Stealing our time

Category : General advice, Philosophy 24th September 2018

Inside Yoga 242 (24/9/2018)

During a recent radio interview survival expert Ray Mears said that he thought that the makers of apps and other social media platforms were stealing our time.

This comment struck me because it is a step further down the line from saying these inventions take up a lot of our time. Attitudes towards these inventions, which were originally hailed as time savers and regarded as our brave new future, are changing.

Ray Mears was talking about his survival courses which understandably are run without our gadgets, because participants are taught to survive in the wilds of nature with the resources that natures offers (except he did say they have GPS equipment  as a backup!).  He wants people to turn them off and focus on where they are.

Over the last year or so there have been more and more stories about how addictive these gadgets, social media platforms and all the other forms of internet based technology can be. In fact, stories have come out that the companies who designed and built this technology knew their products were not only addictive but that they were meant to be addictive, because they are designed to trigger production of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins – basically the stuff that makes us feel happy, better and primarily addicted to wanting more (of course, the science is more complicated than this!).  And thereby make profits for the company which made or provided it.

So if the makers knew they were attempting to grab our attention and keep our attention, and then get even more of our attention, then arguably Ray has a point – these people are thieves, stealing our time (I would add that other people have been commenting and saying similar things to Ray, he happened to be the catalyst to me writing this now).

Ray is not the first to say such things; during a recent Radio 4 programme about the modern age of capitalism the opinion was made that the commodity which is going to become the most precious (or already has become so) will be our “time”.  Companies seeking profits in this sector will seek to capture and keep our time (correction: they already have!).

I was talking to a 27-year-old woman last week about this subject and she admitted that she does feel addicted to her phone and all that goes with it. We had started talking about books; I was reading a book while watching my daughter’s and she expressed a wish to read more… to get off her phone! We might not have been speaking about a drug habit but the words were the same, when she commented that she knows she must cut back (on phone use etc) but finds it so hard (to break the habit). She added it is not even easier when with friends at one of their homes, because instead of sharing time together talking and hanging out, a lot of the time they all have their faces glued to their own screens! How many of us are aware that this happens to us, hate it, but carry on with the flow (or majority)!?

And it is not just the younger generation, we are all forming bad habits, take for example, comic/writer/presenter David Mitchell, who wrote in his Sunday Observer column: “Last Tuesday, on one of thousands of occasions I glanced needlessly at my phone…” We laugh, we joke about what we do but we are letting the companies who make this stuff run our lives. Who is in charge?

The criticism of this wonderful so-called “time-saving” technology has been around for as long as the technology has existed but I do think the criticisms and warnings have now gone up a notch to levels where the words used are about addictions and theft.

And what has this got to do with yoga?

Plenty…the core principle of yoga is to control our mind and liberate it anything that harms it. Addictive behaviour is clearly unhealthy to our mind and body.

Perhaps we know we have addictive tendencies, so you could say that if you are to become addicted to something, why not become focussed and addicted to the meditative practices of yoga which quieten and calm the mind? Yoga does require repetitive action and application, like all these IT apps and so forth, so there is a parallel, but here yoga is something that creates space within, by clearing the mind of all which distracts our attention (or fills it in this case)… its practice helps us to sharpen our senses and increase our clarity so that we become aware of who we are, including an awareness of our bad and unwanted habits… then we can take action to remedy and remove what we do not want in our lives (such as the addiction to this technology).

To clarify, before you think I am saying throw it all in the bin, this tech stuff which has become part of everyday life has its uses and can improve the quality of life, but we need to be aware of how addictive they can be, and learn how and when to use them. A time and a place… is an expression as old as the hills and still relevant in a modern hit-tech driven world.

Look at what you have (and this includes at all that is on your phone, tablets and so forth) and ask yourself, what can I get rid of, what can I change so that it is less intrusive, what can I use less often? All these questions might sound obvious but how many of us will not ask ourselves these important questions? We trundle along oblivious of what we are doing!

Related blogs:
Internet addiction time bomb –

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