If you have been following along with this monthly series, you may have journaled to these lists of prompts in January and February. If not, no worries. Each month is a discrete list so you can join in at any time.
This past month, Barbara Ehrenreich had a lovely essay in Granta Magazine about her own journaling practice. It’s an excerpt from her book, Living With a Wild God. Here, she describes what drew her to a regular journaling practice:
I had discovered that writing – with whatever instrument – was a powerful aid to thinking, and thinking was what I now resolved to do. You can think without writing, of course, as most people do and have done throughout history, but if you can condense today’s thought into a few symbols preserved on a surface of some kind – paper or silicon – you don’t have to rethink it tomorrow. You can even give it a name like ‘yesterday’s thought’ or ‘the meaning of life’ and carry it along in your pocket like a token that can be traded in forever greater abstractions. The reason I eventually became a writer is that writing makes thinking easier, and even as a verbally underdeveloped fourteen-year-old, I knew that if I wanted to understand ‘the situation,’ thinking was what I had to do.
[. . .]
So this was the mental procedure, which even a little girl could learn: First, size up the situation. Make sure you have all the facts, and nothing but the facts – no folklore, no conventional wisdom, no lazy assumptions. Then examine the facts for patterns and connections. Make a prediction. See if it works. And if it doesn’t work, start all over again.
This month, let’s take a look at the place of technology in our lives — whether you’re a heavy/regular user or not. The prompts below do follow a certain sequence so it might help to keep to that. Happy journaling.
[Speaking for myself, I am not against technology. In fact, I’ve written at length about how social media can be used (and rationed) by writers beyond the usual self-promotion — see Part 1 and Part 2.]
March Journal Prompts:
1. List out your favorite apps and explain why.
2. List out your favorite tech devices and explain why. Go beyond the phone/tablet/laptop.
3. Which apps have made the biggest difference in improving your well-being (e.g. sleep, fitness, productivity, etc.)?
4. What is the one area of your personal life that could benefit from more technology/automation?
5. If you could only pick one app to use, what would it be and why?
6. If you could create a brand new app, what would it be and why?
7. If you could only pick one tech device (not your phone/tablet/laptop/computer) to use, what would it be and why?
8. If you could create a brand new tech device, what would it be and why?
9. Go back to your childhood and think about one thing that could have been much better if the right technology had been around then.
10. Consider one major “world problem.” Write about how you think technology could be used better to address it.
11. Write about a personal activity that you used to enjoy but cannot any more due to technology (e.g. for me, it’s letter-writing.)
12. Write about a work of fiction — book, story, movie, show — where technology was a main plot driver.
13. Imagine a future where everything is pretty much done by tech devices/apps. What would a day in your life look like in such a future?
14. Think about a time in history that interests you. Now consider how a tech app or device might have altered the course of humanity at that time. Write about that.
15. If technology could give you one super-power, what would you want it to be and why?
16. Write about the most tech-savvy person you know. What about them do you appreciate or not appreciate?
17. Write about the least tech-savvy person you know. What about them do you appreciate or not appreciate?
18. How have you used technology to enable human connection?
19. Has technology enabled your progress as a human being, or connected you to something bigger — a coach, a window into a new subject, or a community?
20. Do you think reliance on technology affects community standards, morés, taboos? Write about how and why.
21. Write about how technology use raises expectations of the self and re. how much we can accomplish and how quickly.
22. Write about how technology use has affected your ability to pay attention to everyday things around you — the good and the bad.
23. How do you think your social media presence affects your everyday life and emotions? How would your life change without social media?
24. What pressures do you feel to stay connected on social media?
25. If you have taken a break from social media, did you notice any benefits? Would you recommend it to others?
26. If you have ever quit social media, what did you miss the most? If you eventually returned, what drew you back?
27. Have you ever taken smaller steps to make social media a more positive part of your life? For example, unfollowing any accounts that don’t make you happy, monitoring your usage, or blocking out negativity?
28. Have you had a technology wake-up call that made you rethink your relationship with technology?
29. Should children have restricted time on tech devices? Write about why this is good or bad?
30. If you cut down on your regular technology use, what would you use that freed-up time for?
31. Based on the last 30 days of journaling to these prompts, what is your one big epiphany about the place of technology in your life?
If you would like to discuss any of these technology-related questions, feel free to share in the comments below or use the Contact link to send a private message.
More On Social Media
Let me leave you with an oldie but goodie: a 2010 essay by Zadie Smith on technology. She’s, well, not for it. I’m personally somewhere in the middle myself. But her points about the pack mentality and how the need/desire to be liked by many eventually flattens out what’s unique about us as individuals are well-made.
The last defense of every Facebook addict is: but it helps me keep in contact with people who are far away! Well, e-mail and Skype do that, too, and they have the added advantage of not forcing you to interface with the mind of Mark Zuckerberg—but, well, you know. We all know. If we really wanted to write to these faraway people, or see them, we would. What we actually want to do is the bare minimum, just like any nineteen-year-old college boy who’d rather be doing something else, or nothing.