Just over 2 weeks in, I continue unabated.

I decoupled all my work related stuff from my iphone and moved it to my work iphone. I can’t get rid of it, because you know.. work. But it sits in my laptop bag and is only used for work related things during work hours.

In my personal life, my iphone sits in a corner until such time as I finish removing accounts from my Authy authenticator app over to my yubikey. I’ve moved a few of the ones I use more frequently already – I’m going to move the rest in the next couple of days, before I head off for the beach this weekend. Truthfully I’ve not touched the phone at all since about a week ago when I saw the battery had died and I hooked it up to charge. Once I get the authenticator stuff off it I might put it in my desk drawer for a bit to make sure I don’t discover I forgot something before I sell it on ebay or somesuch. Sure, the screen is finicky, but someone will probably be willing to pay something for it despite that.

I also plan to roll back the other smart devices in my life – ditch my Amazon Echo devices apart from my FireTVs. I might get rid of the cube eventually because it has the always-listening Alexa – the stick for the tv in my bedroom requires me to hit the button. At any rate, I don’t plan to stop using streaming services, so I’ll be using some sort of device for that. As I may have mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I don’t intend to get rid of ALL technology in my life, just to roll back.

I have several smart lights that tie into Alexa, but once the Echos are gone they will function as normal lights when I flip light switches. My Alexa-enabled coffee maker will work fine just as a coffee maker as well – I basically never use that functionality anyway – pro-tip: don’t buy one, it’s a waste of money. Then there is my smart lock, which I also rarely use because it’s on my front door I almost always enter my house through my garage. And that’s pretty much it on the “smart” front.

I had wondered if my iPad use might go up with getting rid of the iPhone. While I’ve not actually checked the screen time to compare before and after, it definitely doesn’t feel like I’ve been using it anymore than I was. If it’s gone up, it’s only been a marginal amount. I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ve found that having the stupid flip phone makes it easy to not distract myself by looking at a phone when I’m sitting with people or out and about. Texting isn’t that bad, but definitely I keep myself from writing any diatribes to people.

My next step after that will probably be a temporary thing, like eliminate computer usage apart from what I have to do for work for a month. When I’ve done similar things with like a particular app/website, such as Facebook, in the past,I’ve found when I come back I spend less time doing it. I could do with spending less time on that stuff. If I’m feeling really ambitious I might say no tv/movies either – basically eliminate screens entirely for that month. We’ll see – I’ll have to pick a month.

Beyond that I’m not sure of the best steps. Some of what I’d like to accomplish would probably involve moving. But finding what I’d like to find would probably be a bit of a challenge. I’d like to live in a community with a decent amount of walkability – or maybe bicyclability – but that isn’t like… in a city. I don’t know if it exists in the world today. But it just seems weird to me that so little of what I do is near to me – and I have to get in a car for awhile to do most of what I do.

Anyway, I’ll try to keep the updates coming – and I have a couple other ideas of things to write about that I just need to take the time to sit down and write. With any luck I’ll get myself to do it before too much longer.

Resist Convenience

I’ve been listening to a lot of videos and podcasts recently about how the advancement of technology is increasingly disconnecting us from the natural world. It’s something that I’ve thought about before, but recently it’s been increasingly at the forefront of my mind.

Something about the way that I live just doesn’t seem normal. By the standards of modern society it actually is quite normal. I do work on a computer, sometimes in an office, sometimes from home (that latter part having only recently become normal). I live in a house, in a small development with a bunch of neighbors who mostly do the same. I sometimes talk to a couple of my nearest neighbors, but for the most part I am unfamiliar with them. Most of what I do is on a screen, whether for work or pleasure, or for educational purposes.

Technology improves our lives in many ways. It’s not that it is inherently a bad thing, but much of the time I think we find ourselves being enthralled by it. Scrolling through Twitter endlessly, searching for an argument with some anonymous person. But is it a person? It very well may not be. One irony of the internet is that when we interact someone there, we may do so forgetting that a real person is on the other end of our cruel words – but we also can’t be sure that the things we’re seeing posted were actually written by humans at all – bots increasingly muddy the waters of online discourse. (See the “Dead Internet Theory”: https://youtu.be/9WB5grLMXkU)

That’s unnatural. How are we meant to come to a common understanding if we can’t even know that we’re engaging with something real? Aside from that, the internet has connected people with fringe beliefs into communities that justify those beliefs. For example, flat earthers. Pre-internet, those who truly believed in a flat earth were less numerous than they are post. The spread and pervasiveness of pornography has increased tremendously, never more than a few clicks away when temptation strikes. It creates a world where the fake is easier than the real. The advancement toward virtual reality threatens to move that line even further. Why do work to better your life when you can just load up whatever life you want and pretend it’s the real thing?

There’s also the simpler matters of disconnect from nature. We wake up to alarm clocks to get to a job at a particular time, which really has no bearing to anything meaningful. Whether the sun has risen or set has very little impact on us. Our time is so arbitrary that for large portions of the year we pretend that if we change the time on the clock for one hour we are somehow creating an extra hour of daylight (I did the math, the sun stays up the same amount of time either way). Just the other day someone was telling me that she can only eat meat because she’s convinced herself it comes from the grocery store. Most of us know next to nothing about working the earth.

I don’t know how to get to something approximating “normal” as I conceive it. But a start is to take small steps and experiment with reducing or eliminating certain types of technology. For me, going “all the way” has some serious challenges. I work in Information Security – that is going to necessitate a certain amount of exposure to computers. But, it’s also not necessarily about taking it all the way – just getting closer and learning what technology I can have a healthy relationship with, and what I can’t.

My first experiment is a simple one. My iPhone’s touch screen recently started glitching out, becoming increasingly difficult to use. At first I started to look toward replacing it with a new one, but then I recognized an opportunity. Do I need a smartphone? Is my relationship with a smartphone a healthy one? I honestly think the answer to both questions is no. And so 3 days ago I pulled the sim card out of my iPhone 11 and placed it into a Nokia 2780 flip phone. It’s a much simpler phone, and let’s be real, it’s still pretty technological, but it’s a real step back from current technological advancements. No scrolling through Twitter or news apps. No watching videos (ok, technically it can but the experience is terrible). Sending text messages is far less convenient. Abandoning a cell phone entirely would make it very hard to live in the world today, so this is also a good example of what I want to achieve generally. Roll back to the maximum amount I can without creating serious hindrances in my life.

Maybe I’ll keep at it. Maybe I’ll fail. Like I said, it’s an experiment. I could decide I can’t stand not having a smartphone and pick up the iPhone 15 when it comes out in 2 months. But, I think it’s worth the attempt.