Image courtesy of jonrawlinson on Flickr

As technology continues to improve, it is becoming easier than ever for us to live vicariously through the creations of others. Living vicariously through technology is “watching instead of doing.” An example is getting home from work and deciding to watch television or Youtube videos instead of creating something of your own. It is stagnating during your free time instead of growing. This is a bad habit, but luckily there are some ways around it.

The leisure industry counts on you being lazy and stagnating- that’s how they make their money:

The tremendous leisure industry that has arisen in the last few generations has been designed to help fill free time with enjoyable experiences. Nevertheless, instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

So you have two choices- you can either 1) continue stagnating, giving your money and free time to the leisure industry, or 2) use your free time to grow. If you chose option 2, here are three ways to get started.

3 Ways to Stop Living Vicariously Through Technology

1. Create your own damn content!

Everyone loves free content on the Internet. The reality is, only 1-2% of website visitors actually contribute content. For example, about 1-2% of Wikipedia visitors actually contribute to the site (according to Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, as of 2005).

You can change this, and grow along the way – if you have a valuable opinion, or are an expert on a subject, why not share it with others? You might be surprised how much feedback you start getting, how many interesting people you meet along the way, and how good it feels to contribute to a greater cause.

Examples: Start a blog, create videos on Youtube, create an article at Wikipedia, create a new recipe for a meal.

2. Don’t want to create? At least contribute.

If you don’t want to create your own content, you can still grow and help support online communities by contributing feedback, comments, and ratings to websites. Providing feedback to other’s content is critical to the continued success of social media. For example, I love getting comments on my blog- whether they are positive or negative, feedback is better than no feedback. It lets me know people are reading what I post, and helps me improve if someone mentions a critical piece of information missing in my post.

Examples: Comment on a blog post, rate a Youtube video, edit a spelling error on a Wikipedia article.

3. Stop using technology so much

Get away from your computer/television/PDA. It’s healthy to create a daily ritual of “disconnecting” from your computer, and there are plenty of ways to grow without technology. Who knows- you might even get a workout along the way.

Examples: Play a sport, play an instrument, create art, create music, exercise, join an improvisation group.

These are just a few examples, use your imagination to come up with more. The point is- don’t live vicariously through technology or you will stagnate. Use your free time to create and grow, and you will find yourself living a more meaningful life.

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