Awake at the Wheel

Exploring the intersection between work, play, and the creative process.

The Tyranny of Connectivity

My previous killing-time-default-to-screen mode vanishes.

So I pick up a new iPhone over the weekend after cracking the screen on my old one. During the 3 hours before I get it home, something amazing happens.

The phone is blank. No apps beyond the factory installed ones. No email. No Twitter. No Facebook. No nothing!

My previous killing-time-default-to-screen mode vanishes. I can’t check what isn’t there. So I stop thinking about it. Instead, every time I stop the car or pause at a street corner, or wait for an elevator or a gluten-free nosh or a check-out line, I just “am.”

Lost in contemplation. Thinking, pondering, ideating, integrating, singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs (with the windows rolled up, y’all deserve that much).

New ideas for experiences and content flood in. Patterns and connections I’d been struggling to make just kind of happen. Because every morsel of ideative space is no longer being squeegeed out of me by the addiction to see who needs me and for what.

I feel free. Light.

Then…Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

Has my pocket-lurking gateway to the world so disconnected me from the space needed to fertilize ideas that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be dialed not into my device, but into Source? Me? C’mon, I’m the presence guy. I’m BETTER than that!

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So, I finally get home and, while waiting for the elevator, I notice something else…

Five other real-life humans linger, every one of them heads down, gaze cast into upright palms, bathed in the appified glow of digital disintegration. Not a word is uttered. Five people standing within five feet of each other, yet we might as well be 500 miles apart. Hell, that would be better, because then at least we’d be texting, updating and tweeting each other through our phones. Oh the humanity!

It gets worse…

In his phenomenal book Where Good Ideas Come From Stephen Johnson shares how bignormous, breakthrough ideas rarely come as the classic lightning bolts from above. Rather, they’re the result of two people each working on their own stuff, serendipitously colliding, starting a conversation and seeing patterns and ideas that unlock the potential of the other’s not-quite-robust pieces of the puzzle.

All too often, random interactions seed epic revelations.

The constant default to appified space-evaporating remote connectivity kills not only our ability to reconnect with those right in front of us, but the possibility of serendipitous collision that’s so important to next-level ideation, problem-solving, innovation, and art.

It all but eliminates the possibility of two ideas bumping into each other to form a third better idea. Because we’re all too busy filling every free moment with our heads shoved firmly up our apps.

Can you still have serendipitous collision in the digisphere? Sure. But, at least in my experience, it ain’t the same. You lose so much of the subtlety and nuance, the nonverbal communication, spontaneity, rapport, and trust that feeds the fornication and incubation of ideas worth birthing.

Technology is good. I’m not a luddite. But only when we tap it to serve, rather than own us and the world.

So, I get home and I’ve got a decision to make. Restore my new iPhone to it’s former 5-screens-of-apps glory or cut the cord.

I decide to do a bit of an experiment. A partial appectomy…

I delete things like Twitter and Facebook and 36 other apps I use largely to fill and kill time. I think about losing Instagram, but I find that having this app on my phone actually draws me deeper into the world. I’m constantly looking for more things, people and interactions to capture. It helps me see what’s right in front of me.

I leave email on the phone, but I may delete that soon, too. Yes. Really. Pretty sure there was life before mobile email, and there’d be life after. Especially considering you can already find me with my Macbook Pro on my back a good part of any day. I think the only real challenge would be retraining everyone else not to expect me to be checking and responding to email in near-realtime. More on that to come.

So, what about you?

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Jonathan Fields is a serial-entrepreneur, business strategist, speaker and author. His latest book is Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance. Fields writes about performance-mindset, innovation, leading and entrepreneurship at JonathanFields.com

 

Jonathan Fields is an attorney turned lifestyle-entrepreneur, speaker, and author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance.

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