Offline is the new luxury (1)

Time spent on your smartphone: how could you pass it more wisely? And what exactly does it do for you? Each Friday, Irene, who together with Astrid is the founder of Flow, writes about this particular issue.

Busy is the new dumb. So says the much-cited Tony Crabbe in his highly popular book, Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much. Last month, as I lazed away on a to-die-for beach in Ibiza, staring at my screen and staying in touch all kinds of people who were also laying on beautiful beaches looking at their screens, I found some time to delve deeper into Crabbe’s book. And as I did, I found that, in fact, the man does have a point. According to him, a great deal of the busy-ness we feel these days is being caused by new technology. ‘We live in an age where computing power and internet connection speeds are increasing exponentially along with sheer quantity of information and entertainment. David Foster Wallace, the award-winning novelist and chronicler of modern life, described our environment as one of ‘Total Noise’, in which we are constantly bombarded with ‘the seething static’ of limitless information, communication and choice. In this world of too much we are simultaneously overstimulated and bored; enriched and empty; connected yet isolated and alone.’

The book features all sorts of information that we actually already know ourselves. That – with all those distractions and addictive beeps and dings of apps and incoming mails –  we are constantly active, we cannot concentrate, we feel overwhelmed and there never seems to be a moment of idleness.

When was the last time you stood waiting somewhere, and simply looked at the trees and listened to the birds chirping rather than immediately pulling your smartphone out of your pocket? When was the last time that you sat on the train, spying on your fellow passengers and inventing stories about them as opposed to checking your Facebook? When was the last time you sat at the breakfast table, looking at your children and studying their facial expressions, their mannerisms and noticing just how quickly they change, rather than grabbing your phone to read the latest news update?

Don’t get me wrong: here at Flow, we’re not exactly anti smartphone. After all, how great is it to share the best images from around the world via Instagram, or to keep contact with the dear people around you via the Neighborhood Whatsapp group chat, or to find the best illustrators worldwide via the Internet? Yet it’s like an itch that demands scratching more and more. And if I’ve learned anything from all those mindfulness courses I’ve followed, it’s that attention and mindfulness are incredibly important. I hate the fact that I can’t let a few hours pass by without checking my emails or apps, or that my smartphone is the first thing I reach for each morning. What is it about that device that – even though I know how draining it is – makes me feel that without it, I’m missing out on something? I plan to spend the next few weeks trying to find out. And trying to change my behavior too. Who fancies joining me?

Cactus kopie


Illustration: Isabelle Schippers