On Sunday I decided to have an Analogue Day. The concept of a Digital Sabbath, one day a week free from screens and the Internet has been floating around for a while and I’ve recently become more and more concerned with the amount of attention that the tech companies have been draining from me. Thinking about the millions of Dollars and vast numbers of engineers all working to create that perfect Skinner box vs me with one brain and a limited amount of will power, I have begun to think that this is something of an unequal battle.
And it is a battle that I feel I have been losing recently. The behavioral analysis engines of these sites have me to a T and know just what to do to get me to click on one more link. And one more. And one more. Ad infinitum till hours have passed and all good intentions have gone out the window.
If I’m honest, it doesn’t really bring me any happiness or any sense of contentment. Rather the feeling that I could have done something but “chose” to squander the time instead.
Further exacerbating this feeling is that fact that I’ve been reading the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” By Shoshana Zuboff. This is an increasingly terrifying book about the how we have reached this position and where it might go. The Internet giants trade on collection of our on-line behaviors and for now use it to serve ads. But the direction of travel is much more concerning. There is a desire on their part to modify behavior, to guarantee converting that passing interest in a product to a sale. This is something like the death of free will.
Then there is the manipulation of users. There have been a number of minor scandals where Facebook has performed experiments in the name of “science” (read commerce).
All this leads me to want to cut down, to spend that time more creatively. The challenge is doing so. And that requires willpower.
When thinking about willpower, there are two considerations. First is that it is like a muscle and can be built up with each decision See it like dead-lifting for the mind. Start with small weights and ramp up as strength increases.
The second is that raw willpower alone does not work. The tank drains and it is too easy to fall back to old habits. The secret is to replace what you want to change with something you desire more. See the trade-off and make the substitution and make small decisions.
And as each decision is made it becomes easier to make the next and the one after that. I wrote the first draft of this long hand with pen and paper while sipping on some of Wittards finest peppermint tea.
So for me, Analogue Day was born. This is a day where I can make small decisions to not use the Internet or social media and instead do something in the analogue world. The idea is that I switch off, log out and reduce screen time to a mimimum. I look up from the screen to a wider horizon and choose from a wider set of possible passtimes.
This could be going for a walk, writing a blog post (on paper), making music, choosing a CD to listen to and going through that ritual or just spending time existing in the real world and recharging the batteries. I create value for myself rather than just consuming and being someone elses raw material. I can then look back at the end of the day and feel that I have acomplished something.
So Analogue Day is a time to look outside of the digital world and spend time with real friends and a real path beneath my feet and a real sky overhead. And time to remember that I am a real person, not a just a collection of behaviors to be analyzed and sold to.