Mindful tech means intentional use. It means to discard whatever doesn’t serve us or outright hurts us. Because we waste too much time on stupid junk anyway.
But in the context of addiction, mindful tech questions can interrupt the spark of craving and save you from plunging headlong into a spiral of regret.
(This article also available as a slideshow!)
I collected these from around the Web, and some I invented. Just ask them when you get an urge and evaluate whether you want it or like it (they’re not always the same thing).
These are in no particular order. And you can always customize your list if one sticks out to you. #12 is the most impactful for me, so I ask it first.
1. What sort of person will using this technology make me?
- Angry, bitter, violent, vicious?
- Envious, depressed, self-hating?
- Selfish, manipulative, greedy?
You are what you eat.
According to the homeostatic response, people don’t like being stuck in negative emotions. We seek outlets. Discharging the electricity of negative feelings on the world around us when our bodies can’t take the tension anymore.
I can think of lots of examples, but the barometer is this: based on your previous experiences, will consuming this make you happy or miserable? Will your negatives outweigh your positives?
2. How easy will it be to stop using this technology?
From your previous uses, can you stop yourself before wasting too much time? Scrolling, watching, playing…
And on the large-scale, could you drop the category altogether?
Remember, everything is marginal utility. If you stop before it becomes an unfun slog, you’ll enjoy it more and face no pain from overconsumption.
3. What will my use of this technology encourage me to notice?
Hate is no good for anyone. But love is indescribable.
Does your technology encourage you to notice someone’s humanity? Or their angry, lashing ignorance (social media, message boards), their body (porn, social media), or their enviable possessions (everywhere)?
Whatever you notice becomes what you focus on and thus creates more of it in the world where it wasn’t before. And so, you fill yourself with negative emotions that need discharging. Or positive ones that radiate outward.
4. Will using this technology induce FOMO in me?
FOMO, the fear of missing out, springs from comparison. Comparison is the theif of joy, as the saying goes. And I know how hard it is to stop comparison: I used to hurt myself, and I still tell myself “I’m not good enough.” But if you can’t eliminate it, reduce it. Ask yourself if what you plan on consuming will make you feel this way.
FOMO, the fear of missing out, is the sting of envy, self-hatred, or unattainable desire. Porn used to make me desire things that now I don’t, and the desire itself, never able to be fulfilled, flamed angrily.
All you can do is reduce or eliminate. So ask yourself if viewing will make you feel FOMO or POMO.
5. What desires does my use of this technology generate?
It’s tough to tell which of your desires are natural and which were created by advertisements. And honestly, what isn’t an advertisement? This article promotes mindful tech, an ideology.
To be succinct, does it promote something you want but you can never have? Or something you can earn?
6. Does my use of this technology raise my expectations of what my life “should” look like?
- Scare or otherwise excite the potential customer
- Present our product as the only solution (thus eliminating fear)
But you can’t always get that solution, no matter how hard you try. And that hurts like hell. So the only options are continue to suffer or remove the sales pitch.
Envy is pain. Pain is lack. Lack is bile.
7. At the end of the day, does using this technology make me happy?
I’m talking about long-term happiness, not short-term. Does it give you a sense of wholeness, of grounded joy? (Think Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” concept.) Or do you consume it to deal with a spur-of-the-moment negative emotion?
Has it made you happy in the past, or did you regret it immediately? (Hint: keep a log.)
8. What has my use of this technology disclosed to me about myself?
“Nosce te ipsum.” (Know thyself.)
– Temple of Apollo at Delphi
You don’t consume objects; you consume emotions.
So what emotion are you seeking when you start to crave your vice? (“Escape” is not an emotion, and craving is something you actively do.)
Replace it with a healthy alternative. That is, follow the instructions in my taming lightning article.
9. Do I agree with this company’s core values?
I have a list of companies to never buy from because they espouse political beliefs I disagree with. In the same way, write your own list. Research the companies who produce the content you consume. (for example, Pornhub or Reddit)
Vote with your dollar. Or your time, which is also a currency.
10. Can I delay making more e-waste?
I know, not everyone cares about this one. But if you do, consider what materials your new smartphone, gaming computer, &c. comes from (lithium, nickel, &c.), or how the companies manufacture it. (ahem, China) Even at a base level, mindful tech is about intentionality. Like with #9, are you okay with the company’s environmental impact?
11. Am I doing this for enjoyment or because I’m miserable without it?
Ask yourself this question verbatim, and out loud.
The only way to find this out is to feel it firsthand. Deny yourself as long as you can, then uncover the truth. And if you’re miserable, substitute. (see #13)
Because thinking you’re miserable leads to “needing” your dragon to relieve the “suffering.” (A core tenet of the EasyPeasy method, which has helped thousands quit porn.)
12. Can the consequences of my use of this technology be undone? Can I live with those consequences?
Some things you can’t unsee, though you’ll want to. My God, you’ll want to.
And the people who made that were just appealing to an audience. One for which “vanilla” no longer satisfied, so now they need “birthday cake” to get that same high. (We call this tolerance in addiction science. It’s the Colosseum in ancient Rome.)
Do you really want to risk seeing the most horrible, brutal evil in the world? The gore, the hate, the dehumanizing lust? Because you will find something that lingers after your session.
So before you embark on that journey, introspect and address your psychological need, not through distraction, but a healthy substitute! Sometimes you can NEVER unsee the consequences.
13. Does my use of this technology promote quantitative over qualitative measures of success in life?
This is mindful tech at its core. How does using it make you feel?
You don’t need THIS MUCH money, fame, possessions, sexual partners, vacations, and experiences to be “enough,” though adherents and agencies insist and insult otherwise. You can have everything and feel nothing inside. And you can have too much of something and be deadened to the overwhelming joy of one good _________.
Scores rob you of happiness. Why compare? Why consume?
14. What feelings does my use of this technology generate in me towards others?
You are what you eat. Take in hate, put out hate. (all types of porn are hate!) Take in envy, sadness, any negative emotion, and your brain and body need to discharge it. And you’ll likely imitate those whose content you consume.
Does resentment, anger, indignation feel good? Jealousy, incurable desire?
Bonus mindful tech questions
- What will I miss out on by choosing this over something else?
- What are the potential harms to myself, others, or the world that might result from my use of this technology?
- How would the world look if everyone used this technology exactly as I use it?
Conclusion: mindful tech questions
Craving incites a burst of energy that you can either surrender to or redirect. I advise slowing it down before your “car” reaches the “destination” you want to avoid. Apply the brakes with these mindful tech questions and watch the urge rise and fall, because it always will.