Okay, I never said I was anti-tech. I’m not. What I’m anti is the idea of tech running my life rather than me using it as and when I have a need for it. We’ve all sat in bars or restaurants and glanced across at a couple or a group of friends who are all staring at their phones or tablets rather than actually having a conversation with the people they’re with. I was on my own in a café in London recently, reading my book and toying with my coffee. The waiter sat me at a table and directly to my right was a young woman on her own and judging by her body language, was clearly waiting for the imminent arrival of a friend.
A few moments later her friend duly arrived. She said Hi, kissed her friend on the cheek and sat at her table never once looking up from her phone. I knew I shouldn’t be looking but it was one of those ‘car crash’ moments. You know you shouldn’t look but you can’t help it. I returned to my book occasionally glancing across.
To my utter disbelief, the lady watching the screen on her phone never once looked up. Not once. For all she knew, it might have been me sitting opposite her at the table. The original lady was getting more agitated by this frankly rude lack of engagement and was obviously annoyed. The second lady was oblivious as she never even looked up to notice.
A few moments later, the lady looking at her screen made her excuses and left.
I was amazed. Is that normal? Is that where we are now?
Now, I know I am a man of a certain age  and I like my books made of paper. Yes, I’m THAT old and I do understand that I shouldn’t be ‘down with the kids’ [people still say that right?] but I got the distinct feeling that tech in the most extreme cases, impacts our relationships for the worse and not for the better.
Last weekend, I decided to go tech free for 48 hours. Midnight on Friday evening till Midnight on Sunday evening. I just got my phone and my laptop, switched them off and placed them in the drawer. That was it. No ceremony. No sense that I’d cut my arm off. I just got on with living.
A long walk with my dog, a leisurely breakfast, watched a couple of movies, dropped some stuff off at the local ‘Animals in Distress’ store, a couple of chapters of my book and out for dinner with some friends. Sunday, went for a run, cooked Sunday lunch and did stuff about the house. In short, it was just a normal relaxing day. For a moment there I even considered taking the lid off a 3000 piece jigsaw of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ [impossible, by the way], but you have to draw the line somewhere! The cellophane wrapping remains in tact.
Did I feel detached from the world? – Yes. And I embraced it. Did my friends think I’d been lost at sea? – Nope.
Tech can be really useful. I mean REALLY useful and that’s great. But I want my tech to work for me on my terms. Master and servant. Not the other way round.
It’s Monday now and my tech is switched back on. And what did I find in my inbox? – Nothing that couldn’t’ve waited till now. No catastrophes, no crises.
Tech is great. But so is time with your friends and real conversation. No distractions, no “I just need to check Pinterest” [You don’t]. Real friends, real conversations, real relationships. Try it, you might like it.