Technology has entered our lives in a way that tools are now becoming masters.
Of course that is not true, a tool can never rule a life.
So it is not so much that tools that rule us, but rather that we ourselves use the tools in a way that our choices are no longer deliberative, but reactive.
Our use of technology ceases to be about usefulness, but rather about neediness.
Allowing that to happen is a choice, but it is a hard choice to make in a society that is framing a decision not to yield as a choice for unproductiveness.
From Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen.
Part of the problem is that these digital technologies, from cell phones to Apple Watches, from Instagram to Slack, encourage our worst habits. They stymie our best-laid plans for self-preservation. They ransack our free time. They make it increasingly impossible to do the things that actually ground us. They turn a run into the woods into an opportunity for self-optimisation. They are the neediest and most selfish entity in every interaction I have with others. They compel us to frame experiences, as we are experiencing them, with future captions, and to conceive of travel as worthwhile only when documented for public consumption. They steal joy and solitude and leave only exhaustion and regret. I hate them and resent them and find it increasingly difficult to live without them.
Digital detoxes don’t fix the problem. The only long-term fix is making the background into the foreground: calling out the exact ways digital technologies have colonised our lives, aggravating and expanding our burnout in the name of efficiency.
What these technologies do best is remind us of what we’re not doing: who’s hanging out without us, who’s working more than us, what news we’re not reading. It refuses to allow our consciousness off the hook, in order to do the essential protective, regenerative work of sublimating and repressing. Instead it provides the opposite: a nonstop barrage of notifications and reminders and interactions. It brings every detail of our lives and others’ to the forefront in a wait makes impossible. Of course we do more.
Can’t Even, Anne Helen Peterson, Chatto and Windus, 2021, pgs. 152-153.