The dirty little secret of a .com CEO

I don’t think this relationship is working out so well… why I am not in love with technology

My phone is incredible… and I can’t stand the thing. My laptop is a miraculous feat of human accomplishment… and quite possibly the work of the devil. Despite running a .com business and spending much of my life connected, I’m not really turned on by the whole digital world. Technology, I’m not in love with you.

We all spend a ridiculous amount of soul-crushing time jumping through electronic hoops. Credit card expired? Get ready for hours of retrieving lost passwords, updating direct debits and swearing at unco-operative websites. In need of a holiday? Prepare for a brutal few days in an online battle with airlines, accommodation providers, car rental agencies and travel insurance providers. It sounds like a pain, but it will all be well worth it when you are lying on a tropical beach… checking your work email.

I dream of driving into the wide blue yonder, far away from mobile coverage and all those incessant pings on my phone. But would that really work? I outsourced the map reading part of my brain to Google years ago. I would probably end up just going around and around in some never-ending loop of toll roads.

I’m horribly dependent on technology. If ever I was thrown in jail and had just one call I don’t think I would even remember anyone’s number. They don’t reside in my brain anymore. I got rid of them as I desperately needed to free up space so I could figure out my accounting software. Instead of being conveniently parked in the squishy grey bits of my head, all this information is stored on some far-flung digital cloud, along with the capital cities I once learnt in geography and all sorts of other rarely accessed facts.

Granted, facts are very 2015 anyway. You can now get by surprisingly well with just opinions and a Twitter account. But I can’t even be bothered with any of that. Being on any social network takes a lot of effort, advanced skills in personal brand management and a willingness to engage in endless hours of unhealthy social comparison. Who’d have thought such a painful, time-consuming exercise would be so popular? It is also an horrific waste. Each day a huge proportion of humanity’s collective capacity is spent simply fishing for ‘likes’ in a swirling digital abyss filled with trolls, narcissists and pouty Photoshopped selfies.

The level of our desperate attention seeking really is astounding. As soon as a camera was connected to a phone we couldn’t get enough; but no longer are our pictures worth 1000 words. They have been cheapened to the point where they now just scream two words over and over again “LIKE ME! LIKE ME! LIKE ME!” We’ve outsourced our self-worth to a bunch of semi-interested semi-friends who may or may not be bothered to plonk their fingers on a small screen. It’s all tragically sad and lonely… but at least it is making Mark Zuckerberg incontinently rich.

Technology is also getting creepy. When Edward Snowden revealed the giant data-sucking hoover that our intelligence agencies operate, I had to apologise to my neighbour in the tinfoil hat for calling him a wacko. He was right. They are watching. They can hear everything I’m saying. If they really want, they can turn on my camera and stare at me as I do naked star jumps in what I once considered the privacy of my own home.

As technology has evolved, we’ve also been lumped with the burden of choice. Right now, you could be reading 25,000 other articles where someone is madly ranting about the evils of technology. No doubt, there is at least one better than this and you’re missing out. Disappointing, isn’t it? But what are you going to do? Turn on the TV and you will have to decide between thousands of different shows on multiple different online platforms. You will then spend the next half an hour torturously flicking about, before settling on a re-run of some horrible Adam Sandler movie that you were ashamed to watch the first time around.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Technology was supposed to serve our needs. It was supposed to save us time, so we could all work 3-hour weeks and fluff about the rest of the time creating art, starting experimental punk bands and racing hoverboards.

But what can we do about it?

My theory is: Don’t get angry — get outside. Yes, leave that stupid phone behind and go for a walk. Feel the sun on your skin. Listen to the birds. Smell the flowers. It’s really quite simple, but highly restorative. These days they call it ‘mindfulness’ but for millennia it was just how humans lived.

Of course, as a 21st century being you can’t escape technology completely… but you can try not to be a slave to it. How many hours a week do you really want to spend managing that social media profile? How many photos will you actually look at ever again? How many options do you want to analyse before making any choice?

Ditch that fear of missing out and embrace the glorious old-world notion of taking it slow. Rather than rushing through the self-scan at the supermarket, wait in line for the lovely human. Rather than nuking a ready meal, take time to cook something nice, then sit down with the people you love, have a conversation and really savour that meal. And if you feel like doing naked star jumps in the privacy of your own home, do naked star jumps like no one is watching!

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