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Reminding you to become more present: A co-feature with Noah Cracknell
Whatsup Snackers, from SF 👋,
Last weekend in NYC, I watched one of RunWithMe’s runners complete his first half marathon, met a few founders in our Google accelerator, and left energized by the city’s infectious energy and reconnecting with old friends.
Another highlight was reconnecting with a brilliant health creator, writer, and ex gym owner Noah Cracknell. In today’s guest feature, Noah makes the case that we can abstain from our phone and engage with the world in a more focused, intentional, and present manner.
His piece below re-emphasizes a thought I’ve been returning to:
Technology is either your servant or your master.
When I find time to abandon my iPhone Mini for short, intentional periods of time, I find myself more present, content, and calm.
We’d explored this theme in Dopamine Destiny and see the world through this filter. We could all use the reminder to put our dang devices down, even if for short periods.
10pm in Valencia
Imagine the scene: Noah is sitting in a lively plaza a few beers deep. Valencia hums with energy. People are downing bottles of red wine and engaging in meaningful conversation.
That’s when it struck Noah: not a single person was on their phone.
Hard to imagine these days, right? It’s rare today to not have a device in your pocket, on your wrist, or within arm’s reach. Not being tethered to your phone forces you to be present, overcome awkward moments of silence, and actually engage with who you're with.
Before cell phones, when conversations paused, people used to wait in the silence. We would sit awkwardly instead of escaping into an app.
Now, when friends go out to dinner, any break in conversation causes people to pull out their phones. We've become so accustomed to multitasking that we're losing connection with the real world we live in. We should use smartphones and love people, not love smartphones and use people. ~ Newspring
There's a time to use technology and a time to abstain from it.
Device abstinence is the purposeful act of not using your device(s) to be more present, focused, and engaged. It’s not about never using your phone; it's about not using it during times that require your full presence. It seems ridiculous that such a thing needs a name, but with an increasingly digitized society, it's likely helpful nomenclature.
Here's the punchline: phones, tablets, and computers are supposed to improve our lives – and for the most part, they do – but if they become harmful distractions, damage our physiology, and degrade our life, then action must be taken.
You likely know the best action is to abstain, but it’s hard at first. You have to forgo the hyper-palatable activity of compulsively checking your phone. But it’s worth the effort.
The goal is to consciously abandon your device – for short periods of time – in pursuit of presence, contentment, and tranquility. How long must you suffer?
It’s less about the duration of abstinence and more about why you're doing it in the first place. There's no amount of genuine social connection worth sacrificing sacrifice to mindlessly scroll through social media.
Boredom is Good for us
Turns out boredom is actually good for us.
Traditionally, when we became bored we would go inward and mind wander. Mind-wandering is a rest state that restores and rebuilds the resources needed to work better and more efficiently any time we're focused on the outside world (from writing to coding, to having a conversation). It also allows us to introspect and develop creative ideas to improve our lives. Time in unfocused mode — rediscovering boredom — is critical to get shit done, tap into creativity, process complicated information, and more.
The way we dealt with boredom before we began surrounding ourselves in constant comfort delivered benefits that are essential for our brain health, productivity, personal sanity, and sense of meaning. We'd often use it to improve our situations (finding food, building better relationships, thinking [sic] of creative ways to improve our lives). But there's been a cosmic shift in boredom. The way we now deal with it is ‘like junk food for your mind.’" - ~ Michael Easter
Our devices are great for many things. But when they're used to escape from the "real world," things get ugly. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube are more pernicious slot machines machines. Instead of just stealing money, they scavenge our attention and emotions.
As I’d previously written,
Algorithms have taken us in an incendiary direction. They’ve seized our attention and kept us using their products. They’ve successfully completed their mission, leveraging the same neural circuitry used by cocaine and slot machines. I’m writing this because there isn’t enough discourse of how our devices and these platforms have the same addictive qualities baked into them. - Saks Snacks 29
There still is hope.
Isn’t it funny that the less we’re on social media, the less social we are?
As Noah witnessed in Valencia, abstaining from your phone and engaging with the world fully focused is possible. The critical determinant is how well you respond to discomfort. If you try to escape discomfort – by compulsively checking your phone – you'll teach yourself that the answer to your discomfort is fleeing from your emotions.
He suggests addressing the discomfort with honesty, transparency, and action. He suggests that you might even find contentment waiting for you on the other side.
Until I find the time to share in-depth thoughts on how to intentionally integrate tech into your daily life… here are 3 ways Noah makes his phone a tool:
Turns off all notifications
Doesn’t sleep with your phone
Periodically abstains from device(s)
✨ Endnote ✨
We also hit 10k followers on RunWithMe’s TikTok, which enables us to ! So will we get to celebrate just in time for it to get banned by the U.S. government? 😅
What fires me up the most though as we gear up to launch our new community platform (free + paid options) on Circle? Having my thesis validated: running can be used as a medium that helps people realize their limitless potential.
Wishing you a limitless week ahead.