Linda Stone, who gave us the idea of continuous partial attention and email apnea, has a new essay outlining her idea for an Essential Self movement:
The entire Quantified Self movement has grown around the belief that numbers give us an insight into our bodies that our emotions don’t have.
However, in our relationship with technology, we easily fall out of touch with our bodies. We know how many screen hours we’ve logged, but we are less likely to be able to answer the question: “How do you feel?”...
What if we could start a movement that addresses our sense of self and brings us into a more harmonious relationship with our bodymind and with technology? This new movement would co-exist alongside the Quantified Self movement. I’d like to call this movement the Essential Self movement.
She's right that these are two approaches that need not be competitive, though we can practice them in opposition to one another. In The Distraction Addiction, I talk about how doing simple measurements of things like the amount of time you spend online, the number of times you check your email, and so on can be quite illuminating: as Mónica Guzmán put it, "technologies breed new attitudes and habits so fast, sometimes, they hide" from us, becoming time-consuing habits without our really noticing. And noticing is the first step toward using them more thoughtfully.
And part of what Linda is advocating with the Essential Self are not technologies that just help us reflect on our state of mind, or how we feel, but can also change and improve them.
Some of these technologies work with light, music, or vibration to support “flow-like” states. We can use these technologies as “prosthetics for feeling” — using them is about experiencing versus tracking. Some technologies support more optimal breathing practices. Essential Self technologies might connect us more directly to our limbic system, bypassing the “thinking mind,” to support our Essential Self.