It was spring 2017. My book 'Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn' was finished, my writing work was done. It had found its way into the book stores and my message had been made accessible to the general public. In the form of a book with a free app. I remember very well that I realized the moment that it was finished. I wanted to rewrite another chapter, but all I had to say at the time had been said and it was in the right chronological order. I had just typed the last lines and with a huge smile on my face I proudly called my mother. 'It's done,' I yelled on the phone.
What a unique experience and what a relief to be able to put so much in perspective, to have so much empty space at my disposal to be able to outline a larger framework. About my passion for the cutting edge of consciousness and computer technology. How very helpful for myself, because this made it even easier for me to navigate and increased the urgency even more to bring this out to the public.
But the things I would realise about my book only months later were painfully confrontational and embarrassingly ironic. Even somewhat hilarious.
It actually started as early as during the preparations for the book launch. The build-up to this was one big drowning process. I was unable to steer churning streams of data in the right direction. I spent months reconciling in slides, information and research into finding that perfect image and that perfect structure. Day in, day out, I locked myself in my office, behind my screen, with yet another mind map in the works. Once in a while waves of inspiration came and I tried frantically to capture these in a framework. In vain. As soon as I tried, the inspiration would ebb away again and I would continue to struggle in persistent pools of despair. In the end I decided to relax a bit and trust in a positive outcome and was still able to unwind a bit on the day of the launch. But it was pointless: during the presentation I died a thousand times and I wished that I could crawl under my rock again, behind my safe laptop, in endless online surfing sessions. A tsunami of self-doubt, insecurity and judgment flooded me. Despite the positive reactions and the subsequent invitations to lectures. However, my fierce inner critic refused to make any positive statement. It was an intense experience, but fortunately, 24 hours later, I had picked myself up again: after all, an opportunity for growth had offered itself. I proceeded with courage. Many lectures followed and the experiences varied from being completely in my sweet spot to utter displacement and everything in between. Until at a certain moment I realized that I was hiding behind a beamer, in the shadow of technology, and didn't really show myself. I got the feeling I was stuck in a concept, in a format that didn't suit me. Allowing myself to be led by existing perceptions of technology and (unconsciously) helping to propagate them. But this wasn't my narrative. I didn't want to just warn humanity about technology, help strengthen some kind of polarity or herald the end of the world. I wanted to highlight the start of a new reality, where humanity and technology can go hand in hand. That is, with humanity at the wheel and consciousness as the key.
I became stuck, incredibly frustrated, tripped and fell. In the autumn I decided to unplug and reconnect to myself. I realised that I was running after my own book and hadn't (yet) taken the time to allow that what I had written down to sink into me deeply. To reflect on this and to mark my own position in it. The irony was, apparently this was not consciously necessary either: this process had already started at an unconscious level. I had bypassed myself, stumbled and had fallen on my head. My head that was really stuffed. To the point where I noticed that I was increasingly unable to properly concentrate, drowned in my own thoughts and was quickly overwhelmed. As in a bad joke I had to think back to the remarks in my own book about the emergence of new disorders such as Infobesitas.
This is also referred to as data smog. An excessive intake of data, an information overload that leads to data congestion and decision-making stress and to an excessive stimulation of the senses.
However, as time went by, I couldn't really see the sense of humour any more. Before writing my book, I had already acknowledged to myself and my newsletter subscribers that I was addicted to my smartphone. At the time I thought that I had acknowledged this to its full extent. Perhaps a little light bulb should have been lit when my soul mate gave me a t-shirt with the text 'I love you more than wifi' ;)
Soon after the actual full extent became painfully clear to me. When I reread my own book, many paragraphs suddenly pinpointed some sore spots. Some very sore spots. I had to admit to myself that in some parts of the book I was totally describing myself.
Passages about the importance of spending time in nature, exercising, incorporating tranquility and relinquishing from spending time on your computer every now and then in order to recharge and reconnect to oneself. About how excessive computer use particularly activates your left hemisphere, keeps you occupied in your head, out of touch with your body. The negative health effects of the radiation. The possible addiction to smartphones, social media and the internet. The internet, the digital heroin. Ouch, how confronting. For someone like me who prefers to be glued to her laptop all day, endlessly surfing the internet and in the evening with the same ease switching over to her smartphone and smart TV. Who is very difficult to get outside and to get physically active. Whose world is mostly inside her head. Connected to the cosmos, sure enough. But where my strength is, there is also my biggest pitfall.
The other day I jokingly said to my partner: I am a Millennial who was born just a little too early. Millennials, also called Generation Y, are the generation that born between 1980 and 2000. In a world where the smartphone and the internet are commonplace and almost everything is available at the push of a button. A generation that is not known for its patience and that is based on convenience and instant gratification. Luck and friends can be 'ordered' online and no mountain is too high, until they have to climb it by themselves. From the beginning of this digital era I have embraced technology, I have become close friends with it. I'm also not known for my patience and expect instant results. I find it incredibly difficult to work steadily and over a long period of time at something, the smallest thing makes me change course or throw in the towel. Moreover, I am high-sensitive, very easily distracted and bored, always looking for the next big thing. New ideas, new input. This often results in an endless merry-go-round, looking for the perfect entry, the perfect perspective, the perfect design. In addition, I want to make a difference and also have big ambitions. Altogether more or less a recipe to actually get little done and, with an overactive inner critic, becoming frustrated and burned out. Another feature that Millennials are known for.
I move about online just as easily, maybe even easier than offline, with the risk of getting more and more out of touch with the 'real', analogue reality. Given my insatiable hunger for knowledge, need for understanding and for analysis. My laptop, smartphone and tablet with wifi connection are willing, always available and they never complain. So much was clear by now: I had become entangled in the (worldwide) web. The web of which I had written extensively myself. Not overnight, but gradually. Like a virtual assassin. I had become more and more absorbed in it and got caught up in it, losing myself in the process. The big spider was lurking, ready to strike. Suddenly I realised: that's why the subject matter touched me like it did, of course, when I started to delve into it. That's what made me go deeper into it in the first place, on a subconscious level. Apparently this was my way of self-exploration. A painfully confrontational self-exploration.
In my book I talk explicitly about the importance of being human, with all its virtues such as empathy, love and attention. To explore what it actually means to be Human and I urge the reader in the chapter Slow Tech to guard this. To make sure that technology is and remains of service to this. Especially in the time in which we live today. It is this being Human, with its full emotional spectrum, that seems to be my biggest challenge. More than ever, because digital temptations are looming. And they are screaming for my attention. Increasingly I recognise how very dangerous this smartphone can be, if used unconsciously, and what really happens in and around us through these Smart technologies. How I increasingly drifted away from myself. How your and my attention and perception of reality are hacked. What the impact is on our social and professional lives and more importantly: on the connection to ourselves. By now I have come to realise that I am an experiential expert and I feel an even greater sense of urgency in getting this message across. Even I underestimated it to such an extent. Hugely underestimated it. For now my focus is on learning to use technology in a conscious manner and reclaiming my time and attention. This will enable me to consciously focus on what really matters to me.
And what I found somewhat hilarious? That all of this is actually so obvious that it seems like the proverbial elephant in the room. The thing we all know but nobody dares to say out loud. Let's first focus on our relationship with what we're all carrying in our pocket, instead of at this stage worrying about how artificial intelligence might herald the end of mankind. This is something that we will have to deal with at a later stage. First things first.
The biggest challenge of our time is not so much that robots will take over but that we have to make sure we don't become one ourselves.
Even when I write this, I feel that this touches me deeply. To me this is such a painful notion and I see this happening in and around me all the time. Even subtly promoted in the media: in films, games and series. Change can only start when you are aware of what's going on, of what needs to be addressed. After all, you can't change what you haven't yet acknowledged.
Today, I have adjusted my course, my priorities. Will you move along with me?
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