How to Unplug Yourself from the Matrix


If you find yourself being offended by this article then I have succeeded in one of my goals. You might like to think of this as the creative act of a troll who is foolish enough to put his real name to his post. And like any effective troll, nothing pleases me more than stirring people up. Of course, it's all for a good purpose, as you are about to find out. So allow me to get started.

In the late 90s movie The Matrix, we find out that human beings are trapped in a collective delusion, one foisted upon them by the machines, who are in reality harvesting their energy for their own despicable purposes. Most people, we discover, actually prefer the Matrix to the awful “world of “the real” (and with everyone wearing skin-tight leather, who could blame them?) Indeed, one of the villains of the movie asks the machines to plug him back into the dream world, even though he has been awakened from it.

Lots of people have used The Matrix as an analogy to explicate particular problems in modern society. So why should I be any different?

Fast forward to the year 2015, and something very noticeable has shifted since Neo did his “superman thing” on the big screen. Sadly, it isn't that people are embracing the physical world. It's that more and more people are preferring the world of the machine. At first, up till around the turn of the century, it was just clunky PCs that people became obsessed with. But now the advent of mobile technology means that people can plug themselves into the machine pretty much anywhere, anytime.

You might protest that there are plenty of good things about computers and mobile technology. And you would be right. I'm writing on an iPad right now. And we have access to location technology; spell checkers correct my typos (missing only the most embarrassing ones); and we get to connect to friends and loved ones no matter where we are. And that's just the beginning of the great stuff.

But the downside is becoming ever more apparent.

Recently, having moved back to China, I have started going out to socialise a little more often than I did in Australia (Yes, communists socialise too). And I have noticed how bad things have really gotten with the machines. For instance, I was at a live music venue recently, and could not help but notice the general behaviour of those present. It was an old-fashioned Irish pub, frequented by both Chinese and expat folks. I saw people standing around in groups. But they were not paying attention to the guys playing musical instruments and singing at the front of the room. And it wasn't just because they were playing old Eagles songs and desecrating the memory of Chuck Berry with their rendition of “Johnny Be Good.” No. Few were even talking to others. Almost everyone had their eyes glued to their mobile phones. I couldn't help but thinking: why would anyone bother to go out to listen to live music and spend the whole night texting and flicking through Facebook (or Baido, the Chinese equivalent)?

The following day I sat down to eat lunch at a noodle shop. Beside me there was a group of four adults and one boy of about four years of age. The little boy was jumping around and playing, as you would expect any kid of his age to be doing. But what surprised me was that the adults were not interacting with him at all. All four of them were glued to their mobiles, silently processing whatever life-changing data that was being presented to them. In their defence, pictures of other people's lunches can be profound, of course.

No doubt you have witnessed such scenes many times in your own life in recent times. Most of us are aware of the problem. Yet what amazes me is that there is very little being done about it. I am not personally aware of any social education or media programmes. One has to wonder why.

It is true that we tend to judge in others what we do not like to acknowledge in ourselves. When I see others wasting their lives away doing the “two-second thumb flick”, skimming page after page of mindless social media posts, I am really seeing all the time I have wasted online.

Yet for a time I did not change my own behaviour. I found myself reaching for my phone or iPad at times when there was no good reason to do so. Eventually though, guilt got the better of me. I got to thinking about how I might feel at the end of my life. What if those near-death experience stories are true, and we have a review of our lives just as we cast off this mortal coil? There you will be, your spirit guide's muscular arms tightly folded, brow furrowed, as he or she (yes, women can be muscular too, so I'm not being sexist) reviews the movie of your life – and you see years and years of images of yourself thumbing through Facebook posts and “liking” sandwiches.

Although I was more self-disciplined than some, I realised that I too had an addiction. I was checking mail and texts far more often than necessary. I had to think of a way to get around the problem. In the end I decided on one simple solution, and it has made a huge impact on my life.

I simply decided that I had to spend the majority of my time away from screens and machines.

By “majority”, that meant at least half of every day. In practice, this involved one simple action. I made a commitment not to activate any wi-fi or mobile device for the first eight hours of my day. So if I get up at six, that means no mindless marauding of the net till at least 2 pm.

The effect was immediate and significant. I de-conditioned myself almost instantly. Within two days I no longer felt the need to pull out a machine when I had free time, to check emails and messages. The reason this habit died so fast was that it became instantly apparent – when I turned on my phone or iPad late in the day – that there was almost nothing of value that had been missed. There were emails, but none that really required responses. Nor had the world ended because I hadn't checked BBC news. And nobody had stopped being outraged by those news stories with headlines that begin “Outrage as…”

“But wait!” I hear you saying. “What if something really important does happen during those eight hours, Marcus? What if your wife, girlfriend, son or other loved one has an accident and dies because you couldn't be contacted? What then!?”

That's a good question, and I'm glad you asked it. I suppose the only answer is that they will die the same way everyone died before we had computers and iPhones: alone, sad, desperate – but with the added distinction being that they will be cursing me. Or they will wait till 2pm to ring me and abuse me before dropping dead, just to rub it in.

Of course, I will remind them of how much more present I have been (with them) since D-day (disconnection day). And herein lies the greatest benefit of putting that damn machine down. You get to be with people. I mean, really be with them.

But hey, it's a personal choice. And the good news is there is a middle ground that can be taken. Connect your phone but put it somewhere out of the way – and tell your loved ones to only contact you in an emergency. Problem solved.

I find the first eight hours of the day to the best time to disconnect. This really does break the habit of reaching for the machine. It kills dead the impulse for the next cute kitten fix on FB, or to discover who next needs to be outraged against.

You can specify other periods in the day, if my timetable doesn't suit you. Perhaps you might like to disconnect during work. After work. Or for a certain number of hours before bed time. If you can't manage eight hours, try for six – or at least four. You might consider one or more days a week “screen-free”, as some others have suggested.

So there you have it. The Matrix Unplugged. And it isn't very difficult at all. Very freeing, actually. Morpheus would be proud of me. I now find myself free of the compulsion to grab my phone or check emails all day. Those eight hours a day away from the machine have de-conditioned me. I am more deeply present to life, others and even to myself. I can now honestly say that I spend most of my life off the grid. And it feels great.


Marcus T Anthony (PhD) is a futurist of the human mind, writer and spiritual adviser. He is the author of Discover Your Soul Template and many other books.

Marcus posts a new article on CLN every Saturday. To view his articles, click HERE.

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  1.' Claudia says:

    What I find truly weird is the social interaction (not!) between 2 young ones texting each other in the same room. Is it really so difficult for them to look each other in the eyes and have a real conversation? Got me stumped!

  2.' Katie says:

    Great article, I am definitely going to start doing this. I’m curious, as a writer, do you use a laptop during the first half of the day?

  3.' kat says:

    This is all good advice but its not really what unplugging from the matrix actually means

    •' tony chopper says:

      I agree. Misleading. I was hoping more for being non attached from the mind and such. Becoming truly free. Sok though.

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