digital warriorship: a conversation with gwen bell

Gwen Bell in digital warrior 3 pose. (image via mightygirl.com)

This week, Facebook fired its yoga teacher because she banned smartphones during yoga class. The story went viral, most likely because it struck a nerve. Do we need to always be connected to our devices?

I recently interviewed Gwen Bell, a former “social media guru” (according to a 2010 Fast Company article) whose work is now focused on helping develop healthy relationships with technology. I talked to her for Where Is My Guru, which I had the pleasure of guest hosting today.

I’ve been following Gwen’s work for years. She was one of the first people I started following on Twitter – back when she was still on the platform – and she helped me figure out how to use it effectively. A while ago, I noticed that I hadn’t seen anything from her, so I went to her website to learn that she had closed all her social media profiles and was only accessible through a mailing list. I signed up and enjoy her regular emails full of wisdom and reflection on digital life.

Her latest project is a book, Digital Warriorship, which is available as a living document via the cloud (aka Google Drive). The book is intended to help people understand ourselves, our needs and the needs of others. It’s meant to help us bring our highest selves to the web.

Gwen’s writing has helped me examine my relationship with social media. I love social media. I spend a lot of time on the web, interacting on my various social media networks. In many ways, I feel social media enriches my life – but it also sucks up my precious time and messes up my attention span.

As Gwen points out, we have a finite time on the planet. What are we doing with it? I found myself asking myself if I always need have my smartphone with me. When I find myself scrolling through my Twitter feed, what am I really looking for? Or am I just “killing time”?

Digital Warriorship has taught me how to check in with my needs and be aware of my emotions while I’m on the web (and when I feel compelled to go on it). Even though I’m a serious internet user, there are some places I won’t go. I’ve never brought my smartphone to yoga class. Once that starts happening, I’ll need to take an even deeper look at my habits and behaviours.

I’m not yet ready unplug. In the meantime, however, I’ll just let go a little. I’ll leave my smartphone at home when I go for walks, put it aside when I realize that I’m feeling bored or needy. I’ll start where I am and grow from here.

  1. this is so important right now. i find myself wanting more “disconnect” times… i think I’m going to shut down my computer and drink some coffee… 🙂

  2. This is so important Roseanne … I have no cable TV, no home internet connection and no smart phone (I do have a very basic cell phone I use for occasional calls like calling cabs but I don’t text and I don’t always carry that phone with me). At one time I used to have a home internet connection and then when I moved I made the decision not to … partly because I’m a student and the university internet connection is 10 minutes walk from my apartment but also because I didn’t like what having a home internet connection was doing to me … when I had the internet at home I lost so many hours browsing.

    Now, I consciously use the internet and while I still sometimes spend more time on it than I intended … when I do this, I’m conscious of it. What I have found – in the 2 years I’ve done this – is that I have a more “active” life – I engage in more active activities and spend less time passively sitting at a screen – which I think is healthier. I wouldn’t want to do away with accessing the internet but I do feel more in control of my use of it with the arrangement I have now.

    All that said, I’m a little nervous for the time when I finish my degree and move … if I can I would like to continue not having a home internet connection but much will depend on whether I can move to a location that has accessible public connections at times I need to use them (like public libraries) – the one advantage of the university computers are that there is always one available regardless of the time of day.

    • this sounds like a great strategy, angela. and great to hear that your life is more active since you’ve put some boundaries around your internet usage.

      i still have internet at home and i have a smartphone. but i’m starting to be more conscious of when i’m using my devices and why. for example, yesterday i was riding the bus, i went on to my phone to check me email, i scrolled through twitter. and then i realized i was feeling bored and looking for ‘something,’ although i couldn’t define what that was. that’s when i knew i needed to put the phone away and just look out window, watch the setting sun and pay attention to the journey. my feelings of boredom slowly transformed into feelings of appreciation for neighbourhoods i rarely go to and my mind felt relaxed.

      thanks for the book recommendation, i’ll definitely check it out!

      • Aaah the bus thing … y’know I still can’t get used to that – I’m dating myself here but I grew up before cell phones and ipods! I still have memories of sitting on the bus and people having conversations. The saddest thing I find when I catch the bus these days is how isolated everyone is … I’m a rarity as I don’t have headphones on and I’m not staring down at a cell phone screen … it’s not that I begrudge people doing these things, it’s just that the sense of disconnection between people is tangible … nobody really looks at anyone anymore – their all present to someone somewhere else – I still can’t get used to it. It makes me sad.

  3. BTW you might find reading “Better off: flipping the switch on technology” by Eric Brende an interesting read … it was one of the books that influenced me.

  4. Roseanne how did you sign up to Gwen’s email list? I can’t find the link on her web page? I would love to sign up to her list too!

    • hi angela ~ yes, it’s true, there’s no list sign up on her website. there used to be one. hmmm…

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK9sxfpz5Fg

    found her doing some video with ev bouge aka ven portmann

    I liked lots of ev’s writings on minimialism but he too has closed down some of his older sites and works. they are into git, and computer stuff i don’t understand-

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