As I was preparing for our podcast on life in a digital age, I was intrigued to discover there was a study evidencing how some interaction with technology causes us to be more present.
I think most of us who have been around long enough to experience life before the internet and smartphones deal with some mental friction between “digital life” and what we consider to be “real life.”
We’ve long felt or suspected negative effects of increased reliance on our phones, and interactions online replacing in-person connections.
We often have a nagging sense of guilt over it, even making grand gestures of “quitting social media” or “fasting” from this or that tech.
It’s true that it’s easy to have surface-y online interactions, get addicted to the “high” of pixel validations, and abuse the easy connection to never-ending entertainment as a way of escape.
I think we largely miss the good we can glean from it all when we’re so busy subconsciously demonizing tools for our own lack of intentionality and subsequent bad habits.
Because that’s what tech, the internet, social media, all of it is… a tool.
I’m not blaming us, though.
Most of us didn’t have a filter in place to help us determine how to best integrate new things into our lives.
The wave of tech and online integration, along with the shift of work becoming more flexible has made it more important than ever to have a core “why” for our lives.
I think more than just attempting to keep our lives balanced by not using technology “too much”, we should instead focus on approaching technology in a more mindful way.
Here are 7 ways we can thoughtfully use technology as a tool to help us be more present.
Many of these benefits are things we’ve probably already experienced, but maybe haven’t taken the time to really recognize. Additionally, it does take some intentionality to really make the most of them.
The study I mentioned at the beginning (referenced here) found that taking pictures of the moment helped people to enjoy it more.
Common wisdom assumes taking pictures would detract from the moment, but if you think about it, it makes sense that you become more aware and engaged with a moment when you’re trying to capture it. It becomes something you take more ownership in as you recognize how you’re contributing to its creation.
We’ve been videoing pieces of our lives since we went on a crazy adventure around the country in 2012.
Similarly to taking pictures, recording video can make you more aware of the details of the moment, but more than that I’ve found having the chance to watch yourself back is a really good tool for self-reflection and prompting better interactions with those you love.
It might seem silly, but tracking things changes our decisions in the moment because it makes us more aware of what we’re doing.
Tracking our steps, tracking the food we eat, tracking our time, tracking our finances, and countless other things…
These all lead to more intentional moments, and tech makes it so. much. easier, automatic even, in some cases.
We encounter so many cool things as we go about our day that we don’t take the time to notice or appreciate.
Stopping to look up information about a bird we see, or finding a YouTube video answering how something works, for example, increases our appreciation for details in our life.
5. Timeline Memories
It’s funny that something from the past popping up makes you more present, but I really feel it does.
Recognizing the time that’s gone, evaluating what’s changed and where you are now… it makes you that much more motivated to make the most of the present moment.
6. Meditation Apps
From basic apps to brainwave sensing headbands, you can literally train your mind to become more focused and present.
Setting strategic reminders throughout our day can draw our awareness to where we want it to be and even create new habits of mindfulness.
I’m sure there are many more ways technology helps us be more present, especially if you take into consideration how it frees up our time, like tagging the Instant Pot to make supper, for example. I’d love to hear other ideas you might have for how to use tech to be more mindful!
I think one of the biggest keys to navigating all of this successfully (at least for Millenials and older) is removing the mental fragmentation of “digital life” vs “real life”.
It’s all life.
Wherever you go, in whatever ways you interact with the world, you’re leaving your mark.
“Online” is part of the new normal…
Allow the different parts of your life to mentally merge as one cohesive whole so you can approach everything you do with the same mindfulness.