Are You Brave Enough to Break From Technology?
‘Look where you’re going!’ I said to a young lady, head down, tapping out a text message and walking straight for your editor yesterday.
‘[Inaudible]‘ she replied.
I couldn’t tell if it was a word, a group of words, or just a grunt.
In recent months I’ve developed a new policy when walking down the street. If I see someone walking towards me as they play on their mobile phone, I just keep walking and wait for them to get out of the way.
Sometimes their peripheral vision is good enough that startled, they look up and swerve. Other times they keep going until they’re barely a nose-length from your editor’s face.
Maybe you think that’s aggressive.
But I just think it’s common courtesy for someone to look where they’re going. Why should I move out of the way because someone is so rude and ignorant they can’t be bothered to look where they’re going?
Admittedly I haven’t tried this with a hundred kilo bikie gang member walking towards me…I’ll let you know the outcome if that happens!
But this story brings me back to something I’d like to tell you about…
I Did Something No One Else Has Done
I’ve lost track of when it was. It was either two or three years ago.
I had a basic mobile phone. And when I say basic, it was basic. It wasn’t a fancy iPhone or some other smart phone. In fact, it was so basic I can’t even remember the brand name.
Anyway, I didn’t use it much. To the extent that one day I tried sending a text message only to find out it didn’t work. You see, about a year before that I had transferred my mobile from post-paid to pre-paid.
And what I didn’t know was that if you don’t re-charge a pre-paid mobile at least every six months the mobile phone company will cancel the service.
After having a mobile phone for 13 or 14 years, I was suddenly mobile-less. Panic. What would I do?
It turns out I did what probably no other person in human history has done. I gave up ownership of a mobile phone. I decided I didn’t really need one at all.
So I thanked the mobile phone company for cancelling my service and went cold turkey.
It was surprisingly simple and do you know what? I haven’t looked back since. You should try it too…go on, don’t be scared, it doesn’t hurt.
There isn’t a single day when I wished I had a mobile phone. I won’t get all mushy and say it was a liberating experience, because it wasn’t. After all, it was just a mobile phone, so let’s keep some perspective.
It was no more liberating than if I decided I wouldn’t eat cheeseburgers any more…or if I decided to only wear t-shirts rather than polo shirts.
But when you don’t have a mobile phone, you do tend to notice things.
Is Working Too Much Bad for Your Health?
For instance, you notice the couple sat in a restaurant, both tapping away at their smart phone (tap, tap, tap)…
The meal arrives (tap, tap, tap).
They eat (tap, tap, tap) the meal.
The meal ends (tap, tap, tap).
And as they leave the restaurant…you got it…tap, tap, tap.
Then there are the friends walking down the street. One of them chats away on the phone. I’ve seen this hundreds of times.
Sometimes they’re walking in the same direction as me so I happen to follow them…one of them is still chatting on the phone. The phone conversation may last five or 10 minutes. The other friend tags along playing gooseberry.
They must really enjoy each other’s company!
The last time I was on a plane, barely three-tenths of a second after the pilot said it was safe to use mobile phones…tap, tap, tap. Another person made a call to say the plane had landed and they’ll see them in the office the next day.
No wonder phone companies make so much money.
And now I think back to the years when I had a company-provided Blackberry device. If you’ve used one you’ll know that when an email arrives the little flashing light turns red…quick, gotta check my email.
To be honest, I look back at those days in embarrassment. No wonder they call it a ‘Crackberry’…it’s sadly addictive.
I’m 100% sure that I never received an email that was so important I had to stop what I was doing and read it immediately.
And I’m pretty sure that 99.99% of texts received on any given day don’t need an immediate reply either.
Let’s be honest, constantly checking for texts or emails is as ridiculous as checking your mailbox every minute to see if the postie has been.
And quite frankly, it’s not healthy…
As a recent report in the Independent notes:
‘People who work for 11 or more hours a day are twice as likely to suffer from major depression as those working the standard eight-hour day, research has shown.’
My guess is that most of the extra work time is people checking, reading and sending emails at home using their mobile phone or tablet computer.
Now, based on everything I’ve just said you may think I’m some sort of caveman who hates technology.
Wrong, let me explain…
How Technology Improves Lives
I love technology. New technology – including mobile technology – has helped with all sorts of business and consumer improvements.
Computers. Satellites. Mobile phones. Televisions. Heart monitors. Microwave ovens. Clock radios. Tablet computers. Cars. Aeroplanes.
But even though I love technology, I don’t want technology to control everything I do. And by carrying a portable communications device 24/7 you’re letting technology control your life.
But as I say, even though I’ve given up on mobile phones, I don’t eschew technology.
As I wrote in a recent issue of my share-tipping newsletter, Australian Small-Cap Investigator:
‘In 1996 you were lucky if you had one device at home connected to the internet. And even then it was a slow 28Kbps or 56Kbps modem.
‘That’s how it was in my household 16 years ago.
‘Contrast that to today. As I write this report from my home study, I’m typing this newsletter on a laptop computer. That’s next to the desktop computer…
‘There’s my wife’s work laptop computer and her Apple iPhone. We’ve got an iPad each. I’ve got a Kindle. Plus, our two daughters have a laptop and iPod each…
‘Finally, our eldest daughter has a school-provided netbook computer.
‘All up, that makes 13 devices. Each connects to the internet using a cable or wireless modem.’
And by the time Christmas is over we’ll add two more internet-enabled devices to that list (I can’t tell you what they are because they’re Christmas presents…just in case the kids read this).
You should embrace, enjoy and use new technology. New technology leads to improvements in the quality of life. That’s true at work and at home.
Compare factory conditions 70 years ago with factory conditions today. All of that improvement is down to one thing: new technology (technology that trade unions of the day fought against).
But the fact is, as with most things, you should use technology in moderation. At some point your use of new technology becomes a burden on you and reduces your quality of life.
Television is a great technology, yet you shouldn’t watch it 18 hours a day.
The internet is a great technology, but you shouldn’t use it 18 hours a day.
The same goes for mobile phones, cars, microwave ovens…just because the technology exists doesn’t mean you have to use it non-stop.
Right now I fear that most people haven’t figured that out when it comes to mobile devices (phones and tablets) and the internet.
It’s great to use new technology. But if you use it too much it becomes mind-numbing.
Technology Trends to Continue
Have you ever found yourself playing on your phone or tablet and next thing you know two hours have passed?
And what have you achieved in that time? Checked your email, text messages, Twitter and Facebook account 50 times?
I got a Kindle last year, and I love it. But I make a point of buying regular printed books too…just so I can get away from a screen.
Technology will become even more pervasive in your life in the coming years. I know that because I’ve watched these trends carefully over the years, and I write about them in my monthly investment service.
In short, enjoy technology, but also make sure you step back from it every now and then.
From the Port Phillip Publishing Library
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Pursuit of Happiness:
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Australian Small-Cap Investigator:
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