Time to create a balanced relationship with technology?

Office in a small city - Edward Hopper (1953)

 

European clocks go forward next Sunday; in North America the switch happened a couple of weeks ago. But is Daylight Saving Time becoming less relevant? Looking around, one could be forgiven for asking whether the priority is not daylight but the backlight found in LCD screens used in smartphones and modern televisions. And in fact, that extra hour of daylight in the evening mainly means an extra hour of waiting until we can get those richer blacks and more intense contrast where it seems to matter ever more: the virtual world.

The more time we spend looking at screens, the less important daylight becomes – and sometimes, yes, more of a hindrance. Whether you’re checking your messages while walking to work, enjoying your smartphone with your friends (who are each enjoying theirs), or watching a film, daylight is a hassle.

We started heading this way because we wanted to. Nowadays – to a large extent – we simply do it because we do it. And because others want us to do it.

Is this really how you want to spend your time on Earth?

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In 2016, Google employee Tristan Harris left his job to found a new non-profit organisation called Time Well Spent, which sought to expand the debate on what technology is doing to us and led to the creation of the Center for Humane Technology. Since then, the topic has exploded into the mainstream and it has become clear that it is not doing good things to our general sense of well-being.

The home page of the Center’s website features a striking montage image. A generic graphic of a smartphone is combined with a photograph of a woman. But she is not presented as being on the screen. She is in fact looking out from the phone, leaning with her arms folded on the bottom edge of the screen as though it were a windowsill. She seems happy, enjoying the view. And she is bathed in sunlight.

Maybe it makes sense to use these brighter evenings for something other than looking at pixels? And when bedtime approaches, matching sundown with a digital sunset: everything switched off, leaving just a land-line with a number known only to family and close friends, and a dedicated alarm clock.

Joining those who have ditched their smartphones entirely, combining a basic phone with a laptop or tablet (much better for typing on). Nowadays these ideas may sound almost radical, but as far as biology is concerned, they’re what your brain wants. Hence the medical side-effects of tech over-use.

Because of the apparent reduction in traffic accidents, Daylight Saving Time is said to increase life expectancy of a country’s citizens. Ditto banning phone use while driving, of course (with a much clearer causal link). Phones are dangerous in other ways, too: scrollers strolling into traffic, selfie trophy-hunters taking one risk too many, etc. But over-use of tech shrinks our lives in another way as well – incrementally and inevitably. It gives us a narrower existence in which we are less focussed, less rested and thus less awake. Over-use eats our lives, and it’s becoming the norm.

Time for a rethink?

 

 

You can buy an alarm clock for next to nothing. But should you want to add some ITRW beauty to your bedroom, the AC 01 is available from the Punkt. eā€‘store at a 30% discount until the 19th of April – the first 200 orders will also come with a free copy of Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation.

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