This weekend holds a special event for those of us living in the Unites States. Regardless of one’s feelings about Daylight Savings Time, beginning Sunday the light part of American’s days will be longer. Yes, we’ll “lose” an hour of sleep Sunday night but we’ll gain some daylight every evening thereafter until we fall back next Fall. As dwellers within a culture that rewards productivity, empowers a 24 hour news cycle, and enables (via largely available internet access) vocational and recreational investment on the same 24/7 model, we live with a constant pressure to perform and conform. With an extra hour of daylight it is my guess that we’ll feel an increased pressure to pack our lives even fuller than they already are.
Fed a never ending stream of information, we fear missing out on the one (or one hundred) piece(s) of data we think we really need to perform and achieve. Faced with a constant stream of our friend’s whereabouts, status updates, and responses to our own posts, we scroll our social networks to ensure we haven’t missed anything of import and to feel a part of something larger than ourselves. We rarely put time parameters on such activities or consciously assess how we feel after immersing ourselves in these spaces. Information simply presents itself so it is consumed, updates automatically come flooding in so we keep up with them, our work/school email is forwarded to our phone and we can respond so we do, and on and on and on.
A culture that prizes productivity, espouses multitasking as a positive trait, and encourages self promotion over self knowing awareness and communal health drives us to use the hours in our days rather than to experience them. Anymore, our best way of squeezing the most out of every minute is to harness our digital super powers to make us super performers. This means that passing a new level of Candy Crush while waiting in line feels more “productive” than simply waiting. It also means that having instant messaging, social media, and our favorite news sources up and available on our screens while we work makes us feel less anxious than we do with a single work window open. It means we binge on podcasts in formerly quiet moments and watch entire seasons of shows in one sitting because it makes us feel as though we’ve accomplished something. It means we count every step and rely upon our personal fitness trackers to tell us whether we’ve moved enough in a day. It means that our digital meditation guides and apps reward us for the minutes we spend meditating with badges, stickers, and stars. All of this filling and measuring of our time and output, this prizing of “production” over “boredom,” this indulgence in data consumption due to the fear of missing out or coming up short cannot be considered simply benign pursuits.
A primary result of this immersion in our digital spaces in order to feel and measure our productivity is a decreased engagement between our embodied selves and the fully physical world around us. Don’t get me wrong. The worlds of ideas and information can be compelling and beautiful, digital measurement and reporting can be helpful, and relational, vocational, and recreational pursuits deepened by digital contact can be intensely rewarding. There are, however, costs to investing only (or even primarily) in these spaces. These costs include a diminished comfort in one’s own skin accompanied by a lack of familiarity with the message indicators of one’s own body and mind. Decreased ability to tolerate stillness, silence, and boredom, and agitation or anxiety are also frequent costs. Finally, a diminished capacity for focus and a lack of experience with meaningful self soothing are also potential outcomes.
Generally speaking, the more we employ technology to make us productive and to measure our accomplishments, the less experience we have with our embodied abilities to do the same. The more we rely on our fitness trackers to tell us if we’ve moved enough, the more removed we are from our own mindfulness and physical indicators of health and wellness. The more we engage our devices in times of stillness or silence, the less comfort we are likely to build with both. The more we rely on our devices for stimulation and soothing the less capable we are at providing either in and of ourselves. *
With a new and expanding length of daylight, we have the opportunity to decide how we might engage it. We can use the hour as a motivator to lengthen the productive part of our day, filling it chock a block full of getting more done, or we can re-think our ideas about productivity and our relationship with our devices and our selves. Might this extra hour of daylight provide us opportunities to day dream once in a while, to look at clouds, to practice tolerating boredom, to ask ourselves if we’ve moved or meditated or engaged other humans enough in this day and then respond appropriately?
Any time we are presented with opportunities to consider the habits by which we live and convert them into norms with the power to lead us to be more whole, healthy, and content people, why not grab hold of them? Why not use this re-set of our clocks as an impetus to re-set our relationships with time itself and the way in which we use it? Why not leap forward into spaces of discomfort for the sake of growth and depth, spaces of newness in relation to our selves and others, and space for spaciousness itself?
*This is not to say that we should not employ technologies that help us get started in producing outcomes we desire to achieve. Personal fitness devices can help us tailor an effective exercise regimen by giving us important data. Apps which track our food or meditation or study time can also provide effective motivation. Online communication gives us an opportunity to practice when face to face communication is a challenge. The goal is always to make sure that we have a balance of motivators and measurement tools...some online and digital and some within ourselves alone.