Reclaiming your Christmas from Digital Thinking

Oh no! Christmas again!

Are you feeling that, as Christmas comes around yet again, it all feels a bit repetitive and stale?

Have you lost your enthusiasm for this time of presents, over-indulgence and celebration of everything from a holy story to a deep winter festival to the Man in the Red Suit?

Are you sick of it all or do you wish it just had a bit more quality to it?

Losing the Christmas Spirit

You may have fallen into a Christmas based on digital thinking. Digital thinking is based on the “binary” world. The binary world is a world of ones and zeros. Binary language is the foundation of all computing, the basic building blocks. Binary language is a world of ones and zeros. Either a switch is on or off. On = 1, off=zero. Now, we can do a lot with that. We can build up all kind of complex codes based on those two numbers and out of that come all kinds of programs which surface as computer operating systems, games, tools and the apps you may be using to read this article on your smartphone, laptop, PC or tablet. But when we develop the habit of becoming binary thinkers, things become simpler, but also can become boring and stale. An instinct tells us there must be “more”.

Polarising the Polar Express

When we think in binary terms, we are thinking either-or. Things become “polarised” like on or zero and that simplicity but makes things seem very simple and clear. You are either in or out. You are either on or off. We quantify life as one or zero. This or that. There’s no space for anything in the middle.

And that’s where the Christmas problem begins. Digital thinking is really binary thinking. And we are all starting to think digitally more and more. The TVs we watch, the smart phones we check into every few minutes, are all binary technologies, flashing superfast on and off; it’s easy to go into a kind of trance state and to join in the binary party.

Go or no go. Upgrade or don’t. Buy it or don’t by it. Agree or disagree. Like or don’t like. The digital world doesn’t really like or do “half like” or “like a bit today and a bit less tomorrow”. This is the world, not of quantity, but of quality, and it is harder to capture it in ones and zeros. And, some would argue, that even if we copy a picture digitally, we can never capture its true essence, even if the copy fools our senses, because the quality is, ultimately, infinite.

Just give me money!

Digital thinking surfaces at Christmas when we want “just the money” and not any other option. “Just give me the money or Amazon vouchers”, says our son or daughter – there are no other options on the table of life. The Christmas spirit becomes more and more narrowly defined until its an “iPhone or misery.”

When we fall into digital thinking we want X, and nothing else will do. Our Christmas becomes limited by habit and we always repeat things a certain way. It can be fun to set up a rhythm and do the same things each year, but they can also become tired and stale. It can become so narrow it starts to feel empty, mediocre and even pointless.

It is only when we experiment with things change them, that we can improve the quality of our Christmas. To do that we have to unravel a bit, explore the fringes of our lives, and be open to becoming a bit richer, not only in our wallets but in our physical and emotional lives. Christmas can be a time to offer up new things to try – new thoughts, feelings and actions. Not only what do we want – but what do we really need? Then gifts can also be things you don’t need batteries for – they may even be things we have made, even things we say to another person.

Open up the Christmas Conversation

So, if we have become so narrow as to have defined our Christmas gift giving and receiving as either a one or a zero, either gadgets OR money, either vouchers or DVDs, and even either something small or nothing, we’ve lost the ability to enjoy the best conversation of all – a conversation based on quality – a quality conversation with each other where we truly inquire into the uniqueness of the other person. By that, I mean asking some interesting, if difficult questions, of ourselves and others;

How have you changed since last year?

What do you really need?

What might help you change and improve a bit in your life?

What ELSE might put a smile on your face?

What might surprise you?

And we can also ask: How could Christmas be a bit different this year? What else could we do?

We can make small changes and notice a big difference. We can tinker with the order of our day, with timings, introduce some new activities. It doesn’t have to be the same way just because it is Christmas once again – that’s digital thinking – either we do it the same way or it has failed! Change what you write on your Christmas cards, opening yourself up to enjoying new presents, try things you have never tried before. When you leave the world of either-or you do risk disappointment but you also risk surprise. The unknown can be scary but also energising.

If we have narrowed our lives so much that we can only receive from others in narrow terms – money or “anything you can put batteries in or plug into a wall” – then we have defined ourself in binary times and, when we do that, we become repetitive, mediocre and ultimately may feel stale.

So, this Christmas, why not experiment with the spaces between the ones and zeros. Make a few little changes, break free of either-or, digital thinking and get back to quality thinking. One way to do what is with conversation – open up that conversation and allow more questions in, allow a bit of change.

You might just find the spaces in between relight your Yuletide fire!

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Paul Levy 31 Articles
Paul Levy is a writer, a facilitator, senior researcher at the University of Brighton, founder of FringeReview, and author of the book Digital Inferno, published in 2014 by Clairview Books.