Diminishing Everything But Now: Time and Technology

“Time is not money. It’s the way human beings move through this thing called life. If we can bring ourselves to consider the ways digital technology can make time rather than simply take more of it, we will be in a position to live for a better today, right now.”

The-Time-Is-Now-Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

I’m currently on spring break, enjoying a “staycation” at home in Louisville.  For the next week, I’ve got plenty of time.  I don’t need to check my work e-mail.  For at least several days, I won’t log on to Google Drive to work on my lesson plans.  I will blog and check my Twitter feed for compelling links, but digital demands are low.   

When it comes to working as a teacher, I don’t save time due to digital technology, largely because I choose to engage myself in digital possibilities.

Digital technology funnels me a conveyor belt full of more responsibilities and requests, more e-mails, and more blogging and social networking opportunities.  I find myself constantly weighing whether or not to accept new digital tasks and challenges, because I’m sensitive to having the choice to spend time away from screens.

I have little tolerance for digital demands that diminish the idea of time, demanding instant response and engagement, making it seem like we must be connected or online all the time to function properly in our daily lives.  Or to be abreast what is happening now.  

I guarantee I didn’t miss anything important on Twitter in the past hour while writing this blog post.   

I’d go crazy if my job demanded connectivity 24-7, like a hedge fund analyst acquaintance I met at a bachelor party in New Orleans, who had to wake up–or did he simply stay awake?–for a mandatory 3:00 am  conference call with an overseas company to hear and react to their earnings report.  It’s a new phenomenon that so many moments, each and every day, can be perceived or required as crucial.   Rushkoff writes:

Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now — and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is.

This idea of diminishment of the future and past, in addition to trying to process the onslaught of information is why I’m cautious when it comes to employing technology in my classroom.  How do we, and our students, thoughtfully plan out and execute a goal or project–generally think thoughtfully about the future–when we obsess over technologies that act to compress everything to the now?

How do we value time–or do we even care to save it–if all that matters is the present moment?

Forbes magazines list of The Least Stressful Jobs of 2013 is fascinating.  Besides University Professor, most professions on the list do not seem to have inherent digital technology and time demands that extend beyond traditional work hours.  Seamstress/Tailor.  Jeweler.  Hair Sylist.  Librarian.  Audiologist.  There also seems to be a correlation between working with your hands, and not a screen/digital technologies, for lower stress.

I think this one reason why I thoroughly enjoy building, hunting, cooking, and growing things to balance out the stresses and time-demands of my digital life.  

How does digital technology use or save your time?  How much are you influenced by the pressure of now as it relates to digital technology?  Do you attempt to save time during the day to engage more with a screen, or step away?  



  1. I guarantee you didn’t really miss anything on twitter in the last year. 😉

    It seems questionable to me that todays technology ‘saves’ our precious time, usually with the promise of more so called leisure time that never seems to appear.

    I doubt also whether the labour saving devices of the 50s that ‘liberated’ the housewife, truly had a feminist agenda in mind.

    I have worked with digital technology for the last 20 years. The demands of keeping up with new versions of operating systems and new versions of software are relentless – demanding you part with more cash and learn new arbitrary shortcuts and modus operandi year upon year.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. It allows me to make music in a different way, witter on the internet, and at its best, allows a voice to truly oppressed groups or individuals on a worldwide stage. The thing that frightens me is that new tools always come with a promise of liberation, and equanimity, and while some do live up to that promise for a short time – it usually ends up selling something to us that were unsure that we need and swallow without question – either ideology, viagra, time-saving ready meals or more technology.

    Sorry to witter on, but you got me thinking

  2. I’m still in control of my time even though I’m very busy and very productive. I don’t do ANY of the new interactive tools (Facebook, Twitter). The Internet and email are useful tools because I control them, they don’t control me. I do not have chronic stress. I’m 71 years old. This is a great topic, Paul.

  3. A few years back I started using Edmodo with my students. I realized I was spending way too much time at work (online) Kids can wait until tomorrow to get their questions answered. Parents should not expect replies at 10:00pm. I tell students now to use Edmodo to message each other to answer their questions. They don’t need me to tell them what page the assignment was on.

    I think last year Deutsche Telekom forbid its employees from logging on to email after 8:00 pm. They know that healthy employees live a balanced home and family life. Thanks again for the reminder to step away from the screen.

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