I wrote on these epic pages, just last night, about our adventure with the unplugged internet router. I explained how suddenly the internet stopped working, and we would be forced to go three days in Quarantine life with no internet at home. When the Century Link man came to fix the issue, he simply plugged the router back into the wall, and was on his merry way. I mentioned my inclination to take to Twitter to criticize Century Link, and my relief that I didn’t.
I listed a number of lessons learned, and one important lesson I discussed ever-so-briefly was, in my own immortal words, “to be slow to judge or criticize others without first taking a deep look inward to see if the problem might be coming from within.”
Shortly after writing these words of deep wisdom, I chanced upon the same exact concept in book I am currently reading by Nir Eyal called Indistractable. I have always been very interested in improving my relationship with my iPhone and other devices, and have been critical of them. I have blamed them for my constant state of distraction and inclination to waste time. I assumed if only I could get rid of them, I would suddenly be in a healthier state of mind. Eyal, however, was the first author on the subject who posits an idea, that upon reflection, I observed in my own behavior. Maybe it is not the fault of the device– maybe my own behavior has something to do with the problem as well.
The way Professor Eyal describes it:
In the game of life it’s often harder to see the root cause of things. When we’re passed over for a promotion, we might blame that cunning co-worker for taking our job instead of of reflecting on our lack of qualifications and initiative. When we get into a fight with our spouse over a toilet seat left up, we might blame the conflict on one tiny incident instead of acknowledging years of unresolved issues. And when we scapegoat our political and ideological opponents for the world’s troubles, we choose not to seek to understand the deeper systematic reasons behind our problems.
These proximate causes have something in common–they help us deflect responsibility on to something or someone else….Without understanding and tackling the root causes, we’re stuck being the helpless victims in a tragedy of our own creation.
After reading these words, I wanted to stand up and clap. They embody so much of why I grieve over the state of our society. We are so quick to pass on blame to others– to anyone else except for ourselves. And as Eyal so masterfully points out, we don’t just do this to other human beings– to denigrate anyone who might not share our world view, and to assume that they must be crazy or bigoted if they voted for a different candidate. We do that, and it is exceedingly problematic. I can, and should write pages and pages on my blogg analyzing this issue in greater depth.
But, and this is where he blew my mind, we also do this blaming with inanimate objects like our electronic devices. I have always been so quick to blame my phone for my distraction, and yes, it, and its designers who works hours trying to figure out how to distract me, share some responsibility. But really, I need to look inward, and see where I have gone wrong. There is, after all an “i” in “iPhone.”
Without doing significant internal work, if I dumb down my phone, or switch it out for a dumb phone, as I have done repeatedly these last few years, I will simply replace the distraction of the phone with other distractions. Last year when going six months without an iPhone, it is true and undeniable that I was not on my phone all that much. BUT, I was on my iPad more than ever before. Before eventually taking my phone back after six months, I realized I wasn’t fooling anyone, and needed to develop a more prudent system.
What that system looks like, I don’t fully know–I am only 49 pages in Eyal’s book on the topic. But like the first step in weight loss is stepping on the scale, the first step in regaining my focus and attention is acknowledging that I have something to do with this process, and the matter is indeed much more complex than simply adjusting the apps on my phone, or switching over to a dumb-phone.
As I continue this journey to live a more mindful, intentional life I will do my best to continue to share my findings with you! But in the mean time, I will strive to remember that whenever there is a problem in life, the very first thing to do is to look inward.