A couple things my exploding laptop taught me about perspective
A week sans tech
I sat in Starbucks, 1840 words into my university essay.
There was a pop and the screen went black.
I smelt burning.
I knew it wasn’t going to turn back on.
I went to the store to find out it’d blown in a freak accident, and I wasn’t going to retrieve my work. I guess it was self-inflicted because I hadn’t backed it up for two weeks, but still.
In the end, a data specialist saved it. But while I hadn’t lost my data, there was something I had lost.
“a true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion”
I love how mathematical this definition is. It completely skirts over the emotional — and everyday — importance of perspective.
For me, perspective is about realising that it could be worse. That as bad as it feels at that moment in time, it just isn’t. Or, in the words of my friends,
“It’s not that deep.”
But however important perspective is, it’s difficult to compare ourselves to the world’s biggest disasters when we’re knee-deep in our own challenges. No level of rational thinking — or perspective — is going to make us feel better in that immediate moment. It’s human nature to think our problems are the worst out there.
But hindsight helps, and although it sucks that I’ve become dependent on a machine to the extent that losing data and work made me go into panic mode, I can’t beat myself up about it. So instead, I learnt to appreciate a couple things that little bit more.
I love to read, but not having a laptop made me love it more. Normally, I read in bed, on the bus, or when I’m waiting for something. This time, I sat at my desk and opened a physical book.
And as I read, I jotted my thoughts down into a real notebook. I’ve always liked to write thoughts down on physical paper, but it’s become much less of a common occurrence because it can be a bit of a faff to organise and revisit paper notes — compared to having all notes at the tap of a finger or the click of a button.
But another great part of writing into a notebook was that I was forced to be concise — I couldn’t write down every single thought that came to mind because cba. I had to sift through my own mental clutter and write down the essentials. I couldn’t just copy paste, and I wasn’t going to write down massive chunks of book.
Plus, it made me feel more detached — because I was. The process was slower, but I think it was more effective. I definitely remember more of what I read through physically writing it down.
I sat and did just that. I just sat. I looked around — at people, trees, buildings. And I realised how much time I’d spent looking down.
We’ve forgotten how to be bored, and (in my opinion) that’s one of the biggest consequences of tech. It means we fidget and stress out when we don’t have something to watch or read or listen to.
So to be forced to just sit was a breath of fresh air. And I didn’t feel too bad about it because there was no alternative. I was a bit bored, but the boredom eased over the week. I learnt to be there in the moment and appreciate what was going on around me. It made me feel calmer.
I definitely spoke to more people in real life. I think it’s because I saw more people as a result of not looking down at my hands all of the time.
I didn’t bring out my phone and leave it on the dinner table. I didn’t take my laptop into the kitchen. Instead, I spent time — and, like, actually spent time (versus passively being present) — with my housemates. We chatted more. We probably laughed more.
So when I see articles about social media and phones and loneliness, there’s a massive link. Not just because we’re constantly comparing ourselves to fabulously unattainable Insta-lives, but simply because we’re too busy looking down at the ground to see people we know walk by.
I’m glad to have my devices back for practical reasons — university work, music, and, yes, social media. But I’m making some more permanent changes off the back of the past week.
I’m deleting the apps I don’t need (as if we need apps? Are they utilities now? Debate…) and I’m using certain social media platforms less. As for Medium, well, I’m not going to count it as a social media platform in the classical sense. I love what I read on here.
A few days without devices are enough to change how you feel about them. The question is now whether or not you can maintain that new relationship (as sad as it sounds) if and when you get them back.
And two days on, I’m still embarrassed at the reaction I had when it all broke. Granted, it was less the machine itself and more the work I’d done on the machine, but even so. Perspective — at least I’m fortunate enough to have a laptop and phone in the first place.
So I implore you to reduce how much time you spent on your laptop (and phone). And I hope you’ll gain a little more perspective, just like I did. But if you don’t, there’s one more lesson I want you to take away from this short post:
Please, for the love of g*d, use Google Drive.
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Thanks for reading!