In this thoroughly digital age, it’s no longer up for debate that we desperately feel the need to check our mobile phones around 80 times a day, in case we miss the latest tweet, chat, breaking news headline or notification. Those little red notification alerts on our screen give us a hearty shot of dopamine, and our brain is rewarded for the unlocking action, meaning what? That we can’t wait to do it again.
And it goes further than our phones. In the digital age, there’s apparently no excuse for doing things old school; almost everything you do at work can be hacked or sprinted or automated. Nobody jogs any more – everyone runs, and the earlier in the morning you get up, the dirtier you get or the more extreme the hills, the more social media kudos comes your way. And how often have you seen this phrase on social media, that’s a kick in the pants for anyone currently watching boxsets in their sweatpants?
You have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé.
It’s inspiring and chiding in equal measure, and it implies that if you’re not killing it, every minute of every day, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
And yet: on the other side of this ‘because you can, you should’ culture is, inevitably, the backlash. Lots of us see mindfulness as a way to live a more focused, less frantic life. We do yoga in our lunch breaks to try to instil some calm into our days; we’re told that digital detoxing is the way to a more balanced life; knitting is back – and this time it’s cool.
And it’s no coincidence that living life the hygge way – it’s a Danish concept of cosy contentment and living well through small pleasures – has really exploded internationally in the last few years.
So what’s going on here? On one hand we’re never disconnected from the world around us, and on the other we seem keen to cast our digital lives aside for some quieter, slower pleasures. And as if to define the contrary nature of humanity, in 2017, the App Store ‘App of the Year on iPhone’ was Calm, which is designed to help us slow down, reduce anxiety, be more mindful and get mentally healthier – which you do through short meditations and inspirations on your phone. There’s a certain delicious irony there – but it’s also a nod to the middle ground that we’re all trying to find.
Because the fact is that, whatever you choose, it’s all good – as long as it’s all good for you. If you’re shackled to your phone, wishing for freedom, then make that choice and commit to making that happen for yourself. If you’re living a life of calm contentment, and you feel like you’re missing out a little, then know that you can get your feet wet in the digital water without being swept away in the current.
The point is, there’s no one way to right-speed your life. The way to get there is to do the work of self-awareness, finding out what truly works for you and the humanity that’s inside you. It’s not going to be what works for the person sitting at the desk on your left, or your right; finding your balance means consciously choosing what works for you, not what seems to work for everyone else. So step one in this adventure is rediscovering your humanity, by asking yourself what kind of speed you want to live at, how you’ll achieve it and what it will feel like when you get there. Time to get started.