What a turn-off

It was Digital Awareness Day last week. (No, me neither. I was too busy slaving away on a computer.)

We clearly need to rethink our relationship with technology. It has become a master/slave affair that has only grown more spiky, leathery and strangely unsatisfying during lockdown.

Yes, technology has provided the sole means of staying in touch with friends and family and, for many of us, doing our job. But the price it has exacted in return has been considerable. Even the CEO of Zoom has admitted to zoom fatigue, which must present a challenge for his PR people.

Looking closely at the way technology increasingly rules our lives is therefore important. Our addiction to our devices, oversharing of personal details online and slavish devotion to social media sites that are simply poisonous wells of hatred are not good for our wellbeing.

To this end, Digital Awareness Day was accompanied by a series of events and promised more than 70 speakers across four days, talking about how we “rethink our relationship with technology.”

All these sessions were… online.

Given the housebound strictures of the recent unpleasantness, it’s perhaps unsurprising that an event to address our over-reliance on technology would be held online. But it does seem a little, how can I put it? what’s the word? hold on here’s one… DAFT… to address concerns over screen addiction, for example, through four days of webinars.

It’s like holding a meeting of alcoholics anonymous on curry night in a Wetherspoons, or a weight watchers session in a McDonald’s drive-thru.

The weekly screentime report from my phone arrives each Monday morning, as welcome as a crippling hangover, as subtle as a self-administered Covid test, and with all the charm of an Aldi checkout.

I have watched this report of shame creep up to a frankly unbelievable number of average hours each day, to the point where either my smartphone is now smart enough to unlock itself and watch Netflix and buy crap on eBay without me, or Apple is lying. I appreciate there is another potential explanation here, but as no less than Sherlock Holmes once said, never dismiss a theory, however absurd. Or was it something about not letting a fact get in the way of a story? (wastes 10 minutes on Google, never to be recaptured)

Anyway… the way to address our devotion to our devices is quite simple and involves a laboured analogy, so bear with me. A healthy gut doesn’t need fancy yoghurts with friendly bacteria in environmentally unfriendly plastic packaging. It simply needs you not to force processed sugary rubbish down your throat. That’s it.

Similarly, there’s a simple way to rethink our role with technology and our addiction to screens, in particular. Reducing our reliance on our devices need not involve meditation, breathing exercises or wild swimming replacement therapies.

It just requires us to turn off those devices once in a while. Literally, switch them off. Indeed, while the physical on/off switch is now a thing of the past (crafty bastards!) switching off a device is, in fact, possible and, strangely, the world doesn’t end when you do so.

It’s often claimed that our Big Tech overlords have too much control over our lives, and this is, of course, true. But their domination is hardly the stuff of a Marvel trilogy if it can be eliminated entirely with one swipe of the ‘off’ slider. Where else in life can you give it to The Man (and, yes, most of them are men) and defeat a trillion-dollar machine that treats you as the product with one finger alone?

Not sure you can turn your device off just now? I know how much it means to you. Maybe sometime in the future, once you’ve built up the confidence? Fine. UK Unplugging Day is on the 21st of June this year. There's even a website where you can find out mo…


A pick and mix of words; now online, better packaged and more expensive, like everything post-COVID. The sour cherries are best. The opinions are my own.