the word “movement” is a noun which is defined as both: 1) an act of changing physical location or position, and 2) a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas. i don’t know about you, but i’d like to motivate such changes and work. at the talks i give i am frequently asked how i expect to make even a small impact on humanity’s technology use when the tendency toward over-use is so culturally normalized and rewarded. for years i have attempted to answer this question in two ways: 1) by accepting every invitation possible to engage this topic in meaningful ways, and 2) by attempting to live a life that is boldly counter cultural and to live it in a way that might inspire others to do the same.
recently i did an experiment in an airport. i chose to leave both my phone and computer in my backpack during the entire length of my three hour lay over. i further decided to take every opportunity i could find to simply look up and around and make eye contact when possible. what i noticed was interesting. i felt almost self conscious not adopting the new shared posture of cell phone gazing...head down, hands together, holding said object about 12 inches from the face, scrolling/swiping/typing. when i found others without phones they were frequently reading or talking with a travel partner. much of the time, however, was silent. over two thirds (trust me, i counted) of the people at the gate had headphones in and almost half had both cell phones and computers open. both customers in line in front of me at the bookstore completed their entire transactions without ever stopping their phone conversations. eye contact was rare and smiling rarer still.
i’ve carried out similar small experiments over the past several years. each and every time i learn something about myself and, often, about the people with whom i am sharing space. over all i notice a lot less action and a lot more isolation. less looking up and more occupied hands. less opportunity for noticing anything that isn’t on the screen. even in groups, people are transported away, listening to their own soundtrack or carrying on conversations via voice or text with people not physically present.
so i’d like to start a movement. one that gets us thinking about our physical locations and positions and one that gets us working together to advance a shared idea. the idea? that moderating our technology use in order to make our selves, our relationships, and our brains healthier and more complex is possible. not only possible, but fun. it might mean re-discovering a talent you’ve forgotten you had. do you know how to “fly” bottle caps or juggle or sketch? have you maintained your ability to write in cursive or to play cat’s cradle? can you cook by taste and feel without looking up a recipe online? when was the last time you let your hands run over brick, polished wood, stones, the dirt? or it might mean learning something new altogether.
i recently tried to keep my phone in my hand during a texas waltz lesson with my nephew. i wanted to take pictures to record the experience. unfortunately, i got far less out of the lesson than i would have had i simply been present to it. i’d have more than (terrible) photos, i’d have skills i’d truly learned (it’s hard to move and take photos). how many times has this been true for me? similarly, how many times have i stuffed ear buds in my ears and missed out on time to hear the sounds around me or to think thoughts that come from my own mind rather than from words issuing forth from my phone? i want movement from these habits. for myself.
and so i introduce you to the way i am creating that movement and i invite you to join in and to invite your friends. today i launch “hands free friday” on facebook, instagram, and twitter. you can find the facebook campaign/event here: http://www.facebook.com/handsfreefriday, the instagram page at handsfreefriday and i will be tweeting about it on my twitter feed (doreendodgenm) with #handsfreefriday.
the basic idea is to come up with something that you can engage yourself with/in that requires you to have your hands free of your phone. this could be a small task/activity or a lingering experience. challenge yourself to really notice what it feels like to be free of screens for the time and to notice how others engage you or not. perhaps you can gather some friends and coworkers and challenge each other to spend part of the day without your phones or to pull off a fun stunt that you could never do with a digital device in your hands. how about an office egg and spoon race or finger painting with pudding? there are hosts of stretches you can only do with partners and playing catch is fun for folks of all ages. what about a meal out where everyone stacks their phones, face down, in the center of the table for the entire evening?
ideally i’d love to encourage you to write about your experience. it doesn’t need to be long or detailed. for example, i’ve been doing a cartwheel challenge where i try to do cartwheels in as many unusual locations as possible and keep track. i don’t write a lot, just where and when each cartwheel was executed. there’s something about taking pen to paper and acknowledging an experience. later, if and as you’d like, tweet or comment on the facebook page about what you’ve done by way of encouraging others to consider a few moments or more without their phones. if you have a friend present who has a phone/camera, see if they might take a photo of you to post later on instagram or facebook. the goal, however, isn’t to post...it’s to experience. posting just might serve as a way of honoring your personal challenge and inspiring others.
i would like move and to invite you to do the same. move. toward new postures of openness. toward new ways of moderating. toward new ways of experiencing our hands and how things feel and the world around us. join me, will you? and pass it on...
twitter: doreendodgenm #handsfreefriday