The Paleo approach has some interesting contradictions. Bacon – highly processed and not likely available to our ancestors – is okay. Dairy, however, is not. Microwaves – clearly not used by our Paleolithic ancestors – are totally fine. But legumes? Not so much. And this brings us to computer usage. I do not think – actually, I know for a fact – that our Paleo ancestors did not use computers. And yet, more than any movement I’ve ever seen, Paleo followers are obsessed with their computers and phones.
The only compromise or minor admission of the issue here comes from the science-based recommendation to avoid blue light at nighttime, whether it’s via blue blockers, f.lux, or other methods. But this doesn’t account for the other 15-16 hours of the day, when just about everyone is obsessed with a screen of some kind. The need to tell the world about your diet is such a cliché that even Chris Rock tweeted about it. Is it narcissism, elitism, or loneliness? Maybe a little bit of all three?
I wish I was alone in saying that I was the only person I knew who is glued to their screens all day, every day. But sadly, it has become the norm.
Never mind the clear fact that our Paleo ancestors didn’t even watch television, let alone have 6 tabs open on their computer at once. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a case of sour grapes – I think there are a lot of benefits to the Paleo approach. But there is also a lot of silliness. The idea of a fictional character representing our ‘idealized self’ is more than a little childish – but then, so are M&Ms. Perhaps some of this is just marketing and my own naivety, but what originally made the Paleo approach stand out was its decided lack of commercialism.
Being the most Googled diet of 2013 and 2014, the Paleo approach has broadened out in its reach vastly. Perhaps heavy computer users are unhealthier – and therefore more likely to be interested in diets – or perhaps the Paleo diet truly has become omnipresent in today’s society. One thing is for sure – we are all spending way too much time on the computer, or using other screens.
When I was a kid, the most rampant form of escapism was movies, or television. Video games also started to become virtually unavoidable, but things today have taken a drastic turn for the worse. With the average American now watching 5 hours of television per day (!) we all need to seriously re-assess our screen time. Keep in mind that that figure does not even account for cell phone usage or computer usage.
This is truly the age of information overload, and it seems that we are now highly voyeuristic, as well. We are viewing other people’s social media feeds, pictures, and seeing what they are doing – all without actually communicating with them. It is more than a little bit creepy, and definitely not healthy. We are said to Google everyone we meet (so much for that mysterious girl in your office) to the point that Google has now become the biggest source of information about us. Quite simply – it is more intelligent than we are – and knows more about us. And yet we can’t seem to stop.
The bright side here is that other people are aware of this. We now – unfortunately – have nanosecond attention spans and memories. This is also not at all Paleo. Since it has now become nearly impossible – if not completely impossible – to not be tracked, recorded, and monitored – we must ask: what is the final result of all this digital information and entertainment? I’m not sure that any of us know the actual answer to that question, but it is important to ask it.
There are now millions, maybe even billions, of Paleo diet recipes, guides, articles and products. But at the core of the Paleo mission, isn’t the idea to avoid commercialization? We should focus on what really matters and play, rest, minimize stress and eat well. We shouldn’t be spending 12 hours per day (on average!) looking at digital media.
What does all this screen time do to us? Quite simply – it damages our brain. And that is quite a literal statement. With children spending more time than ever in front of screens, one must ask – what is the implication for the future of humanity? We have never before been in this scenario – we’ve barely had television for more than a few generations. But the technology is now advancing so rapidly that it is downright scary.
With self-driving cars, robots running entire hotels, our entire lives being stored on our cellular phones and an endless digital data trail – we are at a true crossroads for humanity at large. It is quite amazing, in a sense, that interest in a Paleolithic diet is at an all-time high, while, conversely, we are addicted to screens so intently. The dichotomy is quite striking. In an age where even old stalwarts and holdouts are now tearing up social media, what is left that is sacred?
I try to remain somewhat detached and purposefully naïve, so as to not become too firmly entrenched in this all-consuming digital world – but it is not easy. What is now digital is now as real as ever – and yet at the same time it is not. Digital “things” are still endless combinations of 1’s and 0’s – human beings are not. Accounts can be deleted with just a few keystrokes, but our brains are irreplaceable. I hope I’ve caused you to pause and think about just how much time we spend on computers, and if – given the choice – our Paleolithic ancestors would have done the same.
Are computers Paleo? I guess the answer depends on your perspective. Are processed food bars Paleo? Should we all be barefoot and living in caves? There is no right or wrong, or clear-cut answer. What is the true cost of progress? Are we at the apex of human achievement – or is this the sad, near-end of homo sapiens? Have we created a Matrix like world, where the computers are now more powerful than we are, and our “mastery” of them is nothing but a pathetic lie we tell ourselves, day in and day out? These are all good questions to ponder, with no easy answers in sight.
Do you remember what the world was like before it was so digitally intrusive and pervasive? I sure do. And it was very, very different. I remember being more rested, less distracted, and happier. Maybe this is true for you, as well? Has this giant network of vast digital communication been a mistake? Or did we simply take things too far? Again – no one has the answers here. But everyone has an opinion. What do you think?
The future of humanity and its interaction with technology has been predicted incorrectly many times over, but what is now clear is that there seems to be absolutely no going back from the world we live in – which is so digitally connected, it makes your head spin. Is it now going to be “normal” to be overweight, have diabetes, and operate 10 different social media accounts? It certainly seems likely. We need some real solutions to these problems, since healthcare spending and screen time are both out of control. Do your part – go outside, turn off your phone and maybe even read a book – a hardcover one.
Social connection has a different impact on your brain than technology does – make sure you are still getting plenty of social time daily. This is not something that a machine can provide; though don’t get me wrong – they’re currently working on it. In conclusion, think long and hard about how much time you spend on the computer, in front of your mobile device, and playing video games. Would our Paleo ancestors approve?