We are all too busy and distracted. SlowTech to the rescue?

Can we build tools that help us slow down and engage?

I recently read a phenominal article by Joe Kraus called “We’re creating a culture of distraction.” In it, he talks about the importance of “gap” time and how our anxiety over being unstimulated robs us of good relationships and creativity. What stuck out to me the most though was this quote by Sherry Turkle:

We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We expect more from technology and less from each other Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other

Humanity has never needed any special provocation to check out or to engage in superficial behaviour. Our brains are wired to follow the path of least resistance. The reality is that being busy and distracted is a lot easier than living a peaceful, thoughtful and intentional life. It’s the same way with any sort of problem solving. It’s really easy to over-engineer solutions. The simple ones are always the most challenging and take the most time.

Though it seems to be getting a lot of attention recently, this problem of being distracted isn’t a new one. Remember the Puritans? The Amish? They both decided to take drastic measures to simply their lives so they could focus on what matters to them. The problem we have now is that with the internet and smart phones, we’ve taken zero steps forward and about a hundred steps back. We’ve built for ourselves lots of “social tools” that only really engage our natural desire for things to be easy. Relationships are hard and that’s a really good thing. Things that are hard require a lot of work and we should be building our tools to help with that.

Joe Kraus’ article brings up a new-to-me term which is the perfect representation of this philosophy. It’s part of an academic movement and it’s called SlowTech:

The SlowTech folks ask the question – can we alter the purpose of lifestyle technologies to focus on alternative aims? Perhaps aims that are about making real connections with the people around us, fostering real understanding and deepening relationships with one another. Can our technology actually help us slow down and see each other as opposed to only transporting us and our attention away from each other? Joe Krausi, We're creating a culture of distraction</footer>

I love it! I’ve been building an accountability tool for several months now with this ethos at its core. Up until now, I haven’t had a cool hashtag/buzzword for it. The question that has been driving me is “How can we focus the strength of the internet to make it easy to communicate towards developing our ability to have honest, intimate and intentional relationships?” Think of it as practicing long-form thinking but for relationships. This is not a new or particularly complex concept by any means. My hope is that it will be a simple reminder that we care about the people around us. Because we care, it’s important for us to learn how to articulate how we’re really doing and to listen when others do the same. I don’t know about you, but I find that I need that reminder almost daily.

Accountable is not ready for prime time yet. If you’re interested though in using tools to help deepen relationships and increase accountability, let me know. I’d love to talk!

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On Being Human

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