I’m wholly fine with this. The ladies sitting cross-legged on the flooring around me are passing around a wooden container and dropping their telephones inside. It’s coming my lane, and I’ve been instructed to jot down my sensations about parting with my phone. I’m entirely fine with this, I write, which is a lie. Nevertheless, into the box moves a small rectangle containing every photo I’ve taken, every to-do list I’ve failed to cross off, every professional, personal, and romantic relationship I’ve preserved, every creepy thing I’ve Googled, every calorie I’ve logged, every step I’ve walked, every embarrassing text or IM conversation I’ve had, every secret I know.
Liza Kindred, the event’s host, closes the lid and sets an amethyst crystal on top. “If you’re someone who believes in the woo-woo, as I do-do, ” she says, “amethyst is supposed to be one of the crystals that neutralizes technology, so a lot of people will people will put it on their phones or on their laptop.” So begins Sustenance Sunday, a workshop designed to teach us about authentic communication, mindful utilize of technology, and, because we live in the contemporary world, “awakened social posting.”
Kindred is an entrepreneur. She started Mindful Technology, a business consultancy offering executive education and workshops, to appeal to people and firms who find meditation and mindfulness to be too precious and twee. Mindful Technology is for “people who are fed up, who curse all the time, ” she explains , noting that her New Year’s resolution was to stop shoulder-checking people on the sidewalk. Kindred’s artfully decorated apartment, where a mason jar of tulips basks in the Instagram-friendly glow of a sunny skylight, is as serene as a Pinterest board–the opposite of fed up. Posters provide affirmation: “Allow yourself to be happy when you think you don’t deserve it, ” and, “Who mentions the easiest way is not the best way? ”
This event, co-hosted with a “mindful branding and marketing firm” called The Luminary Agency, is capitalizing on a few moments. The world is waking up to the dangers of too much personal technology, thanks, in part, to the outspoken activism of people like Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, investors like Jana Partner and CalSTRS, who have implored Apple to study the effects of smartphone use on children, and scandals like Cambridge Analytica, which laid bare the data collection practices of powerful companies like Facebook.
But there’s a bit of a snag in the movement. Smartphones and social networks and apps and 24/7 connectedness are too helpful to abandon wholly. Even if we conclude that they’re even worse as cigarettes or gambling, the technology is been incorporated in “peoples lives”. The notion of functioning without the services of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or Amazon seems so difficult that quitting them is a newsworthy sacrifice.( There’s even a burgeoning genre of stunt journalism around the idea .) And in the end, it appears that more quitters and boycotters have failed than have succeeded.
That leaves room for people like Kindred to use the very tech she’s trying to help us break free of. It’s the reality of house a business amid the complicated web of corporations whose services have become indispensable. The addictive qualities of these platforms build them the best place to reach potential new customers or devotees. Kindred notes that she’s proud of Mindful Technology’s Instagram account. “It’s blowing up, ” she says. “I envision a lot of people like me are fed up and over it.”