Undigitize me.

The increasing usage of digital devices and services seek subconsciously and also in public solutions for a more conscious use. Are we even willing and able to change?

Digital vs. Analog

In a conversation with a friend of mine I found out something pretty sad. He never takes a walk in the forest. Well, for me as a dog owner it is quite the best way to choose this environment. Nevertheless, his statement astonished me in a strange way.

A similar feeling I had when I read an article on a news website: More and more Children unlearn handwriting. In a survey 40% of 1400 parents say that typing fluently on a keyboard is more important to them than than using a pen.

No surprise. Who takes out his notebook to write down a short memo nowadays? It is a lot faster to take your smartphone out of the pocket and type it in. So this habit — using a digital before an analog way — becomes more widespread.

Digital devices distract as from work

In another article Alexander Markowetz from the University of Bonn claims that we neglect our family and our work because of our smartphone usage. With the app Menthal — which tracks how often and what for we use our smartphone — he and his students found out something shocking.

Digital devices that can do more things than ever before increasingly distract us from essential actions. In the worst case we unlock our smartphone 90 times a day. That’s about every ten minutes. What this means for our workflow, common activities or personal conversations is obvious. A focus on our work or on a profound discussion gets almost lost.

In an other case professor Clay Shirky goes back to the roots and summons his students to pack away their laptops and smartphones. He says that it is impossible for him to cope with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. He perceives this omission of these devices as kind of fresh air in his lecture hall.

Detraditionalization

Equally we can observe a sustaining loss of traditions. At this juncture everyone should ask himself when he sang a song together with his relatives or when he declaimed a poem for the last time. Or when did you hum your favorite song to someone who didn’t know it? Using YouTube seems to be the more pleasant and quicker way.

Especially this moments when someone is afraid of making a fool of himself could be such funny and enriching ones. But in our society there is such a big fear of failing so we try everything to avoid that.

Just like in public places: You are at the bus station and you don’t know when your next bus is coming. But you are not willing to ask the young man with the earphones next to you if the arriving bus is the one to take. Instead we look it up in our cellphone. And the bus is gone.

Do we unlearn to communicate?

All these phenomena are well-known to some of us. I often talk to people if the digital progress is blessing or curse. The answers are more negative than positive. Particularly in the way we communicate we can see a change.

We don’t call each other any more. We text. This is a curse. We are getting more and more lazy of making proper conversations. Our mothers — fortunately — have WhatsApp, too, so it is not necessary to call them. The way of our communication regresses steadily.

10 years ago, I almost called my best friend every day for two to three hours. Such long talks are not longer common. Now we text two to three messages with our relatives to cover the necessity to talk.

Humans have to be more self-disciplined

What has to happen? Alexander Markowetz thinks that companies such as Apple or Samsung in the future will boast that they create the most relaxed and eased products. Devices that will not distract you every 10 minutes.

I think devices have to be conceived that they know when the user has to be informed about a specific event. Alarm clocks that extract information from your calendar and your work schedule so they know when to ring. Fitness trackers that rap you over the knuckles when you try to eat too much carbohydrates.

Ok, this would be a step too far. The important thing is that we humans have to be more self-disciplined. We have to learn not to get controlled by our devices. We have to get the control back.

Also we have to stick to our traditions. Recently my mother showed me her first love letter which she received from her admirer. I still got mine from my first girlfriends, too. But what will my children do when they only can type on a keyboard or a cellphone? The first love text? The first duckface selfie? The first Snapchat post?

So we all should ask ourselves in which direction this Hype about IoT devices should go. Do we want even more distraction and dissipation? Or do we want to focus to the essentials, preserve traditions, step out of our comfort zone to think outside the box? But be careful — there could be an interesting conversation waiting for you.