Creating Space Between You and Your Device
I admit it. I love my devices – my iPhone, my iPad, and my computer! And I like to think my habits around using them are pretty good. I’m not permanently attached to my phone, and, from an Alexander “postural” point of view, I like to think I do pretty well most of the time.
Two things recently got me thinking, in different ways, about the space between me and my device – literally when I’m using them, and with regard to my attachment to them.
First, I was inspired by a lovely blog post by Alan Bowers, Touch and the Alexander Technique. Alan describes fingers touching the keys of a piano as they prepare to play – “There is a spatial response, an enlarged space between me and the piano, a lengthening and widening in my back.” This reminded me of a very different sort of keyboard I often have my fingers on (and in fact is the one I’m using to type this blog). Would this idea work at the computer too? I became aware of my finger tips touching the key pads and the space between the keyboard – in fact the whole computer – and me, just as Alan did at the piano. I also got a sense of an “enlarged space” and an expansiveness within me – a release from a slight contraction inward and toward the computer. While a musician has a different, and no doubt more intimate, relationship with his or her instrument than we do with our computers, the idea of being aware of the space between you and your computer is very useful, and seems to help mitigate our tendency to get “sucked into” it both mentally and physically.
You can be aware of the space between you and your fingertips on the keyboard, and between you and the screen you are looking at. I’ve found this awareness of the “space between” to be a useful approach with any device I’m working with, be it my computer, phone or tablet. It’s become one of many helpful ideas I use to facilitate the optimal functioning of my body as I work!
Second, I’ve been motivated by some of the ideas and suggestions made by Arianna Huffington in her book, Thrive, and in the online course based on the book. During the course we were encouraged to make simple changes in our lives to help us “thrive,” such as getting more sleep and practicing mindfulness. One of our assignments was to create a “digital detox plan” – in other words to formulate a plan for ways to reduce the amount of time we spend on our devices and reduce our distractions from “digital triggers.”
As I said before, I am definitely not one of the worst offenders in this area, and yet I’ve now turned off notifications on my phone for things like Facebook and Twitter. They are indeed a distraction, and even if I don’t act on them just the “beeps” and lineup of messages can create a sort-of low-key anxiety. The only “beeps” now I get are for texts and actual phone calls.
Other suggestions from the course, which I already implement for the most part, include putting your phone and other devices away at certain times, limiting the amount of times you check your phone or device, selecting activities where you ban checking your phone, and removing your phone and your phone charging station from your bedroom at night and use a different alarm to wake up.
For anyone in business, the pressure to be available at all times can be intense, yet the research shows this is detrimental to our productivity, creativity and emotional well-being. Add to that the way we all too often interact with our devices (hunching and tightening as we are sucked into the screen), and we enter a whole other level of physical problems. Creating space between ourselves and our device – both reducing our attachment to them, and being mindful of HOW we use ourselves when we are using them – becomes an intelligent, some might say vital, approach to self care.
Our devices are wonderful tools to help us do all manner of things, and stay connected to people that are important to us. However, we need to remember that we are the boss, and we need to keep that relationship healthy – emotionally and physically. So find ways to have space between you and your device. I hope you’ll find some of my suggestions helpful.
Let me know what you think in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
* With many thanks to Lindsay Newitter for the photograph of me texting.
This is such a timely reminder about the constant stream of information and stimulation, which does create distraction and as you say low level anxiety. I love some of the tips and the idea of the digital detox and space in its broadest sense.
They used to say Americans were living the “dream, now its living the “stream of constant information
Glad it “hit the spot,” Nicholas. Thanks so much for commenting.
Thanks for a great post Imogen,
Thanks for a great post Imogen
Thanks for the interesting post Imogen. I got a smart phone on Monday, never had one before, so your post is very timely. I spent much of yesterday working out how to use it, and woke up today all stiff and aching, probably from anxious hunching. Wish you’d posted this yesterday morning! Allowing one’s vision to open to take in the peripheral is useful too – perhaps you could do a post on this too, one day.
The good news is you have the chance to start off the way you want to continue. I think being aware of our peripheral vision is EXTREMELY useful when looking at any screen. Good idea of a post – thank you!
I took Facebook off my phone completely because I was enticed to go there too much. The little red circles with a number in it was always drawing me in to see what messages might be there. Now I find it much easier to just check Facebook once a day. It is such a rabbit hole full of good articles and interesting posts ( like yours!). But, it was taking up too much time.
Well, I haven’t quite limited myself to once a day. But I’m on it when I choose to be, rather than having notifications lure me there all the time. And you’re right – it’s not that I’m just sitting there watching cat videos (alright – occasionally!). There’s lots of good stuff – too much, in fact. But it can be a distraction from what I really want to be doing much of the time.
p.s. Glad you found my blog, though 😉
I live with my phone in my hand, but I do make sure that I’m the boss of that relationship! I’ve also turned off a lot of notifications. especially on Facebook.
Love that you mentioned the #bringittoyou idea – it is not at all incompatible with the idea of space. In fact both is best – bring your phone to you AND be aware of the space between you and your phone!!
I’d love to see you teach a lesson with your phone in your hand 😉
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I am really a fan of Mr Alexander for inventing such Techniques prefix with his name.The above article is all about ones behaviour regarding gadgets.Yes I relearn to keep a safe distance.Social distancing has become social media distancing after reading the article. Thank you-