the others. Do not check 5 minutes later and answer more. Same with Twitter and Facebook, or comments on your website.

    And set deliberate periods of “being” where you do not check any of these things until another time. I frequently leave the house without my phone and I love it. Thinks can wait. I have also contemplated not having a data plan (like Vincent), but I find that voluntarily not being connected is even more liberating than forcing myself to live without it.

    Let’s remember: less is more. Thank you for reminding us ;-)

    • Tina says:

      Well said Jay. I only have an iPhone 4 and have never downloaded an app. Still trying to learn all that I can do with it…in my spare time. Basically, I use it to keep in touch with my significant peeps. It is frustrating at this level of use to be tethered to this form of communication but it is the “times” and we are living in it. And when walking in public places to see the tops of peoples heads all around you…sometimes I wait for them to be sucked right in (like a Dr. Who scene or some Sci fi show) to the screen.
      I cannot be free of this but I will consciously put in my efforts to minimize my over all “need “to be connected via technology.

  10. Lynn says:

    Brilliant, nice to have confirmation that my long standing choice to keep a basic phone, is the right thing to do for my creative voice.
    Not always the easiest thing when everyone is plugged in. I look at how disconnected we’re becoming from each other and it makes me want to stay present, so I don’t miss those connector clues that lead to great ideas. Thanks.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I had a similar experience two weeks ago when my iPhone broke on a Saturday night. I had gone 12 whole hours without checking anything and it felt like an unscratched itch. I didn’t restore my apps for two days on purpose to observe the feeling of disconnection and it felt great.

    I feel that unplugging from all the social outlets can be as good for us as eating healthy food and exercising. It’s a little shaky in the beginning but something your glad you did.

  12. Michael Max says:

    Call it serendipity.
    I recently noticed my own nervous tic that had me thumbing up twitter when I could have enjoyed a moment of noticing the mimosa trees have bursted their firework of red, or breathed a moment of quietude, or allowed the gestalt of the moment to deliver a hint of inspiration.
    Twitter gone. Games gone. Now I notice the wind the trees, the slant of the sun in the late afternoon, my sense of observation returning.
    I just gave my mobile’s email a one month sabbatical. Curious to taste the next few weeks.

  13. Andrea says:

    I think this might be the best sentence I’ve read all day:
    “Because we’re all to busy filling every free moment with our heads shoved firmly up our apps.”

    I don’t own a smartphone and I don’t have a data plan and my friends give me huge amounts of grief over it. But I stand firm in my resolve. At work, I’ve got constant connectivity and multiple screens to view the digital delights of both the intra and inter nets.

    I’ve watched my friends as they have transitioned to smart phones and added apps, and subtly their social behavior has changed. It’s not a change I’m comfortable with and it’s not a path I’m willing to go down.

    Sure, I’ll probably get a smartphone when my current phone dies. And I’ll enjoy many of the interesting and frivolous things it will do. But I’ll be thinking carefully about the apps I add. Because it’s important to me to maintain awareness of the world I live in (which apparently is now being referred to as meatspace…yikes).

    And I’m guessing you were the only person aware that there were five other humans in that elevator.

  14. beth says:

    I have a personal cell and a business “land line” (a wireless antenna that converts a home phone to use cell towers). I am thinking of converting that number to a smart phone so this post gave me something to think about.

    I hate seeing a bunch of people all out together all with their heads facing their cells and not talking much to each other at all. I see it all the time and it makes me want to grab the phones and throw them in a water pitcher while extolling the virtues of face to face conversation.

    But, having a cell that would allow me to call a parent when I’m not at the office while at the same time protecting my personal numbers would be great.

    I’ll just have to be sure to buy a phone with an off switch and make sure I know how to use it. :D Since I don’t use facebook or twitter on my computers I know those won’t be a temptation. I will take a cautionary note about accessing email though.

  15. Pamela says:

    I gave up my iPhone for, yes, just a plain old phone. It will probably do other things this little Samsung but it is perfect for talking: small, fits in my hand, no big screen, etc. I’m also visiting my 89 year old mother soon for a couple of weeks at the beach. I was looking forward to it until I realized she doesn’t have internet connection… and then I started smiling. So this WILL be just an amazing vacation at the beach instead of a constant “need” for connection. I’ll be connecting with my mom and the ocean instead and that’s about it. Bliss!

  16. Xavier says:

    I’m a little mortified your wrote this post. I mean, duh. A few weeks ago you wrote another about needing to reintegrate meditation into your life. Does the same go for exercise and everything else you seem to preach but don’t practice?

  17. Food for thought, Jonathan. I recently got my first iPhone, and despite my assurances to myself that I would not become a chronic checker of email, FB and the like, have become just that. I am going to follow-suit and experiment with deleting the FB apps for my two FB pages. I’ve been following you for several years now and find your posts consistently first-rate. Especially love your Good Life Project. Keep spreading the good word, and the good work.

  18. ElizOF says:

    I love this post because we all are or have been victims of the tyranny you write about. I’ve gone from being totally plugged in, to creating and protecting my quiet, no-apps-no-internet time. Every day, I get invites to join more social media groups and I no longer jump at them. I just don’t want to spend all my time doing that.
    I made a decision at the beginning of this year that I want to take walks on the aqueduct, read some good books, enjoy nicely prepared meal with friends, meditate, do more yoga, and breathe… I am honoring that side of my life and I connect when I feel at ease.
    The internet has given us incredible global access to tons of information, but we must be careful that, while chasing more data, we don’t burn out from all the exposure. I’m all for taking time out! :-)
    Elizabeth

  19. Steve W says:

    Check out Tim Ferris’s “4 hour Work Week” on his suggestion for dealing with productivity sucking interruptions (especially email).

  20. Hi Jonathon.I tend to observe and not comment but in contradictory terms here I go. Recently went to Berlin a fascinating city in terms of its recent and longer term history. I left my camera behind!!!!!! How was I going to picture this amazing place. Wow! I fact I felt liberated and began once again to see the world through my own eyes and not the view finder. I love and always have loved the camera’s ability to record having being brought up in a family of photographers. Now I have changed my perspective… but just a bit. Truthfully it really made me think about my relationship to the visual world away from my own immediate environment

  21. Great post, Jonathan! I have the same experience of freedom and lightness when I forget my cell phone at home. I think our addiction to checking our smart phones is a form of self-gratification to see how many people are clamoring for our attention. We fear someone is going to go away or be disappointed that we didn’t respond immediately. This behavior mimics dementia in that we totally forget who we are with. Here’s a quote I really like: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”

  22. Kevin Rhodes says:

    Well said, as always, Jonathan! I demoed a Droid when they first came out a few years ago, but took it back because I couldn’t figure out what value it added to my life to have instant email or be able to search the web on a tiny screen. I’ve never gone back, and still don’t have a smart phone. I’m pretty sure that, if I did, its main purpose would be to make me feel dumb. And it’s just downright depressing to see people walking down the street or sitting together in a coffee shop or restaurant and not talking to each other, in favor of staring at their phones. Plus, I mean really – there are 100’s of 1,000’s of apps to be had, but when would I ever use them all? But I confess , I am constantly wondering what I’m missing, now that I’ve become a hopelessly eccentric electronic dinosaur. And I worry whether I’ve cut myself off from personal connection and commercial lifelines I won’t ever be able to reclaim? I mean, what are all those people DOING that’s so important and essential, staring at their phones all the time? It must be important, because I’ve noticed that the people in the First Class check in line never look up from them. Maybe if I had a phone like theirs, I could stand in that line, too.

  23. Great thoughts! I had a similar experience earlier this year when I was on vacation. I turned the sync off my phone and when I returned from vacation… I kept it off. Its amazing how the world keeps on spinning and my productivity has shot through the roof!

    Thanks for inspiring!

  24. Giovanna says:

    I could not agree more with it all.
    My strugle right now is facebook… would love to live it for good but can´t yet…

  25. Loved the article! For a GREAT book about th power of interactions I highly recommend The Medici Effect by Frans Johansen (spelling questionable).. You’re absolutely right: Aha’s do not happen in isolation. You’re also right about training your community to NOT expect you to be available 24/7 instant response by ANY platform or medium. I’m going old school (besides typing this on my iPhone while icing my back with a herniated disc!) – talking to people and having deep, exploratory conversations versus short digital interactions. ALSO, just went to the Salvatore Dali exhibit in St. Petersburg, Florida: if you want some new ways to interpret your world, get into HIS mix. That’s someone who questioned the status quo of societal thinking and being! Thx again for the nudge!

  26. Lynne says:

    Great post. I have never owned a cell phone–smart or otherwise, don’t use Facebook and have never sent a tweet. This drives other people crazy and works perfectly for me. I agree that our ideas and overall creativity come from cerebral space–the unplugged shall inherit the earth.

  27. Leila Viss says:

    Terrific insight into the power of apps. They CAN and DO steal us all away from community and creativity. Thank you for this post!

  28. Caron says:

    Love this story and the replies, I too am addicted, hating it but yet still so tempted.
    I live with my hubby and 2 teenage son’s so they are much deeper in their addiction, the speed at which my eldest ( 17 ) can text whilst on his i pad and watching a movie, eating and talking, well grunting with us is a phenomenon.
    Last night as 3 of us ate dinner, hubby was playing online scrabble with at least 10 others and youngest ( 15 ) was Facebook chatting…. I have of course had many discussions about presence, being connected and no distractions at the table, but it is like fighting the tide, no way can I prevent it.
    How do we pull back from this?
    My family and I have a great life in NZ, we are from the UK and we built a beautiful house overlooking the ocean and mountains, yet heads down, fingers twitching, emails, texts, Facebook and spotify rule , when I mention maybe no distractions at meal time, you would think I had asked for something so unspeakable , if looks could kill :)
    So tonight I will again raise the idea of a time out, I laugh at the thought of their sad little faces, and the true horror….Am off now to delete at least 5 apps from my phone and go stare at the ocean…. Thanks everyone, let’s enjoy real life :)

  29. Great article, we all need to disconnect from the e-life and get back into the real world.

    I only have prepaid on my iPhone4 (yes, seriously – it’s so O L D! -as i am constantly told). I don’t want to be connected to the e-world 24/7. I actually turn my phone and iPad (wi fi only, no constant connection and I mainly use it to showcase my photos and to read books) OFF at night.

    YES, people, there is an OFF button! Gadgets disconnect you from life if you let them rule you rather than you ruling them.

  30. Cassia says:

    Is it wrong I just read this on my phone;)

    I’m smiling but it’s not really funny…

  31. John Zay says:

    Great article! I’ve been living over in Europe for nearly 2 years and have been using prepaid cards so I decided to go cold turkey and not have internet on the phone – I’m not going back…the longer it has been the more I notice those who are addicted to tuning out….sometimes in mid-conversation:-) It can wait cause I believe the universe has its own timing, its own speed, to take care of what needs to happen for you anyway…

  32. Melody says:

    I’ve never been someone who went in for all that cell phones offered. A cell phone is great for convenience, emergencies and in case you get lost on the way to a social outing. It has always baffled me why anyone would want to be available 24/7. If you don’t take time for your life, your loved ones and last but not least, yourself, you are sending the message to everyone that they have a right to take ALL of your time that they might need or want. Most “urgent” requests are anything but. I’m so glad to see people disconnecting from the virtual in order to reconnect to the real. Welcome back everyone! :)

  33. Mike J says:

    Great article! I came to the conclusion years ago that I do not like having a digital tether, especially if it’s also work related. I need to have disconnected time where I control the access to me.

    So, yes I have a iPhone, but it primarily contains music, and I use it for the occasional map if I am lost, or need to lookup a fact -> but I am not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram’s or all the other ‘social” sites that seem to take over peoples lives.

    I only like to be connected to get data to make my life easier, and perhaps for urgent things like family emergencies.

    I can understand how addictive it can be, but isn’t amazing how, when disconnected or throttled down, the world continues on, friendships remain and flourish, and life is, well, just better.. :-)

    Maybe my age is showing.. :)

  34. Pamela Miles says:

    Recently I’ve been thinking I have to either hire someone to manage my apps or kill ‘em off. But now that I find myself at a getaway in the woods for a few days, not having anticipated the lack of internet, and those apps are looking PDG.

  35. Karen Morath says:

    I had a similar experience and similar revelation. New phone. No Twitter or email on it so not quick ‘efficient uses of time’. Instead, I can think or – here’s something – do nothing for a few minutes. I used to love mobile email but don’t plan to restore it. I am not so important that people can’t wait a few hours to hear back from me and I am enjoying the peace.

  36. Kerry M says:

    I had a similar experience when I went to Africa for 2 mths. I went from working 60 hrs+ a week online and available by BB/email 24/7 to no connectivity (including no TV/Radio) and only accessing the internet for 30 min once a week to let my family/friends know I was fine. Being disconnected was so incredibly freeing!

    The other thing I noticed, because I wasn’t watching TV, was that I no longer craved fast food or had a need to do crazy amounts of shopping for xmas (I was travelling Oct-Dec). Its amazing how much advertising really affects you, even when your not paying attention.

    It was quite a remarkable feeling to be so disconnected for the world around you and connected to whats right in front of you at the same time.

  37. Cyndy says:

    Interesting!

    I just “unplugged” from Facebook myself. In my field, I’m all about connections and intimacy, and although FB and texting are great for more people that are far away, I find that people use it in lieu of real connection, which I crave! Deeply. I love using my whole body… All my senses. I’m not big on the latest “pseudo” way of relating at all…

    At any rate, I feel at least a good sabbatical from FB frees me up to be present, enjoying right now with someone or several someone’s sharing the moment with me.

  38. Tracy says:

    What a refreshing take on technology! What you said brought to mind what Susan Cain talks about in her AMAZING book ‘Quiet’ – how some technology helps facilitate collaboration but it can’t replace the time we spend alone with our thoughts and in time working on our projects. If we’re so busy being ‘connected’ to the online world, we don’t fully allow ourselves to engage with our own ideas, or try out this and that before launching it. A balance is definitely best.

    Thanks, Jonathan.

  39. Gillian says:

    Finally an entrepreneur that recognises all that is lost and missed while we are on our phones. A stronger addiction than coke for some I fear as recently observed at a conference on happiness. In short…we were watching the Dalai Lama speak of being present and happiness…half the people in the room were STILL on their phones twittering, face booking etc. I hope lots of people take on board your thoughts.

  40. Whitney says:

    I might print out this post — and all the comments — and wallpaper one of the walls in the office break room with it. I work in an IT division, and it’s not uncommon to see someone schlepping some combination of laptop, iPad, and smartphone with them (sometimes, all three). Presence is difficult to find in others — in one-on-one conversations, in meetings, etc. Everyone is always checking, checking, checking. Frankly, it’s not just discouraging and frustrating to be around, it’s *exhausting*.

    They say they do it because they get so much email, it’s the only way to avoid getting buried. I have a feeling that, if they gave disconnection a try, they’d find (as @EmmKay wrote) “Turns out, *I* was the only one who needed email retraining. People used to me responding in seconds were just as content when I responded in hours or even days later. The urgency was all mine.”

  41. Pam Hirsch says:

    Can I just say that the phrase “heads shoved firmly up our apps” is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time? I love it!

    And now I’m going to bed, to rest and have a good old fashioned dream before I lose myself to the internet black hole.

    Awesome article, Jonathan! Thank you.

  42. HA! I don’t own a cell phone (and never have)….I am on the computer too much anyway! When the stereo in my truck died, I just let it go. I love the silence. And I love just being able to think stuff through while I’m driving around. Love this article!

  43. Susan Kuhn says:

    I love apps…but I am learning to be very conscious of how I feel in the moment using my laptop or phone. If I feel tense, upset, or otherwise disconnected, I step away and ask why. It’s not the technology that “makes me” disconnect. When I examine my behavior, there is always an underlying issue that I deal with in my life. The key is noticing how I feel: distant from others/anxious/”underperforming at life” or do I feel happy and connected. It isn’t really about the tech…it’s about my choices, and becoming more and more aware that I am making them.

  44. Tova says:

    Thanks Jonathan
    I love this post. I recently just wrote about the importance of closing our gadgets off. I find they can stress you out and take you off track from what’s really important. Especially, I think the bigger issue is the incessant use of gadgets and like you say, everywhere you go, people are head down in their phones. It’s like a bunch of cell phone zombies ;) And Im guilty of it too! But my favourite thing is to take a vacation gadget-free. I think technology is a gift, of course, it can allow us to connect, but we need to see the real humans in front of us :) Thanks for this great post.

  45. This virtual connectivity is an epidemic our generation is facing right now.

    The simplest way to get out of it is to realize and make others understand that emails don’t need to be replied to immediately. Instant messaging doesn’t mean we have to always be present to answer everybody.

    I have one screen on my phone that has no app on it. It just has a calm wallpaper and a clock. The few apps I have are deliberately kept hidden in folders which makes it harder to get to them and so I use them only when I need them most.

    My phone is faster and I’m less stressed and more aware of myself and my surroundings.

  46. Iain Forrest says:

    Thanks Jonathon,

    I got pushed in your direction from a book I have recently finished “The Education of Millionaires” (Awesome book btw.) and after reading through a few posts and checking out your other projects I must confess that I feel like I have finally found a kindred spirit in your ethics and approach to life and work.

    As for this post. Love it. I live in Queenstown, New Zealand and one thing i love about here is that it’s super easy to suddenly find yourself in an area of no service.

    An interesting thing i found through the comments though was the people who stand for not getting a smartphone because of the potential bad side. I find that similar to saying that you wouldn’t go to the beach because you might get sunburnt.

    Smartphones have amazingly increased so many areas of our lives, but like, eating, drinking or pretty much anything else in life it simply (although I do get this is easier said than done sometimes) requires a little self control. Something I feel is lacking in our society in general. But that which we are slowly starting to learn.

    I love technology, I love that I sit tucked away at the bottom of the world but can instantly connect to anyone as well as gain your insights and feel connected to someone with similar beliefs. It’s AWESOME. It’s changing our world and personally, once we cut through all the hype and marketing, I believe it will give the common human a new voice and we will build a world that works better together.

    Sorry for getting a litle off topic. I just love technology and what is doing in this world. BUT as you say, cut down on app time, when you have a spare moment, look around you and marvel at something you had never noticed before. You will feel all the richer for it (and if the moment lasts, take a photo and share it with you friends and pass on the gratitude for life).

  47. Yong-Gu Bae says:

    Hello Jonathan,

    Thank you for the excellent article. I agree with you, so I am curious about what apps you are still keeping. Can you share them with us?

    Thank you in advance. :-)

  48. Kieran says:

    Reading this article made me think of my own experience. I bought a brand new Samsung Galaxy note 2 a few month before Christmas and I had the relatively bad/good experience of having my phone stolen on Christmas eve. Since then I have been using my old nokia 72 which can barely have whatsapp on it.

    I came down from 30-35 apps to 1, and as you said in your article, MIRACLE! I was free from constant notifications, facebook and “kill timers games”. I got happier, more effective and so on. Getting my phone stolen was the best thing that happened to me (apart losing the value of $500) since then.

    Crazy as it seems, living in HK with thousand of tech addicts I can’t stop being amazed and afraid at the current generations are heading. More and more we will see people on the clouds, especially with technologies like smartphone or the google glasses…

    To add on that comment, I think that although technology helps us in certain areas of our lives, and to some extent for certain creative work, in general I believe it just kills our social interactions and our creativity. We are now dependent on technologies and we now no longer interact the same way we used to, which sadly affects us in too many ways (negatively for most of it…)

    Great article, thanks a lot for sharing !!

  49. Camille says:

    YES!!!!! Here’s to eye contact, conversation, and nuance. In a world where the hamster wheel spins faster and faster, thanks for reminding us to unplug and breathe….and for a little less “social media” in favor of just simply “social” .

  50. Geoffrey says:

    Love the thoughts, and have been playing with why-it-happens for quite a while. It seems to me that the addiction to digiconnecting is an attempt to recover something else that was lost. Somewhat like chatting with a neighbor over a fence. I’m old enough to remember the sheer joy of neighborhoods, and to have wondered through the growing isolation of later year.

    So part of my current view is that the digisphere is a dysfunctional way of satisfying a huge, suppressed longing to connect to the people next door.

    I know there’s a lot more e.g. I like playing Sudoku on my phone, and so on.

    Lovely post.

  51. My family recently went on vacation and out of the 3 cell phones that we own, only one was brought, but was turned and was only going to be used for emergencies.

    It was such a wonderful experience to actually talk to one another and interact with the things around us, and really experience the world the way it was meant to.

    It really opened my eyes to see how easily we can allow technology to put up walls in our relationships. I like what you did with your new phone, I think I will do the same!

  52. [...] and ironically, Jonathan Fields writes about The Tyranny of Connectivity that same [...]

  53. Jonathan – ironically and serendipitously I had a similar experience yesterday before I got the email about this post. I wrote about it here (and mentioned this post) http://www.velvetverbosity.com/2013/06/25/100-words-337-thoughts-on-the-internet-and-connectivity/

    While I love the internet, it does feel like it’s all too much. Everything we do now seems to be about constructing or consuming content rather than thinking and experiencing.

  54. Beth Cline says:

    I love this! Especially the connection piece. That’s crucial – and ever more important as we raise kids in this digital age. My children won’t know life without cell phones or ipads or computers…and this was a great reminder for me to look up every now and then as well as to think about what I teach my children.
    I have to admit, I sometimes “forget” my phone simply for the freedom it allows.
    Perhaps I’ll do that more often!

  55. Keena Hudson says:

    I have noticed that management in organisations has been becoming more impersonal and rule based. I often wonder if that’s a result of communicating more by email and less by phone or face to face. Side issue, but I’d love to see it explored.

  56. Nina says:

    We’re kindred spirit. I’ve been writing a series for The Jewish Daily Forward about cutting my iPhone time in HALF. I chose to cut it in half rather than eliminate my smartphone completely because I’ve read accounts of people doing it and it seems impossible to maintain–too drastic, I guess. The cutting the time in half has been amazing. I honestly feel like a different person. I kept on all the apps, but I made some rules about times I can use my phone. Some of my rules:
    -it can never enter our bedroom
    -can never be on the table during a meal in or out of the house
    -never in car
    -must allow myself to be bored for 5 minutes in any waiting situation (standing in line, elevator, etc.)

    The biggest improvement has probably come from taking it out of my bedroom. I read more at night (and I was already reading a book a week) and I get ready fast in the morning.

    Anyway, sorry to blab so much about myself. I loved your post and I’m looking forward to poking around your blog.

  57. Samantha says:

    Your observation is so true. I watch my husband constantly checking his blackberry & reacting to his messages. When he is not looking at this screen, he has his HTC to view, his tablet & two lap tops. He runs his own business & my view is that this business must really be suffering because he has no time or space o think. I sort-of imagine his employees are the same so busy sending messages, they have little time I really think about what they are doing. Decisions may be made quicker but I suspect at h speed, they are knee-jerk.

    • Luca says:

      Like you said, decisions may be made quicker – but is that of any value if no one really knows what they’re deciding on? If no one just stops for a moment to think about what they’re actually trying to accomplish?

  58. Jo Casey says:

    Great post Jonathan – it made me think of this recent TED talk on Monotasking by a designer who makes iPhone cases that he calls the monophone – downgrading the phone’s capability to just one task.
    It’s a great talk – funny and thought provoking

    http://www.ted.com/talks/paolo_cardini_forget_multitasking_try_monotasking.html

  59. [...] I have written several times about the need to be aware of how we are affected by our technology.  Jonathan Fields offers another take on this issue in his own reflection about the pressure to be constantly connected. [...]

  60. Otiti says:

    I only have Twitter and BBM on my phone. Took Facebook and email off last December and never put them back in. I keep Twitter because it connects me to my friends abroad, but that’s pretty much it.

    So true about needing the mental space before magic can actually happen.

  61. For most of us, how big a detriment would it be to not have a cell phone? Compared to the benefit of improving true social connection, I say not much at all.

  62. Got rid of my iPhone months ago. Best life enhancing decision ever. Being “connected” has nothing to do with technology, it has everything to do with hearing your own internal voice.

    My phone worked against that 24/7.

  63. CJ Schepers says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    This one really struck a chord with me. Just because we have the technology 24/7 doesn’t mean we should be using it 24/7. Thanks for some sanity.

  64. Luca says:

    I’m so with you on this one. Do have an iPhone, but no data plan. I only receive messages if I manually ask for them – when there’s wifi (another threshold to constantly check everything).
    I love the peace, the quietness, it gives me. There’s space in my head to think.

    Still, I love the internet and all the social tools that come with it. Just only when I actively decide to spend time on it.

    Like you said: don’t let technology own you. Your life is worth more than that!

  65. Cher says:

    loved this article …I already learned to turn my phone off and train people to not expect to reach me at all hours. I will share this with my boss, however, as she left her phone on, when a text sound woke her at 3 am, answered it! sheesh.

  66. Sheri Keys says:

    I just turned mine off this week because it was too addictive. :) Too much of anything is a bad thing.

  67. Kathy says:

    I just upgraded to an android, the clerk at the shop was fascinated by my 6 year old ‘antique’ phone. I spent several hours exploring apps and found a few that would be useful and more than a few that seemed quite invasive to me. My son was bewildered when I started to clear 2 of the screens of any but the fundamental badges so that all I see there is the lovely picture.
    I love to have the options to access things whenever and wherever I want and I agree that this is an excellent tool but a pointless pastime.

  68. Kelly says:

    I absolutely love your way with words. And I recently had a very similar experience when my SD card died and I went ahead and decided to go blank slate on my phone. Sharing a great blog!

  69. Caleb says:

    Fastcompany recently had a great write up titled #unplugged that spoke to this.
    Since reading it I actually made a complue adjustments to my phone so I’m less distracted. I turned off ALL notifications other than Calendar notifications. Now I’m not longer sucked into my phone with a Twitter update when I just turned on the phone to check the time.

    I also resinate with “just being” when not in phone mode! Some of my most quiet times are when I’m out on a trail run, not checking anything, but even then I’m tempted many times to Instagram an amazing view I saw on my run.

    I definitely think I could do without email on my phone. I’ve gone to bed with elevated stress levels several times just from checking email by muscle memory before bed.

  70. This is so true… I’ve been thinking about how we need to wean ourselves off of our smartphones (or at least lessen our dependency). Everything should be had in moderation — something’s gotta give!

  71. Brett says:

    I had a similar experience happen to me the other day, although I did not get a new phone, when I finally installed the new update on my iPhone it caused a restart and I lost everything on my phone. Thankfully I had a backup on iTunes, but for a while I just left it with the stock apps. It was nice for a while, but then I started to miss some of the connectivity, I started to miss the interaction and benefits of the other apps. This post reminded me of Paul Miller’s experiment: http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/1/4279674/im-still-here-back-online-after-a-year-without-the-internet

    I agree with you though, all things in moderation, and that too many apps are really just too many distractions to our efforts to serve others. We can all benefit from minimalizing our lives and our phones.

  72. Barbara says:

    I like my iPhone, I don’t like the panic I feel when I leave it behind because I know it is irrational. I have some great apps on it. I made a conscious choice for no social media apps and games and that has worked well for me. I think it is not the technology but how we use it.

  73. Momekh says:

    Jonathan, I just love this!

    It’s Ramadan nowadays – fasting every day for a month – and I planned to remove all “distractions” to focus more on what I call “spiritual creativity”. I deleted Twitter, Instagram and Facebook from my phone. I logged off from FB and Twitter on my browser (funny how we never log off these things, no?).

    And I TOTALLY get what you’re saying… It never is a question of “what’s the overall harm in doing these things?” etc… or my favorite, “where’s the data to support that you are more productive when not using such tools?” …

    It’s much simpler. Much, much simpler. Anyone reading this, I just ask them to remove these apps from their phones, do it as a test, an experiment. Do it for a week or so.

    And we will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree with you on this!

    P.S. I couldn’t bring myself to delete the ‘email’ app on the phone. Doing it now! And also, loved the “the fornication and incubation of ideas worth birthing” line :)

  74. Loved this! I think our addiction to being connected 24/7 is keeping us from a lot of those “slow hunch” ideas. I seem to get a lot of my best ideas when I am in a meditative state of farming, walking, showering, etc. Might consider erasing my phone as well. Or unplugging for an entire week :)

  75. Talk about late to the party! I’ve only just got a smart phone and put up a FB page in the last couple of weeks. I felt like I couldn’t ignore it any more from a business perspective. But, to be honest, I resent the time it takes me to learn this stuff and keep adding to the conversation. I resent the number of things I can’t join in with if I don’t log in with Facebook. If the tide starts to turn the other way I for one will be very, very happy.

  76. Erin says:

    Technology makes a great slave, but an awful master! I remember when I chose to disconnect my business email account from my phone: freedom! And no double-handling (or missing) emails.

    I’ve created a separate email account just for newsletters (I call it NewsletterSanity@…..) and have this linked to my phone. When I feel like reading something on my phone, it’s there, but there isn’t that intense pull.

  77. Lauren Rader says:

    So agree – all this technology -double edged. I chose to keep my old phone, and not go to the iphone. I’m sucked in enough by my computer. It’s a question of balance, and it’s not easy as there’s so much I love to learn but wow turn around and an hour of my life is gone, never to return!
    Great stuff Jonathan. Thank you, Lauren

  78. Anis says:

    After reading this I removed Twitter from my phone, so now my phone is social media free. I hardly use apps now unless it’s for productivity. I don’t count Instagram as social media, either, it’s more of an artistic expression, for me.

    Since removing twitter, my “in between” times, like getting too and from meetings on the train are marvellous! I love the freedom of thought, and heightened awareness I achieve as a result. I’m less distracted. Disconnecting has enabled me to feel more connected. Thanks for the inspiration!