what we’re losing by saving time

Last week on LinkedIn, I created my very first carousel post.

I called it “Ode to the Original Carousel.”

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, you likely remember carousel slide projectors like this one.

As we move to all things digital and virtual, we’re losing a lot of what makes us human. So I thought it would be cool to highlight the sensory details of old-school tech.

Then a few days ago, an article from The Atlantic caught my eye:
The End of Manual Transmission.

I drove a stick shift for most of my 35 years of driving. But for the past 10 years, I’ve driven an automatic.

When I saw that headline, I realized I probably won’t ever drive a car with a manual transmission again. It was oddly unsettling.

The article concluded:

“When the manual dies, little about driving will fall away that hasn’t already been lost. But we’ll lose something bigger and more important: the comfort of knowing that there is one essential, everyday device still out there that you can actually feel operating.”

There is something to this idea of feeling a device operating.

When you used those original slide projectors, you felt them operating.

With each press of the wired remote button, the carousel physically moved with a satisfying clunk. You could hear the low hum of the motor and even smell the heat coming from it.

Your senses were engaged by what you were doing.
These sensory inputs help to bring the experience to mind and feel like you’ve gone back in time.

Today’s computer presentations (and most other things we do on a computer) just don’t have the same inherent memory-making elements.

Preparing and doing a presentation involves doing the same things we do hundreds of times a day.
Clicking, tapping, typing, scrolling.

There’s no distinctive sensory stimulation attached to the experience.

We used to handwrite everything, then we got typewriters, computers, and smartphones.
The diverse sensory cues dwindling with each innovation.

Handwriting.
The feeling of the pen in your hand.
The smell and weight of your notebook.
The sound of your hand moving across the paper.
The way your writing looks different from one day to the next.

Typewriting.
The smell of whiteout.
Pushing down the keys with a bit of force.
The feeling of the paper once it’s been typed on.
The clack of the tiny metal letter meeting the paper on the roller.

Typing on your computer.
The light of the screen on your face.
The sound of tapping on the keyboard.
AI ‘helping’ you complete your sentences or writing for you.

Typing on your phone.
Head down.
All thumbs.

We feel less. But we’re overstimulated.

All in the name of progress that promises to save us time.

Are we there yet?

We’ve lost the plot. What we’re actually doing is removing humanness from our lives. With nearly every time-saving innovation, we lose the richness of multi-sensory experiences.

We’re losing ourselves to save time.

In his TED talk, “What really matters at the end of life,” hospice and palliative care physician, BJ Miller explains that our priorities change when we’re dying and that,

“…so much of it comes down to loving our time by way of the senses, by way of the body – the very thing doing the living and the dying.”

In the end, when everything else is stripped away, what matters most is simply what makes us human.

Instead of looking for ways to optimize and save time in your life and business, consider what you can cut out completely.

And then think about how you might bring more feeling into your life with the time you save.

 

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