Unplug This Holiday Season in an Always-On World

Have you ever noticed how specific Amazon, Facebook and Google purchasing suggestions can get? For example, the other day, I was joking in a group text about going off the grid and living in a yurt, so I shared a photo from Google Images of our vision—a glamorous camping tent. I opened my Amazon account later that day and saw an image of a yurt under “items to consider.”

How does Amazon know I mentioned living in a yurt, and what else does it and other tech giants know? A lot. We spend our days on search engines and social media sites that are constantly amassing all our data.

It’s no surprise we feel like someone is listening to our conversations, because they’re that invasive in some cases. Algorithms track and often define the rhythms of our life. They can influence our grocery list, vacation plans, even who we date. While technology has enhanced our quality of life in most respects, sometimes it’s worth taking a step back to examine its flaws.

Consider the time you spend on social media. Examine your screen time and understand the percentage of the day you spend looking at other people’s lives or information. Did you know TikTok and most social media platforms feed you through algorithms optimized to extend the amount of time you spend on its platform?

How does technology influence the lens through which we view the world? Do you think your cousin who voted for a different presidential candidate than you is served the same articles?

Most likely not, which has in part created the most polarizing political environment in a long time. So, what do we do when we feel like an algorithm is taking over our lives?

Get back to the basics. Pick up the phone and call your grandma. Get coffee with a friend who has a different perspective on life than you. Break bread. Share a meal with friends. Heck, write a letter. There are few things more personal than a thoughtful, handwritten note.

Last but not least, don’t stop asking questions. Information can be a powerful thing.