It is hard sometimes to fathom the extent our lives have changed in recent years:
- five years ago, engaging in social media was a fringe activity for college students and artists;
- families generally spent their evenings watching one screen, a TV, rather than their own individual computer screens; and
- cell phones were primarily for business people and performed the simple task of allowing us to make a phone call.
Today, there are over 500 million people on Facebook, from high school students to senior citizens. We are creating two billion tweets a month on Twitter , and most of us never leave the house without our cell phones, whose global use is expected to reach five billion people this year, and which now do just about anything a computer can.
The age of technology is upon us -- and with it awesome benefits. The free exchange of information, whether it be through blogs or social media, allows it to move unhindered, no longer under the control of a handful of large media companies who choose what we do and do not consume via TV, radio and print. We can now do our own research on issues that matter to us and are much more able to be informed about our world.
Yet a society of increased connectivity also has its downsides, as studies suggest that up to three out of every four U.S. workers now call their job stressful. More people today feel increasingly hurried, overwhelmed and distracted, which has much to do with the pervasiveness of these same technologies. While once we could go home and get away from work, now it follows us through cell and computer, such that it is easy to live "always on." For many, the technologies that we once thought would be our servants feel more like our masters.
In times we ask, "What do we do with these amazing technologies?"
Do we spend our time playing mindless games and living so distracted that we rarely give the people around us our full attention, and so bombarded with information and so constantly connected that we have to take medications to get to sleep at night (which has skyrocketed in recent years)? Or can we embrace these technologies in ways that add to the quality of our life and benefit the world? Can we marry the external technologies with inner technologies like mindfulness, compassion and wisdom?
It is ample time, it seems, for a Wisdom Manifesto for our age.
Here are our thoughts. Please add in the comments what you think is important.
- Attention Matters: When engaged either on- or offline, give your full attention to your actions.
- Balance Is Key: Take time both with and away from technology, so that you live a balanced life.
- Consciously, Not Constantly, Connected: Focus not on the amount of time you put to technology but the quality of that time.
- Use the Tools in Ways that Matter: The amazing technologies of our age are only as good as the intention we bring to them. They can only create a better world when used with the right attention and intention.
Let us know what you think below.
Soren Gordhamer is the author of "Wisdom 2.0" and organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conferences, which unites staff from technology companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook with individuals from wisdom traditions to explore living with deeper purpose, presence and wisdom in our modern lives. More information can be found at www.wisdom2summit.com.