Sunday, November 06, 2016

Weekly Inspiration: Life in the Digital Now

It's been a while since my last Weekly Inspiration post (more like a Quarterly Inspiration post lately!), and I think this particular topic helps to explain why.

I watched this brief TED talk by Abha Daewesar, called Life in the "Digital Now," in which she examines the differences between real life and real time versus what we experience spending a lot of time online, in the "digital now." Check it out:

I found this talk particularly inspiring because it is something that I struggle with - a lot. More and more, the digital online world pulls us away from real life and real interactions. I find myself wishing I had more time for friends, for reading, for enjoying the outdoors, while my laptop holds me captive for hours. There is always something I feel like I must do (and I am often behind on) - e-mails, Facebook posts, Twitter...and writing blog posts! There are links saved in my e-mail and browser bookmarks of articles I keep meaning to read, videos I mean to watch, people I want to respond to. There is never enough time in this digital world to fit in all that that it has to offer!

As for real life, I know I am guilty of typing away while my husband is talking, my kids are visiting, even while I watch a TV show together with my family. I do have goals and objectives that directly address my desire for more real life and a better balance between the digital world and the real one. And in some of these areas, I've been successful: I close my laptop and set it aside by 7:30 pm each evening so that my husband and I can watch our favorite TV shows together, I try to get outside at least 10 minutes every day, I plan to see friends once a week (a stretch goal for anyone with ME/CFS!), and my daily nap is sacred. But I still feel this constant struggle between the digital world and the real world.

This balance is even more delicate for those with ME/CFS who are housebound or bedridden. Although I am not in either category, I do need a large amount quiet, down time in my own house which often translates to being pulled into that digital world. For us, much of our interactions with people, our relationships are carried out online. We read blogs, Tweets, and Facebook pages; interact with others like us in groups or forums; and correspond through e-mail and social media. Interacting with people in real life and real time is not always an option for us. But we can still do some things to ensure that our digital lives are not becoming our real lives exclusively.

I love what the speaker here says about how humans are designed to work with nature's time: the sun and the moon, the changing of the seasons. I love the outdoors and experiencing nature, and I learned a long time ago that I need to immerse myself in nature for at least a short time each day in order to feel connected to the real world. Sometimes I am able to take a short walk in the woods, but often my outdoor time is spent lying on our back deck or driving with the top down on my old VW convertible. If you are bedridden, engaging with nature might mean merely opening a window - setting aside your electronic devices and listening to birds, watching the leaves in the trees, or enjoying flowers in a windowbox. However it is spent, I find that even a small amount of outdoor time rejuvenates me and reconnects me with the real world.

The other thing we can do - that I need to work on myself! - is fully engaging in the real world when we are able to. This means stopping what I am doing online and giving my husband my full attention when he comes into the room and starts talking to me. It means eating meals together and talking and not in front of the TV (we are very good on that point, actually). It means setting aside technology when you see a friend or family member, especially if those are rare occasions. And sometimes, it merely means setting the devices aside to completely lose yourself in a good book or listen to an audiobook or focusing on the outdoor world and nature.

Technology is a lifeline for many of us, but we have to be careful not to let it take over our lives. Digital time is different than real time, and humans were made for real time. This balancing act is a constant struggle for me, but I am going to continue to try to make time for real life and not let my online life take over. I guess that means I should finish this post and enjoy breakfast with my family!

Do you struggle with balancing real life and digital life? What strategies work for you?

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