Lately I've been contemplating how to best integrate technology into my life so that it balances well against non-technical things. I've come to the conclusion that while high-tech often has great value, it is also important to deliberately choose low-tech solutions and spend time in no-tech activities.
For instance, the past few months I've noticed my desire to work on my Mac during weekends has diminished greatly. Not very long ago, I could be found on my computer on weekends, checking email, surfing the web and so on. Now I feel much happier leaving my hi-tech devices idle on the weekend. Instead I visit the library, read a good book, sketch, run errands, and spend quality no-tech time with my wife, son, family and friends.
After years of high-tech experience, I've reached the point of getting enough of technology during the week. This might be better stated as a realistic view of technology. I work in a high tech field (web design) and several of my hobbies are high-tech (Palm handhelds and Macs), which fill my week with high-tech input. I'm now finding I really need weekends away from technology to decompress and recover.
I've also always had a bit of resistance to the idea that technology is the "great solution" to all problems. I'm no Luddite, but I do think technology may not necessarily be the right solution for every problem we encounter — often low-tech solutions are better. Maybe this resistance is because my life experience pre-dates computers being entwined into daily life.
The Benefits of Learning the Old Ways
As a young graphic design student in college, I was fortunate to have been taught the traditional, manual methods of art and design, using pencils, pens, chalk, pastels, brushes, paint and paper. During my early career as a graphic designer, I can still recall days when the power would go out at our design studios.
The computer systems running Quark Express, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator would shut down, yet I was able to grab a pad of paper and a pencil and continue working, while many other designers were lost without a computer.
Now, I don't mean to knock computer systems, but rather want to point out how valuable a traditional, low-tech design education can be. I believe too much reliance on computer hardware tends to dull a designer's creative mind, hands and eyes.
Think Deeply About Technology Dependence
What's the point I'm driving at here? I think we all need to think deeply about how much we rely on technology. High-tech solutions are great where appropriate but I also believe we should also seek to incorporate low and no-tech solutions and activities into our lives.
Activities and solutions that are not reliant on high-tech can help provide a break from the constant pressure a high tech life generates. Further, maintaining a low and no-tech aspect to our lives gives us opportunities to explore our human creativity in ways that don't require a computer or high tech device.
Turn off your computer, leave your PDA and mobile phone behind. Forget about your email. Go have a cuppa coffee or tea with good friends, read a great book for pleasure, take time to write a real letter to a friend, sketch something, take a walk on a sunny day, go for a bike ride, visit the beach, explore your own hometown. Whatever it is that you enjoy that doesn't require a high-tech device to do... do it!