The cover of Time magazine features the new iwatch, and reads “never offline”. What happens to us when we are never offline? It’s not so much that being online is bad for you, but rather that it takes time, attention and energy away from things that could be good for you–like YOUR LIFE. All mental, social, behavioral, emotional and many physical illnesses are the result of unmet needs. In order to resolve these problems we must look at where our total energy, attention, attunement goes to, and ask ourselves, “is this need-fulfilling or not?” If not, then what you are doing is jeopardizing your psychological health, because it is costing you energy that should be devoted to those social and internal exchanges that fulfill the needs of yourself and those you love.
Think of it this way: If you had $100 to spend every day, you would want to budget that money to first go toward those things you can’t do without (food, shelter, clothing, maybe medicine, something to drink, safety necessities, etc.) for yourself and your family.Only when you have purchased all these necessities should you be looking at spending the money on expendables. Your mind and social system operates in a very similar way. You have a finite amount of time, energy and focus every day, and you are tasked with distributing it toward things that fulfill your needs and the needs of those around you. If you don’t budget accordingly, or if you don’t balance your expenditures, you will leave unfulfilled needs. Unfulfilled needs equals depression, anxiety, eating problems, loss of self-concept, relationship distance and conflict, behavioral problems, etc.
If, with your $100 budget you buy a $90 skateboard instead of paying rent and buying food…you’re going to be in trouble. Or maybe you pay $90 in rent and there is nothing left for the other areas of need…you’re going to be in trouble. Emotionally and psychologically we suffer when we are imbalanced or in deficit in how we meet our needs.
So the iphone is a similar to that skateboard you want to buy. Yes it’s cool, it feels good, it’s fun, but can you afford it? Can you afford the time and attention and effort you take away from yourself, others around you and your life so you can ‘never be offline?’ Is that a good thing for our society? My guess is no. We struggle more than ever with our family relationships, emotional wellbeing and physical health because we are so committed to putting energy toward things that don’t meet our needs. Technology provides ways to disrupt your ability to understand and meet your self-needs and the needs of those around you. It disrupts the ability of others to attune to you and meet your needs.
In order to stay well and meaningfully care for others, you must be present. Be judicious and conscientious about your attention, time and energy. Life doesn’t happen online, so to me, ‘never offline’ means ‘never living’. These inventions are really just ways to stop living without having to die first. Bad juju.