We click, we slide, we tap. For some, all day. Every day. I am writing this article on a laptop. It's the reality of millions of people trying to make a living, go to school, be influential, or get online. Or all of the above. We don't always realize how suffocating, damaging and limiting this relatively new way of life is to our bodies, hearts and minds. With productivity, efficiency and, above all, profits as the top priority, people are experiencing a slow, numbing demise as their eyes, brains, hands and bodies are used as repetitive production machines at every level. . It not only produces anxiety, social alienation, depression, addiction and a host of other physical and psychological ailments, but it separates us from our basic human needs and our connection to the natural world. , which in turn leads to rapid aging.
In ancient China, and even in the XNUMXth century, lingchi, death by 1 stab wounds, was implemented as a slow and cruel punishment for serious crimes against the empire. Although not as obvious or convoluted as lingchibusiness as usual in our modern technology-centric society is also perilous for human beings, albeit more slowly.
So what is medicine? Where's the antidote? It's not hard to remember the analog experience of decades ago: the interactive simplicity of neighborhoods, communities, families. It's not that all was well, but the basis of civilization and culture was not digital, and therefore not as quickly debilitating as an accepted norm. We haven't completely lost our connection with each other, with nature, with the community, or with ourselves, but we now tend to view these connections as the exception rather than the rule, at least in the dominant workplace culture. The tools and healing methods to counter digital addiction and our physical and emotional deterioration may be simpler than we assume. In the culture of the workplace, we must reestablish the connection between the human and the natural world as norms rather than brief exceptions. Oxygen, light, breeze, stretch and interaction promote productivity rather than exhausting them. Some companies know this.
I recently spent barely eight days working in a cold, fluorescent, windowless basement office. Rather than having a dedicated silent workspace, employees were constantly on the move, dragging their devices with them, leaving behind any semblance of ergonomic setup or continuity of space and location. It was chaotic, poorly planned, with no living green thing to look at, no natural light, and little human interaction. The job was 97% screen time and clicks. After only five of those days, I was at home one morning brushing my hair, when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my right shoulder blade. This stemmed directly from a host of repetitive motions. The constant mouse and clicks, even with an ergonomic setup, are brutal on the human musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
We've known for a long time that repetitive movements cause disease and injury, and that the human body needs some basic connection to the natural world to function well. Short-term thinking produces long-term side effects that thwart productivity and therefore profits. It's just not a smart approach to business. Humans are not machines or rapid-fire humans facts and gestures!
We would never subject a dog or a child for even half a day to the kind of work environment I was in for eight days. Yet this was expected of employees day in and day out. In fact, people spend their entire careers in these kinds of hellish workspaces. No wonder they suffer from extreme depression, anxiety, social phobia, suicidality and a loss of connection with themselves, with the planet and with humanity, in addition to distress physiological.
I have seen exponential technological change in my lifetime. My father worked on mainframe computers in the 1970s at the forefront of hardware and software development. If I stayed home sick from school, I would go to work with him and sit under his desk with a box of motherboard parts, from which I would make collages and small sculptures. In the mid-1980s we started to have personal computers at home, bulky as they were, and by the 1990s we were used to the personal laptop. Although I have used a variety of laptops since then, I still marvel at their poor design and the burden they place on our physical bodies. Laptops force us to crane our necks down in unnatural ways, straining our eyes and spine.
In the workplace, it's still common to see people working 8, 10, 12 hours every weekday on a laptop, with a complete lack of ergonomic attention. This causes not only physical pain but also a weakening of all orthopedic, nervous, circulatory, psychological, emotional and muscular systems. Physiotherapists know this and massage therapists make their living working on clients whose bodies have been compromised by the computer and digital work environment. If I were to design a laptop, it would have flip-up legs on the underside to adjust it to eye level on a work surface and a companion lightweight wireless keyboard: voila! An instant ergonomic configuration!
The advent of smartphones and our reliance on them have only deepened the abyss of physical suffering and bodily complaints based on the intensity of texting and swiping. The entire eye, skull, neck, shoulder, arm and hand complex, not to mention the entire spine and entire body, is ejected upon engaging these repetitive movements and postures. Many of us switch between cell phone, computer and tablet in a nonstop race to do more, faster. Nothing has pushed this forward more than the Zoom era, in which we often use these three or more devices simultaneously, for work, play, connection and entertainment.
We even rely on digital screens to check the weather, politics or many things we used to access through books, newspapers, radio and talking to other humans in the real life, whether in the cafe, the library, on the subway or in the workplace. Now, talking with others is discouraged in the tech workplace, as it supposedly reduces efficiency and productivity.
Giving up smartphones, laptops or tablets is now a big challenge. Imagine going for a run, a three-hour hike, or even a weekend, week, or month without them.
Anyone who goes on vacation or retreat, whether long or short, has likely gone through a period of detox. It takes time for the urge to constantly check our devices to dissipate. And then he goes into a place of freedom: the freedom to be in his body, to be in the environment, to be in the natural world. Whether or not we are in contact with other people while traveling or on a device-free retreat, we might feel that interacting with other beings, animals, weather, and the he environment is a refreshing reminder of our animal-human nature. A return to the use of our senses. We'll likely sleep better, have more original thoughts and ideas, and see our creativity return.
It is also a renewed opportunity to cultivate the vast inner environment of visualization or the daily practice of meditation. Simply resting in awareness or in formless meditation, just being in the human body in its natural state, we claim sitting, walking, eating and sleeping as our birthright experiences. They are enough. We don't need endless produce. Resting, reading a book, being with others, in some ways feels like lost arts, the arts of simply residing in bodily form, without depending on furniture, appliances or technology. Going to the mountains, the beach, the lake or with the family used to be a place to leave the phones and work. Now we expect and expect them to be constantly in touch, available, on. Like the ON buttons of our life that are never turned off.
Technology brings us many advantages and benefits, but our senseless dependence on it and our growing fears about AI and virtual realities show that we have forgotten that the Internet, computers, smartphones and tablets are tools, not our critical habitat. We wouldn't carry other types of tools around all day and look at them constantly. Unless we are a carpenter, gardener, builder, sculptor or cook, then yes, we often interact with our tools. But these are mere extensions of our physical bodies rather than overwhelmingly minimizing how we embody our physical form, our mental awareness, our emotional and psychological experiences, and our connection to spirit, whatever that may mean. for us. I can't imagine the carpenter, chef, gardener or roofer taking his tools to the bathroom, bedroom, pub or to bed when not on duty.
We need to shift our extreme reliance on technology and use it to incorporate more natural forms of movement and posture into the workplace. We need to integrate light, air, views and camaraderie at work, to bring these bodies back to life! Taking care of and preserving one's body will have positive effects on workers' ability and long-term interest in performing well. Quality of life is directly related to the quality and quantity of labor production. And, pleasure and well-being are birthrights that all human beings have, regardless of the type of work we do.