I think of myself as an old-school guy living in a new-school world. As I look back at my life, I’ll never forget my very first interactions with two major technologies: the computer and the cell phone. It was around 1993 when my family got our first computer; I was 12 years old. I think I was the most excited in my family about what it could do. I was drawn to the games and Adobe Photoshop. I remember the retro Apple logo, the big heavy monitor, and the single-click mouse.
Over 10 years later in 2004, my second most memorable tech connection was with a Nextel Direct Connect by Sprint. I mostly used my Nextel while working for my family since I had only one friend with this service. I can still hear the chirp it made when I hit the walkie talkie button on the side. At the time, everyone still had land lines and if Billy wasn’t home, his dad told me which friend to call to find him. With the expensive pay-by-the-minute plans, my parents tracked my calls by the second and by the area code. The only way I could hide a call to a friend was through the direct connect and back then data/texting was not an option. As I look back at these two moments, I can remember spending very little time on either device, as most of my time was spent playing, studying, and hanging out with friends. How time has changed in the last 25 years.
It’s safe to say that when the iPhone came out, life on a phone would never be the same. I held out for almost three years before I got one because BBM (Blackberry Messenger) was my thing. I enjoy technology but never found myself consumed by it or even that I used it excessively. Socializing for me was physically being with friends or playing a sport with a group. I was not as much an online socializer but an old-school “strike up a conversation with anyone” guy. Before Syp, Katie, and I founded Live Offline, I thought I was not attached to my phone, but I later noticed otherwise.
The idea of excessive technology usage for me didn’t start until about five years ago, when I first started dating Syp and unlimited data plans were at a peak. I was always annoyed at people texting me multiple times (more than three) instead of calling me, which gradually grew into using my phone more often. It started with more frequent text exchanges every day, then went into searching online for “things I needed,” and eventually flowed into my job with emails. As my relationship with Syp progressed, I would constantly check and text her because she loved texting. I changed my habits because I really liked her and knew this was my only way to get to her. She used to say she had to train me to text her more because I was so bad at it; she was right. Then after we made our relationship really official and purchased a house, I used my phone to look up new appliances and search YouTube videos on how to install them. I was replacing my “old-school strike up a conversation with anyone” personality with searching online and being in my own world.
At about the same time, I received a smartphone for work which meant email communication was constantly at my fingertips. My work phone made it so easy and almost expected by my company to always be available. I later realized this was making me less productive because I was always multitasking, checking emails while “talking” to anyone. I also noticed some physical effects along with some productivity loss because of my tech usage at work. This last year, I have had to get glasses because I am unable to see my screens clearly and have noticed myself forgetting things due to my multitasking. This alone built up stress on myself and in the end, drove my productivity down.
As creatures of habit, we need reminders to trigger small behavioral shifts that will give ourselves time to reset and repair ourselves offline. With the creation of the computer and phone we have been able to create new habits and are now realizing they are excessive habits. It is my hope that Live Offline can be that change for us so we can bring balance to our work lives and revive our old-school, undistracted and social selves.
Keepin' it real,