Mindfulness vs. Technology

(First published, January 10, 2017)

Today I meditated for a little while. I enjoyed that, as I almost always do. As a bad Buddhist, I believe there is a benefit to it. But as I said, I’m a bad Buddhist, which means I’m someone who doesn’t do it enough.

Well, this being January , I still have time to add something to this year’s resolutions, don’t I? Well, toward the end of last year I wrote some New Years Resolutions on the now defunct Kidmiles.org, an ill-fated effort in which I incorrectly imagined that other social media junkies like me would want to take a walk for the benefit of Save the Children.

I discovered something quite the opposite. Social media junkies don’t want to walk, for Save the Children or otherwise. They want to vulture-hunch their necks over their phones and text their followers, if they get outside to walk in the first place. Here’s a Luddite science experiment you can do at home: go to a mall on a weekend, and walk at a fairly brisk pace. While doing so, notice the people zombie-phone walking. Can you estimate their pace? Looks like about one mile per hour to me.

Walking around one of these zombies a few times, at a distance just far enough to escape their (limited) attention, would probably just be showing off. No, seriously, that’s rude. No good Buddhist would encourage you.

Before I meditated this morning, it occurred to me that many of my uses of technology are similarly addictive in character. To some extent that’s not a bad thing. My career as a programmer suggests that a certain above average level of computer tolerance is built into my system. From time to time I’ve worn the badge “language junkie” not as a clinical diagnosis but as a resume feature. But a core twenty minutes of mindfulness meditation could easily be carved out of my computer game time, without leaving too many alien creeps un-blasted.

An interesting thing I noticed about last year’s resolutions is that the one’s I was most successful with were the least like my job as a programmer in Cubeville.

I think my mind is trying to tell me something.