When you see ads on Facebook for a product, the automatic response is to be slightly annoyed. How dare Facebook try to read our mind with their incessant targeted advertising? Sometimes, it can be wrong about our needs, for example when people in their twenties receive ads about hair loss treatments. Most of the time though, it's scarily spot on about our deepest desires, no matter how shallow and commercial they might be.
Lately, the advertisement I've been seeing the most on my social media has been promoting 'calm'. I can't speak with much authority because I've been avoiding downloading the product out of defiance of advertising algorithms.
Calm is an app from the iTunes store which according to its description offers meditation and sleep stories. It has over 970 000 positive reviews on the App Store and has been voted the best app of 2017.
So if it's so fantastic, why haven't I clicked download?
It sounds pathetic, but we (or I) have hopelessly attached our lifestyles to technology to the point where taking time out seems like the most grueling of punishments.
All 'calm' is asking users for is a mere 15 minutes of the day. It might be to watch rain softly fall onto leaves or hear waves breaking on a pristine shore. We might spend hours with our monitor on Netflix or check our emails, but 15 minutes to simply stop seems to be the hardest choice we have to make in the day.
When people were hunter-gatherers, I'm sure their day was filled with silence and waiting. Imagine what it must have been like, waiting, creeping up on nearby prey in the natural world. There was probably a lot of walking and silence and alone time in all of that. People were probably also a lot less stressed, more mindful and most likely calm in their choices.
To reach those levels of calm, the only choice we have it to make the decision to relax. In our busy lives, tranquility isn't something that comes naturally, we have to choose to take the time to revel in it.
This reality may be sad, but it also presents an opportunity to explore how we can use the same technology which is taking over our lives, to help us relax.
Calm is just the beginning of a whole range of apps and smart technology which is impacting the way we can find a space to take time out in a modern way. Instead of looking at our screens, podcasts have enabled us to listen to meditation sounds, even on busy buses and trains. Now Calm is giving us images of rainforests and beaches from the comfort of our office chair or a city park bench.
Perhaps we don't actually need to leave our phones and news feeds behind but can find 15 minutes within technology where we drop everything, and just listen to the sound of natural silence.