Do you feel overwhelmed by your digital devices? Do you constantly have an itch to check your phone even when you’re trying to focus on important work or interacting with your loved ones? Do you find the constant onslaught of opinions coming from the digital ether psychologically tiring? Do you feel like your inner life and grasp of existential meaning becomes shallower the more time you spend online?
At one time, my guest today on the podcast could say yes to all those questions and decided to do something about it. Her name is Christina Crook and she’s the author of the Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. Today on the show Christina and I discuss the promise and perils of digital technology, her experiment with quitting the internet for a month, and tactics you can take to master technology rather than being its slave. Lots of great insights in this episode to curb your digital addiction.
- The burdens of digital technology
- Why more information doesn’t help us make better decisions
- The burdens that digital technology relieve us from, but we might not want to get rid of
- Why discomfort is healthy
- Why the internet makes us feel busier and more rushed than we really are
- How sharing our life on the web prevents us from developing a unique identity
- How the iPad is making your kids more distractible and less empathetic
- How digital technology may be producing a generation of terrible actors
- How virtual reality and artificial intelligence will compound the problems we’re already seeing with technology
- Christina’s month-long break from the internet and what she learned from that experience
- Christina’s additions to our Fighting FOMO Questions
- Tactics and tools to help you stop using the internet so much
- And much more!
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- Breaking the Smartphone Habit
- My podcast with William Powers about Hamlet’s Blackberry
- Albert Borgmann
- My podcast with Sherry Turkle about the power of conversation
- On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog
- Revenge of the Analog by David Sax
- The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
- My podcast with Todd Kashdan about the Upside of your Darkside
- The Tool Works at Both Ends
- All the Time in the World
- My podcast with Matthew Crawford about Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction
- My podcast with Cal Newport on Deep Work
- On the Seventh Day We Unplug: How and Why to Take a Tech Sabbath
- Fighting FOMO: 4 Questions That Will Crush Your Fear of Missing Out
- How to Quit Wasting Time on the Internet and Actually Get Things Done
- What Are People For by Wendell Berry
- Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
The Joy of Missing Out is filled with great insights about the pernicious effects of digital technology in our lives as well as tactics you can use to get a handle on your screen time. And if you’re looking for things you can do beside spend time on your screen, sign up for Christina’s new email at DailyJomo.
Connect with Christina
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Art of Manliness Store. Help support the Art of Manliness podcast by purchasing something from the AoM Store. Use code AOMPODCAST at checkout for 10% off your order.
And thanks to Creative Audio Lab in Tulsa, OK for editing our podcast!
Read the Transcript
Brett: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Do you feel overwhelmed by your digital devices? Do you constantly have an itch to check your phone, even when you’re trying to focus on important work or interacting with your loved ones? Do you find the constant onslaught of opinions coming from the digital ether psychologically tiring? Do you feel like your inner life and grasp of existential meaning becomes more shallow the more time you spend online? Well, at one time my guest on the podcast could say yes to all those questions and decided to do something about it.
Her name is Christina Crook, and she’s the author of the book The Joy of Missing Out, Finding Balance in a Wired World. Today on the show Christina and I discuss the promises and perils of digital technology, her experiment with quitting the internet for an entire month, including no email, and tactics you can take to master technology rather than being its slave. Lots of great insights in this episode to curb your digital addiction. After the show is over check out the show notes at AOM.IS/JOMO, that’s J-O-M-O, for links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic as well as resources to curb your digital addictions. Again, AOM.IS/Jomo.
Christina Crook, welcome to the show.
Christina: Thank you co much for having me.
Brett: Your book is called The Joy of Missing Out, Finding Balance in a Wired World. It’s about our relationship with digital technology. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to me, because I’m always thinking about whenever I’m on my smart phone and my kids are like, “Dad, get off your phone,” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. What’s happening to me?” You talk about the goods and the bad of technology, but particularly the bad and what we can do to avoid the bad of technology while still enjoying its benefits. You start off in the book talking about one of the arguments is that technology, particularly digital technology, has created new burdens in our lives. What sorts of burdens has digital technology given us?
Christina: I think the most obvious burden is the burden of always being available, always being on. Ironically, our fear of missing out, it drives us to miss out on a lot of moments in the real world. I think that’s the primary burden is sort of this never off culture and this we almost wear it as a badge, this frenzied pace. I’m so busy and always being hurried. These time saving technologies are supposed to be there to save us time, and indeed they do, but then it allows us to do more, and more, and more each day. Obviously we’ll get into a conversation about social media, but of course it could never end. You could be online 24 hours a day. I think that’s the primary burden that I often think about and I write about in the book is this always on culture. That’s a very new phenomenon.
Brett: Yeah. It’s psychologically exhausting.
Christina: Yes. Overwhelming.
Brett: Right. Not only does being on all the time, the other things that the internet does is it just gives us as much information as we want. We think that’d be a great thing, but actually that’s not a good thing to be able to access anything you want to know. That actually is burdensome.
Christina: It’s true. Actually studies have shown that you actually don’t have a psychological or emotional benefit to having more information if you’re unable to do anything about the information that you have. These were studies even back in the 50’s with newspapers. We think if we have more knowledge and more information about what’s happening in current affairs around the world … Last week’s a perfect example with the election unfolding. Right? Sometimes information, especially when you’re powerless, isn’t necessarily to our benefit. I think it’s really understanding how much we can actually consume, and act upon, and interpret, and understand, that’s a healthful way I think to think about our media consumption.
Brett: Right. A perfect example of having too much information, not being able to act on it is whenever you feel sick or your kid’s sick and you go online to check the symptoms out. You’re just given all this … “Oh, my gosh. My kid has cancer.” It’s like, “Wait. No.”
Christina: Right. WedMD. WebMD. Not always the best.
Brett: Not always the best, but you also argue that digital technology frees us from burdens. It saves us time. We can implement these algorithms that can help us find things faster. There’s If Then Than This where you can create these cool, little hacks to make your day more streamlined. You argue that there’s some burdens that we should not want to be rid of. What sorts of burdens are those that we don’t want to remove from our daily lives that we actually get a benefit from and it makes life more flourishing?
Christina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I came across this idea from a philosopher named Albert Borgmann. He writes about this idea of good burdens. Techno-optimists are looking to a future where we’re free of the burdens of work. They’re constantly creating new technologies to automate and expedite, but there are some burdens we should not want to be rid of. Borgmann talks about the burden of preparing a meal and getting everyone to show up at the table, and sit down, and eat it, or the burden of reading poetry to one another, or going for a walk after dinner. They may seem burdensome at first, but it’s actually just a task of getting across a threshold of effort. As soon as you’ve crossed that threshold the burden disappears.
We shouldn’t want to be rid of the burden of relationship and having people rely on us. Actually there’s huge value in that in terms of our emotional and mental health. You know, we can’t live in isolation. Our connections online only take us so far. I think the good burdens that I’m often thinking and writing about is the good burdens of people, of community, and also of physical work. There’s real benefits to physically moving our bodies and doing physical labor. I was out raking a ton of leaves this morning, and someone was saying, “Don’t you hate that job?” Actually, I really enjoy it. I like to physically work my body. It’s the athlete in me. We shouldn’t want to be rid of all of these, we could say they’re burdensome things, but really again, it’s coming back to the idea of it’s only a burden until we get across a certain threshold of effort.
Brett: Right. It seems like these burdens or embracing these burdens is embracing an embodied sense of ourselves. Right?
Brett: I feel like the internet disembodies us. We can be anywhere, anything we want. No one on the internet knows you’re a dog, the old New Yorker cartoon. How does this disembodiment that occurs when we use digital technology, how does it make us existentially miserable, even though it’s touted by these techno-utopists as, “Oh. This is going to be fantastic.”?
Christina: I think it’s that things remain really elusive, the sort of two things I want to touch on here. There’s a great quote I love from the comedian Louis CK. He says, “The worst thing happening to this generation is that they’re taking discomfort away from themselves.” You just touched on it with this disembodiment that we experience being online. Things remain really elusive. David Sax just came out with a new book called The Revenge of Analog. He talks about that we’re developing an appreciation for analog things, like a paperback novel is a better option for us, because it actually cannot interrupt our reading to tell us the weather, because the internet is literally endless.
I think we’re going to get a little bit later into the conversation around time and space, but boundaries, less is the strategy for survival and even thriving in the digital era. Things are really elusive online. We talk about building trust and building our brand online. I’m air quoting right now the word authentic. Right? That overplayed word, but really it’s often in an effort to build a brand, a personal brand or a professional brand. We can only really trust that persona, the things people are putting out on social media, or their blogs, or whatever to a certain extent. Right?
It’s a bit elusive, because we don’t actually have, in most cases, a face to face relationship with that person. I think that really does play into this sort of existential thing that’s happening in terms of embodiment and disembodiment. We’re human beings. We’re here in time and space in the physical world. I believe that’s where we need to really exist primarily. That saves us from a lot of the mental health issues that come with being overly exposed to being online.
Brett: Right. I love your point about it makes life too easy. We think that would be a good thing, but psychologists are finding we need a bit of stress in our lives to actually be healthy. If we take that stress away, we feel just unmoored I guess is a good word to say. Yeah. You talked earlier about some of these Techno-utopiests. I think that’s what Nicholas Carr calls them. They’re talking about this future where there’s AI’s going to take over, we’ll be living in virtual reality, and there’s all these benefits to the internet that sound amazing. What are some of these touted benefits of digital technology? Which one of them are actually illusions, when you actually embrace it you’re like, “Man, this is not really a good thing. This is making my life more terrible.”?
Christina: Yeah. I think the internet as a whole does not sell a universal promise, except perhaps that you can find literally anything there. I think it’s the specific websites and platforms that tout the benefits of being there, but it’s all driven by the bottom line, and we know this. Right? The reason why Facebook has added all of these real time updates to their website, you can see these green dots of when your friends are online and real time posts, and all of this is because they’re designed to keep you there for as long as possible.
As much as it’s a huge value to literally access the knowledge of the universe through a portal in front of our faces, it is endless, and it could go on forever. I think for me the real way of breaking out of that is viewing the internet for what it is. It’s a tool. It’s a tool to connect us to information, to people. When we keep it sort of in mind as it being a tool and we’re not being used by it, but we’re actually choosing to use it, I think that’s a really healthful way to keep that boundary.
Brett: Let’s go to this idea that you mentioned earlier about disrupting our sense of space and time. How has the web done that?
Christina: Oh, man. Oftentimes, I don’t know if you ever feel this, but you can be surfing the web and it almost feels like you’ve gone beyond the limits of space and time. We can talk to people in real time, like my sister in Australia on the other side of the world. It’s phenomenal what it enables, but it does … I’ve got young kids, and I’m going to give an example with kids. My kids are ages three, five, and seven. Studies show that when we spend more and more time in front of screens it actually makes the physical world seem boring, and dull, and even muted, because the colors are not as vivid, and things move more slowly. I think that it’s important that we realize that the limits of time and space are actually to our benefit.
We were talking earlier about the techno-optimism of finally breaking free of the limits of the body. Is that actually what’s best for the human person? Is that really what’s best for people to flourish? I don’t believe that that’s true.
Brett: Right. You mentioned earlier how everyone talks about feeling rushed and busy, which is weird though, because studies have shown we actually have more free time than our grandparents did. Yet despite that we still feel like, “Oh, my gosh. I don’t have any time to do anything.”
Christina: Just this week I did a screening with a filmmaker named Suzanne Crocker. She does this beautiful documentary called All the Time in the World. It’s actually about a family that goes completely off the grid for nine months in the Yukon wilderness. They talk about how they spend actually up to half of their day preparing food. Right? That’s the real cost of actually eating and preparing food. Pretty much all of that is erased with our modern day conveniences. You know, this morning I threw toast into a toaster, and it was done in two minutes. The more time saving devices we have, they just allow us to do more, so we do. Often we’re filling that time with passive hobbies, like watching Netflix or scrolling through our social feeds. We have more margin, but we fill it.
Brett: Yeah. The web makes it easy to fill.
Christina: Very easy to fill.
Brett: Yeah. I’ve had moments where I’m like, “I’m going to get so productive. I’m going to just take a little five minute web surfing break,” and it’s an hour later I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. What just happened? I can’t believe that happened.”
Christina: It happens to us all.
Brett: I thought another interesting idea that you hit on was that living our life on the web can actually reduce our sense of self, which is weird, because on the web we’re creating ourselves all the time with our Facebook profile, with the images we decide to post on Instagram. We want to fashion this really cool image, but how can that act of creating our self on the web actually reduce our sense of self and identity?
Christina: I was thinking about this question. I think the most stark example for me is in Japan they have a term for a person who basically spends their entire lives on the internet. I don’t know if you’ve heard this term before, but basically they’re completely socially isolated individuals who no longer leave their homes. There’s actually millions of people like this in Japan. Internet addiction is extremely high in Asia, and it’s increasing all of the time.
In terms of their sense of self they’re entire sense of self for these individuals is found on the internet. Some of them are internet superstars. They’re known, known in the sense that they have a presence on the internet, but they’re actually not known in their physical sense by anyone or at least only by a couple of people within this place that they dwell in and they never leave. I mean, that’s such an extreme example, but there is a sense that we are losing parts of ourselves to constantly presenting a particular self online.
Another example is Kendall Jenner actually from the Kardashian clan just recently, within the last couple of weeks actually, has gone off Instagram. She just felt like it was becoming way too consuming. She wanted to step away. I think that there is a growing sense that we can’t present our entire selves on the internet. We simple can’t, because we’re living, breathing people. I’m actually really thrilled and excited that that’s becoming a bigger conversation and more and more people are sort of cuing into that.
Brett: Right. I feel like too you need privacy to sort of experiment and figure out what your self is, instead of trying to figure out online. I feel like online you can’t experiment online. Once it’s online it’s there. If you decide to change, people are going to be like, “There’s no takesy-backsies. You were like this person a week ago. You can’t change your mind now.” When you have a sense of privacy, a sense of, I don’t know, secrecy … That sounds kind of bad, but you can experiment with your identity a bit.
Christina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know. I like that you touched on that, because I actually had a bit of a breakthrough with myself about three quarters of a year ago. We made a very big decision as a family, and I automatically felt like I needed to broadcast it to the world, because that’s what you do when you make a really big decision as an individual or a family, you kind of tell people, and publicly doing it on the web has become the norm.
I realized there was some conversations with some really good friends, I can actually hold this close. This is actually a personal thing that I can hold sacred and keep to ourselves. There was nothing wrong with that. We can actually take our time in choosing what we share. We might ultimately choose to not share certain things, and that’s our right. I think that’s very healthy.
Brett: Right. There is a norm where you have to share everything. I remember with the election Taylor Swift fans got really upset that Taylor didn’t share who she voted for. She doesn’t have to tell her. That’s her thing. What goes on in the voting booth gets to stay in the voting booth. Going back to parenthood, you’re a mom of three children. I’m a dad. I have two kids. Technology and kids is the thing I’m always thinking about. I’m like, “Man, am I letting my kids spend too much time on the iPad? How is my behavior with technology influencing my kids?” What does the research say about how a parent’s use of digital technology influences their children’s use of digital technology?
Christina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). There’s a growing body of research, which is wonderful to see. I think across the board we’re seeing that it’s kind of a case of monkey see, monkey do. This isn’t new. What children see their parents doing is what they want to be doing. There’s little kids that they hold the banana to their ear, because they see their parents holding a phone to their ear as early as one year old. If children are seeing their parents constantly on their devices, there’s a draw. There’s a draw for them wanting to use it. There’s conversations around it. Then there’s increasing battles around it.
There was a new study that came out just a couple of months ago around … I think it came out from the Pediatrician’s Association in the US. It actually lowered the age of introducing TV and tablet use to I think from age two down to maybe one or one and a half. If you read between the lines, which I did, in this study the difference was yes, you can do it when they’re younger, but you need to be sitting with them and engaging with them about what they’re doing and about what they’re watching and listening to on the devices and on the television and on the screens.
When we’re engaging with them we A, know what they’re watching. Right? I don’t know if you ever run into this where you hear from the other room some squawking and a television show from Netflix that you’ve never heard before. It’s like, “What are you watching?” We need to be paying attention to what are kids are consuming. It’s extremely important. Another piece is once you’ve opened the door it’s very difficult to close it. The studies are showing more and more that introducing tech as late as you possibly can is actually to the benefit of children.
Brett: Have they done any studies yet about what technology used by children, what it’s doing to kids? It’s so new. We have this generation of kids who have just been raised on it. They have I think I’ve seen baby carriers with iPad holders where the parent can put an iPad in front of their baby. They’re immersed in this since birth, even though you’re supposed to do it not introduced until one. Have we found any studies on what this is doing to kids? Is it affecting them in any way?
Christina: It is. It is. It is reducing attention spans. Again, the longitudinal studies are still not fully there, because we have to remember that it was only 10 years ago that someone did the first Tweet. Smart phones were not even in common use until about 10 years ago. The longitudinal studies are not there. They are for television, I mean studies that are the longer studies. There’s one very famous one with Sesame Street that tracked Sesame Street from the 50’s through until today, and basically they watched how it sped up over time. It used to be extremely slow. It’s actually painfully slow to watch now, but the screen change times have increased five times fold. It is reducing attention spans in children.
It also goes back to this whole thing about how it affects the relationship with the natural world. It is more difficult for kids to engage in outdoor and imaginative play when they are in front of screens for a long periods of time, because they are used to being fed the material, and the story lines, and the characters. Studies across the board definitely advocate for limiting our children’s screen time.
Brett: I think there’s other studies too that suggest that screen time also might decrease empathy, because kids get less practice reading faces, and so they have a harder time with that.
Christina: Yes. There are definitely studies that talk about that. Actually, there’s a study that I write about in my book that shows that reading people is actually a learned skill. The study looked at individuals judging forced and genuine smiles and found that older adult participants out performed young adults in distinguishing between posed and spontaneous smiles, which suggests that with experience and age we become more accurate at perceiving true emotions. Actually, that’s decreasing, because kids are growing up in front of smart phones, actually communicating almost entirely through text messages and emoticons.
I have an aunt who’s actually a theater actress, and she coaches younger actors that are up and coming. She’s noticing, and this is actually across the board in the theater industry, is these younger actors that are coming up are actually having difficulty with facial expression, and tone of voice, and body language, which are essential to communication obviously and story telling. As a performer that’s the tools of their trade. That plays into their ability to even negotiate deals once they’re in the workplace, but definitely in terms of empathy, when we are looking at a screen and then we look at someone’s face and we actually can’t read the emotion in them or we’re not looking at them long enough to even notice if they’re struggling or having a hard time, then that affects not only the individual, but it affects communities.
Brett: We’re going to have a future of movies and plays with bad acting.
Christina: I hope not.
Brett: I’d like to get your take. You talked about it a little bit. What’s your take on artificial intelligence and virtual reality? How are these going to compound the problems we’re already seeing with the technology of the web?
Christina: Honestly, I think that it is going to explode. I really do think that virtual reality in particular … I just came off of … I was speaking at a tech conference just out of Toronto in September. They had a lot of VR people up there. It’s quite phenomenal how much the technology has advanced. We’re already seeing it in quite thorough use in the porn industry and in multiplayer role playing games. I think that we are going to see virtual reality really coming on the scene. I don’t think it’s going to be sort of a passing fad. The fear for me is that it takes people so completely outside the breathing, physical world that it will be increasingly difficult to be satisfied with out muted and comparatively slow reality that we live in.
Then with AI I guess my big question is why? I wish more people were asking this question. Why are we working so hard to create AI? Why are we creating robots to replace humans? I don’t really, fully understand. I understand the thrill of invention, but I don’t really understand when isolation is already up so high, when unemployment is rising, because like we talked about earlier, we have more time saving work, more work is automated. Why are we working so hard and literally spending trillions of dollars on developing these technologies? It’s a big question mark for me to be honest.
Brett: Right. We’re removing burdens that we might not want to be rid of.
Christina: Right. Yeah. Getting back to that conversation for sure.
Brett: Part of your book you took a 31 day break from the web. You wanted to see if you could disentangle yourself from digital technology and what that would do. You even took a break from email. What was that experience like? At the beginning did you have this really strong itch the first few days? Were you just like, “I have to get back on. I got to check. I’m missing out.”? What was it like?
Christina: Yeah. First of all, if you’re going to be off the internet for 31 days, and you might have heard of the story of Baratunde Thurston, who is probably the most famous person who went offline for about the same amount of time, you really have to prepare. You have to get map books, because you can Google Map. You need a thesaurus if you’re a writer, because you can’t use a thesaurus online. You have to tell people, because all of a sudden you’re virtually disappearing from the face of the earth. There’s a lot of preparations that need to be made. I had set up a blog about the experiment, which of course I was not updating, but I had a friend who was going to be updating it, because I was sending these letters by mail each day, and she was going to scan and post them.
Anyways, I was feeling on day one and day two the writer and editor in me really wanted to edit and make some tweaks to the content on the blog. I found that very frustrating at first. It was very limiting. That was probably the first run in I had in terms of wanting to be online and feeling like I was missing out. I was wondering what people were posting on social, who was getting my automatic email responder. I would say that lasted a couple of days.
Really quickly it turned into this massive experience of freedom. It just felt super freeing to be completely unable to do those things. It was just off the table. The biggest thing I would say also that I discovered during those 31 days was just a quietness, a quietness of mind. My mind was just completely free of the chatter that I normally fill it with through searching online, and reading my social apps, and all of that, and even online articles that are constantly coming out. I really dug into deep thinking and reading, and I got a lot done. It was a very productive … I still had two little kids at that time sort of under foot, but I got a lot done. It’s shocking actually when you take the web completely off the table how much time it fills in a day.
Brett: Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows talks about how the web changes our brain, makes our attention spans shorter, even for adults. Did you notice that your ability to concentrate, did it go up when you took a break from the web, like you got back your ability to sit down and read a book for an hour uninterrupted?
Christina: Absolutely. Yeah. I did. I would read books at long length. I would sit and write and not lose my train of thought. Even as a writer you would know this, even you go to research something, so you are doing you’re work, but you’re researching and one thing links to another. I did not have that ability. I could research in books, but that’s a very, very different experience. Absolutely. My ability to focus, it was hugely increased during that time.
Brett: Then what was it like when you started introducing the web back in? Did the super powers you developed by taking your 31, did they just go away immediately, or did it take awhile?
Christina: It took awhile. I came back with a pretty clear strategy for how I wanted to come back. It’s sort of like if you did a water fast for 31 days, you wouldn’t want to have a cheeseburger as your first meal. Well, maybe you would, but I didn’t. I chose to take it to ease myself in. The first thing I did want to check, because I do freelance write, and I knew there would probably some work related things I needed to give my attention to there.
I immediately spent about half a day unsubscribing from a massive amount of newsletters and emails that I had subscribed to over time, or inadvertently, as you know that happens, inadvertently got on lists. I realized that even though I don’t read those emails, they blip across my radar. That is attention, even for that millisecond, that I’m giving to it to delete it, or archive it, or just pass it by, so I unsubscribed from a huge amount of email.
I actually implemented new email strategies in terms of not checking it 12 times or 50 times a day. I was checking it two times a day. That honestly has crept up, but that is a practice I return to when I notice that I am losing my focus and I’m not getting the kind of work that I want to get done. Yeah. Those were some of the steps that I took when I came back, but it did creep back. I’m not going to lie. It did creep back. For me the fast is really a touchstone for me to go back to, remembering what it was like during that time and remembering the practices that I came back to the web with and trying to return to those things.
Brett: You don’t advocate that people completely ditch the internet in your book, but you talk about putting constraints. You just mentioned a few of the constraints, unsubscribing from lists. What are some other things that people can do to put constraints on the what is effectively infinite culture information that’s on the web?
Christina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think it comes down to … We could talk about all of the time saving apps that are out there and all of these types of tools, and they are out there. I’m happy to talk about them, but I really think it comes down to a more of an internal understanding of ourselves and our purpose in the world. We aren’t just here to consume for consumption sake. We are her for relationship and meaningful work. There’s things that we want to do. There’s things that we want to do with our lives. I think if we look at the internet for what it is, like I mentioned before that it’s a tool, that’s really healthful.
I have a few things that I wanted to mention. Using the internet as a tool, putting people first, like truly putting people first in every instance, having a meeting, being with your kids, being with your partner, valuing the human person in front of you over the gadget in your hand. They just are more valuable. The person on the other side of the world that’s tweeting in that moment, they are also a valuable human being, but the one that’s sitting in front of you, give them your full attention.
Another thing is practicing discipline. I’ve already touched on this, but having times built into your week that are completely tech free. I love to tell the story of Tiffany Shlain. She’s the founder of the Webby Awards. Her and her family practice what they call Technology Shabbat, but they’re Jewish, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown every week. She’s the founder of the Webby Awards. I sort of feel like if she can do it, we can do it. She has lots of excuses to be constantly on social, but they carve that out, and that is a core piece to her week as a reset to really be deeply with her family and with herself, with her community.
I came across the article on The Art of Manliness website. Maybe I can give a plug for it, but it’s your article about FOMO. You’ve got four really great questions there. I just had a couple more questions, if I may add to your list.
Brett: Sure. Yeah. I’d love to. Yes.
Christina: A great question to ask before you post something online is, “Who is this for?” Is this for you? Is this for promotion? Is this for ego? Is this to promote something? You might have a really good answer to that question, but asking that question first, “Who is this for?” … The second question is, “What could I have been doing with this time?” You were talking about you go to check social for five minutes, and an hour later … Don’t beat yourself up about the hour, but ask yourself at the end of the hour, “What could I have been doing with that time?” That’s time that you could be giving to things that you really want to do.
The last question might be a bit strange, especially for a very manly podcast, but the question is, “What brings me delight? What are the things that really delight me? What are the things I really want to be doing with my life? Who are the people and the relationships that delight me?” That comes from a quote from Marcus Aurelius that says, “A man’s true …” I’ll leave it as a man in this case. “A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.” Yeah. This idea of delight. My book’s called The Joy of Missing Out.
For me this conversation keeps coming back to joy and delight. What are the things that really delight us? What are the things that really bring us joy? I think those are really our guiding principals for the ways that we should be spending our time.
Brett: I love that. When you say yes to technology, you’re probably saying no to the thing that will actually give you delight. Right. Well, you mentioned specific tactics and strategies. Any tools that you’ve found that are useful to constraining your web use or how much you use digital technology?
Christina: Yeah. I have a very analog way of doing things. I actually write a list on a physical piece of paper of the things that I want to get done online before I start, before I turn my screen on on my computer. I try and check that list off as quick as possible and then move on to other things. That’s really been a really good practice for me. I think also using your auto-responder not just for vacations, but for sort of setting expectations for people on when you will return email. Even if you return email four times a day, having it in that you check it and return it at 11:00, and 1:00, and 3:00 everyday … It could be once a day. It totally depends on the demands of your work, but using auto-responders.
Also you’ve got a lot of people that are in leadership roles I imagine on this podcast. I think it’s really important if you’re in a leadership role, if you’re a CEO or you’re a manager of any type, to really lead by example. If you are sending an email to your staff on Sunday at 3:00 PM, they’re going to get that email, and if you’re in that role and you’re senior to them, they’re going to feel like they have the obligation to respond to it immediately. If you don’t want them to respond to it immediately, write that explicitly in the email or don’t send the email until Monday morning when you want them to return it.
I think we really need as a culture, a work culture and also as a community globally, to set parameters around our technology use. It really does come down to leading by example. Those are some of the things I would suggest.
Brett: That’s fantastic. One thing I love about your book, Christina, is that you look to a lot of these great thinkers. I’m about to ask you a question I didn’t ask you or put in the email, so if you have a hard time coming up with an answer, that’s fine. You have these thinkers, like you mentioned Borgmann. I never knew who the guy was, but now I’ve bought his book. I’m going to check him out. Are there any other thinkers, philosophers that you have looked to to sort of guide how you use technology and maybe they’ve had some insights that our listeners could probably get something from?
Christina: Absolutely. I’m looking at my book shelf right now, but I actually also have recommended books at the end of my book. Wendell Berry. Wendell Berry is just a delight to read. His series of essays, What Are People For, is informed so much of my writing. I encourage you to read all of Wendell Berry’s work. Sherry Turkle, her Alone Together and her Reclaiming Conversation are both really important books. I would say if I was to recommend any book, if you were just going to read one, Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human. It was a lecture series that he did here in Canada at the Massey Lecture Series, but it’s a book now. Again, it’s called Becoming Human. Yeah. That book is a powerful book about coming closer to ourselves and to each other and what it really means to be human. Those are my recommendations.
Brett: That’s great. We’ll link to those in the show notes. Well, Christina, this has been a great conversation. Where can people learn more about your book and your work?
Christina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, my book is available wherever good books are sold, but they can find more information at JOMOBook.com. I’m just about to launch a new initiative called Daily JOMO. You can find that at DailyJOMO.com. You can sign up to get fun prompts to get you away from your screen and sort of to re-tool your relationship with digital. I do hope that you head over there, and thank you so much for having me.
Brett: Well, you’re very welcome. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. My guest today was Christine Crook. She’s the author of the book, Joy Of Missing Out. It’s available on Amazon.com and book stores everywhere. You can also find out more information about her book at JOMOBook.com.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at ArtofManliness.com. Our show is edited by Creative Audio Lab here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you have an audio editing needs or audio production needs, check them out at CreativeAudioLab.com 00:41:06. As always, I appreciate your continued support of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Love your reviews. That’s one of the best things you can do to help the podcast out. As always, thank you for your continued support, and until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.