Dallin Crump

life

For the first couple weeks of the year I used an unconventional Android phone – the Unihertz Jelly 2E – as my daily driver smartphone. While it's a delightful little phone and great for what it is, I'm back on my trusty iPhone 8.

Back to iPhone

I loved the small form factor of the Jelly 2E for many reasons – mostly because it kept me off the phone when I didn't need to use it. But the main reason I'm back on an iPhone is the software. A few apps I wanted to use simply would not run on the Jelly 2E, probably because of its unconventional screen size (3”) and hardware.

Also, I've been using an iPhone as my daily driver for so long that my digital workflow is just more efficient on iOS. Yes, lock-in is a factor. FaceTime and iCloud calendars, for example, have become indispensable tools for communicating and coordinating with my family. None of them are planning on going Android anytime soon, and me being the only Android user means I have to use less efficient workarounds (I can't FaceTime them, they have to send me a link for a FaceTime. And I have to rely on a third-party app (DAVx5) to sync my iCloud calendar and contacts with my Android phone). And there are other examples besides those two, like managing family settings, content sharing, and subscriptions is easier, or in some cases necessary, on an iOS device.

But these specific examples just point to a broader issue.

Convenience

In recent weeks I've written about how I worry that some things have become too convenient – that when we allow machines to exclusively do meaningful tasks for us that require us to be intentional, we lose something important. We need to be careful and intentional about how we use technology. It's more convenient to send a text or an email, but sometimes a hand-written letter or card is the best way to convey sincere thoughts and sentiments to family or friends. We can read just about anything on a digital device, but sometimes We need to hold and read a physical book. Video calls are fantastic at bridging time and distance to connect people, but they are not an adequate substitute for meeting in-person.

But we must balance the convenience equation. If there is such a thing as too much convenience, there can also be such a thing as too much inconvenience.

I shudder to think about how many cumulative hours I have spent fretting and thinking and tinkering and fiddling with the technology I personally use. True, I have learned much and have been able to gain a great understanding of how that technology works. But I learn quickly. And it doesn't take much time before I'm no longer learning and all I'm doing is fretting and tinkering for distraction or entertainment or whatever.

I have to stop this. Because, as I've been painfully reminded this month, this mortal phase of our eternal existence is precious and it can end without warning. I have spent too much of my life alone, tinkering with gadgets or staring at a screen, when there are more important and meaningful things to be done.

The technology I use should be the means to an end, not an end in itself. The technology I use shouldn't be what is most important in life, it should help me do what is most important in life.

Viewing my situation from this perspective – assessing where I am in relation to where I want to be – I need to make some changes. I need to make the technology I use more convenient, not less, so that it can get out of the way of what I truly value (or what I should value, but have been trying to distract myself from valuing).

Time to Get a Mac

I am making the commitment here and now to use an iPhone and Apple software like iMessage, FaceTime, and iCloud Calendars for the foreseeable future. I'm done “phone hopping”. To streamline things and minimize the need for workarounds and tinkering, I am getting a Mac (probably an M1 MacBook Air, but I haven't decided yet).

I have written about frustrations I have with Apple. I have called them out more than once for certain business practices and decisions. But I am willing to make a compromise for the convenience, consistency, and reliability of Apple products and services. I do so knowing that it will free up time for more important pursuits.

These pursuits include but are not limited to:

  • Spending more time with family.
  • Focusing more on my faith. More time in personal prayer and study. More time devoted to my church responsibilities.
  • Going back to school. I have been extremely blessed and fortunate to have a successful career without earning a college degree. I took a couple years of community college but now it's time to finish what I started.
  • Making more friends IRL. I have lamented the fact that I don't really have any friends in my neighborhood. I know plenty of good people, but nobody I would consider a good friend. I need to change that.
  • Working on family history. There's a lot to be done, here. Photos to scan, materials and mementos to sort through and organize, records to update on FamilySearch.org. I've been avoiding it for too long. If I don't do it, it won't get done, and precious family information and memories will be lost.
  • Practicing my clarinet. I want to at least get back to the level of proficiency and confidence I had in college and try to play in a community orchestra or band. This alone will require at least 30-60 minutes of daily, consistent practice.

This isn't my whole list, but these are some of the most important things on it. If I were to make a more complete list, things like “spin up and maintain my own NextCloud server” or “get a refurb Android phone and flash it with a custom ROM” or “try another Linux distro” would be way, way down the list.

I've used Macs and iPads in the past in addition to iPhones, so I know how well Apple devices work together and complement each other and how good they are at getting stuff done the way I want. At this point in my life, that's the kind of technology experience I both need and want.


#tech #intentionism #life

I'm at the tail end of the first family Christmas vacation we've taken in three years, and it's been great.

Mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related circumstances, we have not spent Christmas with my extended family since 2019. Being able to do so this year has been a wonderful experience and a reminder to me of two things: the importance of being together with family, and the necessity of in-person human interaction.

I tend towards introversion. I don't mind being alone. I am a contemplative person and need solitude, quiet, and deep thinking to replenish myself. My initial reaction to social occasions is to avoid them. But most of the time when I push through that hesitation and go, I do enjoy them to some degree. I enjoy them even more if those social occasions are with family.

I am blessed to still have one living set of grandparents. I am their eldest grandchild, and my son is their eldest great-grandchild. This is our second opportunity this year to spend time with them, and these have been special visits. Video calls with them would not be the same – they are no substitute for sitting on a couch together talking, feeling that tangible connection that comes just from being around loved ones.

This has been a lovely time. While I am ready to return to our “regular” life, I also wish I had more time. I wish I didn't live so distant from my extended family that I only get to be with them a couple times a year. Still, it makes those times all the more meaningful.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 98) #family #life #Christmas

In 2017 I learned about and got really into the concept of minimalism. Not in the artistic sense, but in the sense of removing physical and mental clutter from your life so that you are able to focus more on what truly matters.

In fact, that summer I undertook what I now refer to as “The Great Purge of 2017”. I went through my entire house and got rid of a lot of stuff. It was glorious.

In addition to regularly assessing my physical possessions and getting rid of things I don't need, I try to evaluate things that are cluttering my mind and negatively affecting my mental health. In my case, most of those things have to do with the technology I own and how I use it.

I have made some good strides over the years, but now more than ever I feel the need to make some significant and permanent changes to my relationship with technology.

I have always been concerned about the potential negative consequences of technology making some aspects of our life more convenient. Whether we realize it, there are always trade-offs.

Automobiles, for example, have made our lives convenient in many ways. They allow us to travel where we wish whenever we wish. But I believe they have also negatively impacted things such as our environment and the way we plan and build our cities in North America. They are also not the safest way to travel and they can be a tremendous financial burden to the average family.

For years I've been thinking about this concept of the sometimes ignored and unseen trade-offs we make for a more convenient life, and not only do I feel a renewed desire to make more changes in my own life, but I also feel compelled to make a dedicated blog and maybe even a podcast about it to share what I am learning with others.

Stay tuned.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 96) #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #life #tech

In a corner of the living room I sit in silence writing Silent but for sounds of typing And of three clocks ticking

A wall clock in the family room And dining room wall, too A third clock ticking on the shelf, For only two won't do

And three more silent clocks there are All within my view On both microwave and stove And small stereo, too

Six clocks tick and tick away And cast their timely spell Why we need so many clocks Only time will tell

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 89) #poetry #life

I'm ready for the holiday break. We're planning on visiting extended family this year and we'll hopefully see a few people we haven't seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic (2019).

Also, I need a change of scenery and a break from the work routine. Working from home has its advantages, but it can also be pretty monotonous and the days tend to blur together in stretches.

Christmas celebrations with family are just the thing I need to reset and rejuvenate.

Two weeks to go, and then I'm on vacation the rest of the year!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 72) #life #Christmas

Today my wife and I attended the celebration of life (memorial service) of her aunt.

She didn't have a perfect life (nobody does), but she was the kind of person who lived vigorously and never took a single day for granted.

A fellow at church once told me: any day you get out of bed is a good day. How true that is.

If I can live each day with a tenth of the vitality this lady had, it will have been a life well-lived. Just like hers was.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 68) #life #intentionism

My brother (who is younger than me) has never used big social media.

I make a distinction between big and small social media.

  • Big social media = the large popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Small social media = however you interact with smaller, private groups of people. Like a small Discord server, iMessage group, etc.

I guess technically my brother does have a LinkedIn account that he uses as an online resumé, not as a social network. But Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Nope. Nada.

I have to say, I envy him in that regard.

My brother is an average guy. He has a wife and kids, lives in the suburbs, works a white-collar job. He plays video games and watches nerdy TV shows and movies like me. But if you ask him if he saw so-and-so's post on such-and-such big social media app, the answer will always be no. He's never done big social media and likely never will. If you ask him why, the answer is simple: it's never appealed to him. He doesn't see the point. He's happy, is well-informed, and works hard. He's well-liked (not the Facebook or Twitter “like”, the real-life like) amongst his family, friends, and associates. In every way that matters, my brother doesn't seem to be worse off for never having used big social media.

I don't remember when I created my first Facebook account (I'm on my third one after deleting two previous), but in total it's probably been at least 15 years, probably more. I've also had stints on Twitter and Instagram, but no longer use either (I'm on my second Twitter account basically to park on my username, deleted Instagram and never looked back). I also have a LinkedIn account, which I use primarily as an online resume (I like it even less than Facebook as a social network).

When I think on the totality of my big social media experience and ask myself if it has added value to my life and made be better for having used it, I have to say no. In fact, I am probably worse off. I consider the role that social media has played in spreading misinformation, in amplifying harassment and bullying. I consider the companies that have run the most popular platforms and how they use these platforms to exploit and manipulate their users. Whatever good, uplifting, virtuous content may be posted on these networks is more often than not buried – drowned out by louder, in-your-face, more enticing, more profitable content surfaced by an algorithm. My feed is riddled with ads from companies trying to convince me to give them my money in exchange for a trinket or a service I don't need.

I even consider my experience with the decentralized Fediverse social media network and Mastodon. While it's certainly been a notable improvement overall from the popular proprietary networks (no ads, chronological timeline, good people), and moves that needle significantly towards the “yes” side of the dial, when I ask myself the same question – has this added value to my life and made me better for having used it – I still have to honestly answer no. I mean, I have enjoyed most of my interactions there and learned some interesting things, but for the most part, it's been a way to distract myself and waste time. Also a way to seek validation from strangers.

Big social media has always been promoted and praised as a way to connect people. But in reality it has encouraged and facilitated tribalism, contention, and incivility. It has actually exacerbated social isolation rather than alleviated it.

People like my brother are proof that you don't need big social media to be connected, happy, knowledgeable, or productive.

And despite having started a new Mastodon instance recently and doing a “closed beta” inviting a few people to join me, I am having second thoughts about that. It's just perpetuating the big social media shtick, albeit in a more ethical, decentralized fashion. Unless my closed beta goes amazingly well (which it's not so far, only one person besides me has even posted anything), I don't see myself continuing that experiment.

I remember the pre-Facebook days when people had their own blogs. I think that's a better way for anyone to share things publicly on the web. You can write whatever you want, share photos, videos, etc. If people want to see that stuff, they follow your blog. If they don't want to see that stuff, they ignore it. Some blogs even have comment sections for each post where people can interact with you and other readers if they want. I miss that. I've rather enjoyed blogging again after years of using big social media. Whether or not I leave big social media altogether, I'll definitely keep blogging.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 65) #SocialMedia #tech #life

I think I first heard this song on a Christian radio station as I was driving one day. Scars in Heaven by Casting Crowns is a beautiful and comforting song for anyone who has lost a loved one.

Lyrics:

If I had only known the last time would be the last time I would have put off all the things I had to do I would have stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter Now what I’d give for one more day with you

Cause there’s a wound here in my heart where something's missing And they tell me that it’s going to heal with time But I know you're in a place where all your wounds have been erased And knowing yours are healed is healing mine

The only scars in heaven, they won’t belong to me and you There'll be no such thing as broken and all the old will be made new And the thought that makes me smile now even as the tears fall down Is that the only scars in heaven are on the Hands that hold you now

I know the road you walked was anything but easy You picked up your share of scars along the way But now you’re standing in the sun, you’ve fought your fight and your race is run The pain is all a million miles away

Hallelujah, hallelujah Hallelujah, for the Hands that hold you now

There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see you You live on in all the better parts of me Until I’m standing with you in the sun, I'll fight this fight and this race I’ll run Until I finally see what you can see

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 62) #music #life #Christianity

Another Thanksgiving in the books. Except for one thing, it was a pretty ordinary holiday.

I enjoyed sleeping in a whole 2 minutes (my body usually gets me up, alarm or not). We had the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on while my wife bustled in the kitchen getting the food prepared (I made the stuffing and gravy – just add water).

By early afternoon everything was ready, we loaded it all up into the SUV and drove over to my in-law's home 15 minutes away. There we met my wife's family and her aunt and uncle and who were also visiting and enjoyed a lovely meal and good company for several hours. We came home happy and well-fed.

The out-of-the-ordinary thing happened this morning. I got a text message from a good friend I've known for over 20 years. His wife has been battling cancer for a little over a year. After a valiant fight, she entered hospice care a couple months ago. Today he informed me she had slipped into a coma from which she will not wake. They are preparing for her passing.

Despite the heaviness of heart for my friend and his family, today's festivities with my family were that much sweeter. I held my wife a little closer, sat next to my son a little longer, enjoyed my interactions with extended family, enjoyed delicious and plentiful food a little more than I otherwise might have done.

I have so much to be thankful for on this almost ordinary Thanksgiving.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 59) #life #family #gratitude

I tend to experience bouts of nostalgia – longing for the past. Sometimes I even buy gadgets that I once owned because I remember them fondly and regret letting them go.

Most of the time, though, the nostalgia is fleeting and I am soon reminded why I didn't hold onto these things and why I got rid of them. And I get rid of them all over again. What am I trying to recapture? What am I holding onto? I realize it's not about the things, it's about what life was like and how I felt when I had them.

Back in January I acquired a Nintendo 64. It was fun for a little while, but I lost interest again and traded it for the desktop PC I now use as my primary personal computer. When I bought my first Nintendo 64 in the late 90s I was in high school. I bought it with my own money I had saved from working my first “real” job at K-Mart. Life was full of promise and possibility. I was a teenager living with my parents and siblings. I was taken care of. Safe. Happy. And I sure had fun playing that N64 with my siblings and friends. But the object itself means nothing. The experiences, feelings, and memories associated with it are what really matter – and I don't need to physically own a N64 to have those – they are a part of me and will be mine forever.

Living in the past goes both ways, though. Sometimes we want to live in the past to escape the present. Sometimes we are stuck in the past and can't seem to escape it. We second-guess ourselves. Wonder what would have happened had we taken a left turn at a certain crossroads instead of a right turn. We don't forgive others or we don't forgive ourselves.

Either way, we must learn from the past, but not live in it. Remember the good times and the bad, but don't dwell on them.

Thomas S. Monson said:

The past is behind—learn from it; the future is ahead—prepare for it; the present is here—live in it.

I'll try to remember this the next time I have the itch to buy an old PalmPilot.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 36) #life