Technology is amoral

I ‘ve been asked to present a keynote and workshop at the National Education Summit in Melbourne in August. The organisers of the event wanted to do an interview and ask a few questions as a way of promoting the event, which I did via email. This has been published elsewhere, but I thought I’d crosspost it here for the record.


1. What are some of the important messages for teachers in your presentation ‘The Track of the Storm’ at the National Education Summit in Melbourne?

The title “Track of the Storm” was inspired by Part 3 of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”. The book opens with the famous lines …

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

As soon as I read that opening paragraph it instantly resonated with how I see technology impacting us today. We continually see amazing new technologies being used to solve seemingly impossible problems, connecting people globally in ways we could barely even imagine a few years ago, and offering endless opportunities to democratise knowledge so that everyone has the opportunity to share and participate.  At the same time, these tools we have created have also enabled a unprecedented polarisation of political and social worldviews, created oceans of fake news and online vitriol, and has provided a powerful platform for some of the worst aspects of humanity. 

Essentially, technology is amoral. It is neither good nor bad. It neither loves nor hates. It neither empowers nor destroys. It simply enables and amplifies that which we use it for.

2.  In your view, what are the most significant emerging challenges for schools and teachers when considering the impact of digital technology use in classrooms and schools generally?

Many schools think about technology in term of tools and applications, hardware and software, in order to enable learning. And while that is certainly a conversation that needs to be had at some point, I think it’s far from the most important one. Too often, I see schools seeing technology as some sort of panacea that will fix all their problems – if only we can choose the right platform, the right devices, the right apps – then we can succeed with technology. But remember, technology is amoral. Unless you rethink a few things, it will just give you more of what you already have. 

The biggest challenge facing most schools, in my opinion, is their general inability to question the status quo.  To step back and ask some fundamental questions about learning, about teaching, about schools, about students, about teachers.  To question the way they have always done things.  To learn, unlearn and relearn. To redesign their processes and procedures, to rethink their rules and assumptions about “the way we do things around here”. 

There is little point introducing technology into the experience of school without rethinking what that experience of school could look like. Because if we just do what we have always done, except with a computer, very little changes.  You want digital technology to have an impact? Be prepared to change what you use it for.

3. Drawing from your experience, what are some of the strategies that can be used in schools to effectively use digital technologies to deepen learning and support educational outcomes?

Notwithstanding my previous answer, which I think underlies everything else, the best strategies that schools can use to effectively use digital technologies is to design learning experiences that provide choice and voice for their students. If we start from an assumption that all students are different, with unique talents, abilities, interests and expectations, and we design the learning experiences in ways that respect and acknowledge those differences, that offer flexible pathways for students to acquire knowledge, express knowledge and validate knowledge, then we are on the right track. 

Reduce the rigidity, without reducing the rigour. Maintain high expectations for what students do, but be flexible about the the ways they can execute on that learning. 

4. In your experience, what practical strategies can schools use to ensure digital technologies are used in an engaging and creative way?

Before cameras became digital, they used film. Good photographers made good photos by understanding the underlying principles of design that created good photos. They understood the essential principles of composition, the rule of thirds, contrast, balance, interest, light, colour, shape. But these essential principles were not just useful for photos taken only on film, they applied regardless of the kind of technology used to make the photos. So when the technology used in cameras moved from film to digital, these same visual design principles remained as true as ever. Digital photography changed many things about the way we take and share photos, but good photographers still apply these design principles regardless of whether they shoot on film or digital, because the principles are based on enduring truths about the way visual design works.

Teaching also has some enduring truths. These include things like building relationships of trust between teachers and students. Having authenticity in the way we interact with students. Caring for for their well-being. Engaging their interests. Bringing humour, laughter, care and respect to every class. These are some of the very human things about teaching that don’t change.  And just like the way that the shift from film to digital changes photography forever, the introduction of digital technologies into our classrooms has opened up fabulous new opportunities for the way we can do things, but it should not change these enduring truths about teaching.

You want digital technologies to be used in engaging and creative ways? Teach well. Care about your students. Build relationships. Be authentic. 

Question everything else.

5. Are there any resources you would recommend for teachers wishing to implement or improve their use of digital technologies within the learning environment?

First, the best resources are other people. Engage with online communities, and surround yourself with other people who can be great resources for you (and you for them). There are so many communities online to tap into, and the very best teachers I know all take advantage of online communities.  All of us are smarter than any of us, and there truly is wisdom in the crowd.

Secondly, choose flexible, powerful, collaborative tools for your students. Learn to use them. Maybe even consider certifying yourself in their effective use, to really prove you know how to use them. Being a confident and competent user of digital tools is incredibly empowering.   But remember that whatever shiny new app you love using today, it probably won’t be around forever. Don’t fall in love with specific tools to the point where you can’t let them go. Love the verb, not the noun.

Finally, learn to use search to effectively to find the answers you need. Teach your students how to search too.  Not just type in a keyword and hope for the best, but to genuinely use search to find answers. We live in a world where there is no excuse for being ignorant about anything. So be curious, ask questions and find answers. Being able to independently find the answer to a question, or the solution to a problem, may be the best skill you can ever possess.


For more information and to register, visit nationaleducationsummit.com.au
National Education Summit, MELBOURNE
Friday 30 August – Saturday 31 August 2019
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
Early Bird registrations available until June 30

This article was originally posted in School News. I’ve crossposted and lightly re-edited here.

Eyes on the Road

I was wondering the other day about the best place to mount a camera on a motorcycle to get the best footage. I’ve made some previous videos by just attaching my GoPro camera to the front fairing of the bike but it tends to show quite a bit of vibration and road bump.

I added a couple of GoPro mounts in different positions on the bike, and some are better than others but none are as good as I’d like. It’s possible to remove some of the shakiness in post production by using the Warp Stabiliser tool in Premiere Pro, which does a pretty reasonable job of removing the vibrations by doing a frame by frame analysis of the footage, and realigning everything. It works ok but is very computationally intensive even on my MacBook Pro and it still creates some seriously wavy artefacts in the footage on the really shaky bits.

Anyway, I decided to try a few experiments with five different camera mount positions. On the front fairing, on the front mudguard, on my helmet, using a chest mount, and using a chest mount with an extender. There are pros and cons of each, but I think some are definitely better in terms of actual watchable footage.

Here is the resulting footage so you can make up your own mind. You know, just in case you ever want to do something similar.

March – Jehovah’s Witnesses

March is month three of my Beyond Belief project, and I was sitting at home debating which religion I should check out this month. As if by some kind of divine intervention, my doorbell rang and I answered it to find two ladies standing there. It’s as though religions are now being delivered to my door, like some kind of divine Deliveroo!

They introduced themselves as Sandra and Beverley., and they thrust a brochure into my hands and asked if I knew about Jehovah’s plan for me.  I said I didn’t, and that I was a confirmed atheist, but that I was doing a project this year to learn about 12 different religions in 12 months. I suggested that they should tell me all about theirs, which turned out to be the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were a little taken aback (in a good way) at the idea of someone trying a different religion each month and said they wished more people could be more open minded about religion.

We stood at the door for quite a while discussing what the Jehovah’s Witnesses are all about.  I mentioned that I had a great aunt who became a “Joho” and that it didn’t make her very popular with the rest of the family. I learned that Jehovah is just God’s actual name, and that, if he is your best friend (and why wouldn’t he be?) they surely you’d call him by his name, Jehovah, not his title, “God”.  That sounds way too formal, right?

These two women knew their stuff when it came to the bible (I later found out how). They were quoting passages left and right, and then Sandra pulled out a bible app on her phone and showed me that they were not just making these quotes up.  Apparently God really DOES love me. The bible clearly says so.

The Jehovah’s Witness religion is like many other strict bible-based religions I’ve come across, in that it uses the bible as a fundamental and canonical source of truth. Their logic suggests that everything in the bible is true because it’s in the bible. To me, that’s always been a very circular argument…  I can’t quite reconcile the idea that the proof of a thing being true is simply because the thing itself says so. So when I hear people quoting the bible and then looking at me like I should be instantly convinced because the bible says so…. Yeah, nah. It don’t think it works like that. Maybe God loves me (I’m pretty lovable after all), but using the bible as “proof” of  that presumes I believe there’s a God and that I am willing to believe because some book says it that it must be true. That reasoning does not get a QED from me.

Regardless, they were nice ladies, and far be it from me to deny them the right to believe whatever they want to believe. (Can you imagine what a different world this would be if we all just let other people believe whatever they want to believe, without condemning them for it?)

Anyway, we spoke at the door for a while, and I said I wanted to learn more, so they invited me to a bible study evening at the local JW Kingdom Hall. I’m in.

So I rock up to the bible study group a few days later, not quite knowing what to expect. First of all, I’m a little surprised at how well dressed everyone is for a Thursday night. I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Nobody told me there was a dress code.  Oh well, good thing God loves me anyway.

I enter the building and am greeted by a guy who ushers me into the main room and seats me next to a “buddy” to look after me. There’s a guy talking on the stage, digging into a passage from the bible, and leading some Q&A about it. This goes on for a while, again, using the bible as proof of the bible which, as I said, I don’t really get. The passage being studied was focused on how we should all be obedient and subservient to God, sorry, Jehovah, and that we need to live good clean lives without sin. They went on to explain that if we have friends or know people who don’t live good clean lives without sin then we need to break ties with them and cut them out of our lives. Because God loves everyone; but those people, not so much. Moreover, what do you do if you’re the one not living the good clean life? How do I cut myself out of my own life?

This discussion was followed by something I didn’t expect… some role playing about what to do on the “second return visit”.  You know when you get a knock on the door from your friendly Jehovah’s Witnesses? That scenario does not just happen, it is very well rehearsed.  At this meeting they were practising what to say and how to handle the conversation when they return to talk with you for the second time. What to say, what questions to ask, how to respond to objections, etc.  It was like a well designed sales course. There was a structured set of notes, supporting videos, and a whole curriculum to follow in executing these door to door visits. Many of these resources are illustrated with what can only be described as “Jehovah’s Witness art”, which is mostly full of happy looking white people in a 1950s Disney movie, living the happy shiny life God made for them. I applaud them on being so organised, gosh darn it, I just didn’t expect that.

Following that there were more conversations about the next part of that same bible passage studied earlier, with more sharing of ideas about what it meant, and how we should live our lives based on it. My buddy seated next to me handed me a bible so I could follow along, and even lent me his phone with a special JW bible study app on it for further detail of the passage. I tried to keep an open mind, and take in the teachings being discussed, which at their core, are reasonable ideas. I think you can probably sum up the main message of the bible as “let’s all try to be nice to one another”.

At the end of the evening (after about 2 hours) it wrapped up and there was some socialising and chatting of the people in attendance. Sandra, who initially invited me, found me and came over to say how glad she was that I was there. We chatted a bit, and I was introduced to some other people. They all seemed like very nice people, super friendly, and I was told I could even keep the copy of the bible which I’d been using. It was nice to observe the sense of fellowship that existed in this group.

A few weeks later I had a follow-up visit from Sandr, when she popped by just to see how I was, and what I thought of the experience. (This was the first return visit, not the second return visit, so I can’t grade her on how well she did). To be honest, I’m still not really sure what I thought, except that I know this religion is not one for me. I can’t quite accept the whole “it’s in the bible so it must be true” thinking, and I still see far too many contradictions in it… like being told to ditch your friends if they are not living what you consider to be a wholesome life, while Jesus gets to hang out with prostitutes and other unsavoury characters. How does that work?

So, to sum up, definitely not a religion that attracts me at all (not that I’m looking) but it was still interesting to learn more about it.

February – Sikhism

This is part two of my Beyond Belief project, where every month during 2019 I plan to experience a different religion that I know nothing about. This month its Sikhism. I have to admit, this one I knew absolutely nothing about.

There is a large temple-looking place not far from where I live so I dropped in the other day to see what it was about. Turns out it is a gurdwara, which is a temple for Sikhs. The only thing I really knew about Sikhs was that they typically come from Northern India and they wear turbans (at least the men do). I’d never really thought that being Sikh was a stand-alone religion, and just assumed it was some offshoot of Hinduism. That’s definitely not the case.

When I dropped into the gurdwara to take a look, there was a guy with a beard and turban near the entrance measuring up a noticeboard, so I approached and explained that I am trying a different religion every month this year. He put down his measuring tape, then spent the next 90 minutes showing me around, explaining the religion and telling me about the beliefs. His name was Padam, and he was super helpful. He pointed out the large TV screen near the entrance that displayed a piece of scripture for the day, and Iearned that it came from the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the Sikh holy book. It displays a different piece of scripture each day, which is made available from “the opening” of the book at 4am each morning, until 8pm each night. Padam suggested that if I read it, it would contain a personal message that I needed to hear because of me turning up on this day at this time. I read it and maybe I just missed it, because I’m not sure I gleaned anything particular. Maybe it’s just me.

I took off my shoes and put on a head covering and we went into the gurdwara, knelt in front of the holy area where the Guru Granth Sahib was kept, and Padam told me lots and lots of stuff about the Sikh religion.

He stressed that the Sikh religion is extremely egalitarian, and treats every human with respect and reverence. A good Sikh, he told me, is peace-loving and is blind to race, to colour, to nationality, to gender. Every human, regardless of who they are, is equal and welcome. Sikhs are welcoming to all other religions, and even though they have been persecuted and even executed over the centuries by Muslim and Mughal invaders, they still harbour no ill feelings towards other religions or races.

I learned that the word “Sikh” actually translates as “learner”. Does that make me a Sikh? Probably not. But I was definitely learning. I learned that Sikhism is a monotheistic religion (one god) but that god is a universal god, acknowledged as the same spiritual creative force as recognised by other religions. The message of this god is communicated through Gurus, starting with the first one, Guru Nanak in the 1500s, and then a succession of other Gurus who became the messengers of this god on earth. The holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, was steadily edited and extended by the successive line of gurus that followed, each adding more wisdom to it. I asked Padam who the current living guru was and he pointed to the book, which I didn’t really understand right away, but it turns out that the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, named the book as his successor, and the book itself has been “the Guru” ever since. (India is famous for outsourcing, but I never expected something like this!) The book is treated as a real living human person, complete with a real funeral when a copy gets too old to keep using.

The other thing I learned about was “The 5 Ks”, or the symbols that every practicing Sikh carries with them at all times. They are kēs (uncut hair, which is why most Sikh men have beards and under the turban usually long hair), kaṅghā (a small wooden comb kept in the hair), kaṛā (circular steel or iron bracelet designed to both represent the eternal nature of god, but also to represent a handcuff, connecting them to god), kirpān (a small sword or dagger carried on their person. Padam said that Sikhs have special permission to carry the dagger under Australian law), and kacchera (the special underpants designed to remind them of chastity and faithfulness).

Things must come in fives because there are also five things that Sikhs try to avoid. They are referred to as the “Five Thieves” – Lust, Anger, Greed, Attachment, and Ego. Padam spent quite a bit of time explaining the meaning of these and the effect it has on the way they approach life, but I probably can’t do it justice in this blog post, which is already getting long! The wikipedia article about Sikhism is very good if you want to learn more.

Before I left, Padam invited me to come back on Sunday to experience part of the Kirtan certemony and stay for Langar. I turned up at about 12:00pm and sat in on the holy prayers being sung, then the scriptures being read, before heading downstairs to join Langar. Langar is a community meal, provided free to anyone who turns up. You sit on the floor with rows of other people, with a large metal dish in front of you, and people come around and put food on it. It’s all vegetarian, with dhaal, flatbread, rice, aloo, and salad. It’s quite the communal experience.

So that’s my investigation to Sikhism. It struck me as a really nice religion that has a whole lot of interesting traditions, history and beliefs, and some very friendly and welcoming people. I’m not about to convert (to this or any other religion) but I’m glad I checked it out and know a little bit more about it now.

Now, which religion will I try next month? Leave a comment with your ideas! Also, I’d love your comments on this project of trying a different religion each month. Is it a good idea? A dumb idea? Is there something you think I should do differently?

January – Balinese Hinduism

Here we go with part one of my Beyond Belief Project, where I plan to experience and learn about a different religion every month for all of 2019. I’m a little late posting this one, as it was for January, but better late than never.

I spent nearly five week in Bali over the December/January period, so Balinese Hinduism seems like an obvious place to start. As part of Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, Bali is a religious outlier with nearly 85% of the island’s population identifying as Hindu. Its version of Hinduism is a little different to that traditionally found in India, which is polytheistic (believing in many gods), and it has quite a different feel to the other Muslim parts of Indonesia. Balinese Hinduism claims to be monotheistic, with only one god, although it seems to me that in practice this is not always the case, based on so many different statues I saw everywhere. There were statues of Vishnu and Ganesha and many, many others that I didn’t recognise, so I’m not totally sure how the monotheistic thing applies.

As used to be the case in India, there is a caste system in place in Bali, with priests and holy people (mostly men) called the Brahmanas at the top. Below that are the Satrias, Wesias and Sudras. The Sudras are the common class of people, and make up 90% of the population – these are your farmers, workers, etc. There are all kinds of specific rules and conventions that get applied to you depending on what caste you belong to. For example, the Sudra caste are given a name based on their birth order – first born is named Wayan, Putu or Gede. The second born is named Made or Kadek, the third goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. If a family has more than four children, the cycle repeats and the next ‘Wayan’ may be called Wayan Balik, which loosely translates to ‘another Wayan’. I met a lot of people with these names!

You also can’t miss the temples in Bali; they are absolutely everywhere. In fact, as well as the really big major temples, each area or village has several mid-sized temples serving the locals, and most people’s houses even have a small temple within the family compound. You honestly cannot walk more than a few hundred metres without seeing a temple. At the temples you see lots of offerings being made all the time, giving thanks to the god(s), and praying for good luck. The Balinese people seem to be deeply spiritual, and the culture is fairly traditional in its expectations. There are so many rules about how life should work, defining the different roles that men and women take on within society, how the structures of marriage and family should work, how lineage is passed down, and so on. The expectations of what men and women are supposed to be and do seem quite conservative (to me) but they are clearly very entrenched and valued by the Balinese people.

As I mentioned, you see offerings everywhere! Known as Canang sari, these are usually small baskets woven from strips of palm leaves filled with rice, flowers, incense or other things, and left out in front of houses, shops, temples, beaches, in fact everywhere that needs blessing. One morning while I was in Ubud, I went to get on my scooter and there was an offering sitting on the handlebars of my bike, and every other bike in the street. These offerings have great importance and happen several times a day, and are mostly managed by the women. They are offered every day as a form of thanks for the peace given to the world. The philosophy behind the offering is self-sacrifice in that they take time and effort to prepare. I was talking to one of my AirBNB hosts who said that they go through about 50 of these offering baskets every day. They get put in front of pretty much everything, and there are times when you literally have to step over bunches of them in the streets. They are obviously really important to the people and their beliefs.

One of the more major temples I visited was Tanah Lot, a spectacularly beautiful temple on the west coast of Bali. It’s built on a rocky outcrop that juts into the ocean but at low tide, you can wade across the water to the actual temple. There you can, for a small donation, get a blessing from the holy men. You need to wash your hands and feet, then they stuck rice onto your forehead. No idea what the purpose it, but they all seemed pretty reverent about it. I would have liked to have explored the actual temple but it was closed off to the public.

I happened to be in Bali during two of the biggest religious festivals of the year, Galungan and Kuningan. During this time, the temples get dressed up, there are big baskets of offerings being given, flowers are used to decorate the temples, etc. All the statues get dressed up in black and white checkered sarongs. The streets get decorated with big bamboo poles. And the people gather together in the temples to celebrate, talk, play music, and give thanks. It’s all rather beautiful.

I visited a biggish local temple just outside Ubud during the Kuningan festival and stayed for about an hour just to watch what was going on there. The women sat gathered together in groups, all dressed in traditional costumes of a sarong and a traditional lace top. The men stayed in their groups, also dressed in sarongs and mostly white shirts. There was music being played on traditional instruments – mostly percussive instruments, so to an untrained ear it does tend to sound like a lot of banging and crashing noise – and although the banging can sound a bit random, the musicians all clearly knew what was coming next as they stayed in time and tempo and knew exactly when to vary the intensity of their contributions. Although I wore a sarong and tried to be discreet as I wandered around the temple, I felt a little conspicuous being there. People were very welcoming though. It was quite amazing to experience.

Another fascinating temple was Tirta Gangga, on the way up to Amed on the the north coast. I believe the name translates as Water Palace, and it was probably one of the most beautiful temples I saw. and quite different in style to the others. there were lots of statues everywhere, but the main feature was the beautiful waterways and ponds filled with fish.

One insightful moment I had about the effect of religion on the culture was when I was talking with the caretaker of another of my AirBNBs, a delightful Balinese woman named Patliany. I mentioned to her how much I liked the villa I was staying in and how nice the layout of the space was. She laughed and said she had just had a conversation with another guest from an identical villa who was complaining that the open design was insecure and that he was concerned that people would be able to break in and steal his belongings. Patliany said to him “This is Bali. We are Hindu and we believe in karma. Nobody is going to steal your things.” (Ironically, the guy complaining was from India, and also a Hindu!)

That really summed up a lot to me about the impact that Hinduism has on these people. There is a genuine sense of kindness and helpfulness from the Balinese people that, I think, largely stems from this idea of karma… that whatever you do to other people and however you treat other people, it will eventually come back to you. The Balinese have a beautiful spirit, and I can’t help but think their Hindu beliefs about life and the world play an important role in the way they think and act.

The other interesting fun fact I learned about the way Hindu beliefs influence the culture was with the doorways. Balinese doors often have a series of steps that lead up to the entryway, and as you step through the door, there are more steps going down the other side. Basically, you have to climb up and down to go through a door. It struck me as somewhat odd… my western brain, trained to always aim for efficiency above all else, thought “why not just have no steps up and no steps down, so you can just walk through the door easily?” Apparently these steps are symbolic of the Hindu belief that everything in life involves some kind of struggle and reward. To get through the doorway, you have to climb up – the struggle – and then go down – the reward. Once I learned this, I noticed it everywhere. (I also didn’t see many people in wheelchairs either!)

So there you go, that’s my experience with Balinese Hinduism. Stay tuned for next month where I pick another religion to check out!

Beyond Belief

For a couple of years now I have tried to take on some kind of interesting project each year. In the past it’s been relatively simple things like doing a 365 project where I take and post a photo every day, or take one second of video every day, or even a daily creative challenge where I tried to make something creative every day for a year. For someone who can get easily distracted, the act of developing enough discipline to do something every single day has been quite a challenge, but for most of these projects I managed to stick to it all the way to the end of the year. Regardless of what the project is for the year I usually I learn a lot about the world and about myself. And it’s been surprising that some of these daily projects have opened all kinds of interesting doors for me that I could have never foreseen.

The daily discipline has paid off in other ways too. I’m trying to learn a second language at the moment – Esperanto – using the Duolingo app, and I’ve surprised myself by sticking to it for 117 days straight. To be honest it’s been pretty easy to do, but I think I’ve developed that stickiness from doing these daily projects

Last year I had an idea for a different kind of project, but for some reason I never really got started on it. So this year I am giving it another go. I’m calling it the Beyond Belief Project. For the next 12 months I plan to explore a different religion every month. Don’t worry, I have no plans to “convert” to any of them, but just simply check them out, learn a little more about them, and see what they are about.

I should point out that I am a very happy atheist. I was raised Catholic but pretty quickly worked out that the whole God thing wasn’t really doing much for me (unless you count learning to feel guilty about everything a positive. When I had kids, my wife – also a Catholic, and a much better one than me – insisted that we raise the kids in a religion of some kind, Catholic being the obvious choice of course. I was pretty non-committal about the idea, but went along with it. Her reasoning, which I can kind of accept, was that if they want to rebel as they got older and reject religion, that’s fine, but at least they would have some basic idea about what they were rebelling against. That seemed almost logical, so I went along with it. I put up with the christenings and first holy communions and confession, and even got to the if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em stage and decided to get involved in our local church where I read at the Sunday masses, played music in the church band, and got involved in all sorts of church events. But it never felt like anything more than a social club to me, and not even a very good one. I met some nice people, but could never buy into all the religious palaver that went along with it all.

As I got older (and divorced from the aforementioned Catholic wife) I discovered that I was really happy with being a non-believer. I still meet the occasional crusty nutjob who like to point a finger and say “You’ll be sorry when you die!”, but I just shrug and go Meh.

I’m not really anti religion, I just personally don’t see a point in it. I can’t see any valid reason to not eat meat on a Friday any more than I can see why black cats might be unlucky. If people feel better believing there is a beardy man in the sky who will judge them at some point, good luck to them. I am just not even remotely interested.

So, from the standpoint of someone who had Catholicism thrust upon them, but is now not even vaguely interested in the idea of belonging to a religion, I think it would be interesting to go see how other lot live. I’ll visit their houses of worship, try to learn more about what they believe, and why, and try to understand why every religion thinks only their is the real deal. Should be interesting.

So, not really a 365 Project as such, more of a 12 Project I guess. But I plan to update this blog with some observations about a different religion each month, and I especially hope to try to check out some of the non-Christian ones that I know very little about. I’m not sure how it will go. But if you’re interested in learning along with me, keep your eye on this space.

Would love to get your thoughts, comments and suggestions below about my 2019 project idea!

Dear family and friends,

You may (or may not) have noticed that I barely spend any time on Facebook these days. Today is the first time I’ve logged in for quite a while, and although I have definitely missed hearing what some of you have been up to and keeping up with your goings-on, I have to say I have really not missed “the Facebook experience”.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook… I know there can be some great stuff happening there, but I was increasingly finding Facebook as a huge time suck that was stealing more and more hours of my life for very little real return. I, probably like you, have spent far too much of my life liking and commenting on other people’s posts, watching inane videos, or observing some of humanity’s ugliest sides in many of the discussion threads.

I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole Facebook experience, so I just decided to stop using it. If you’ve read my blog you will know that I’ve got to this point in the past, where I’ve ranted about it, even deleted my account, etc, but I now realise it was far more about how I used Facebook than Facebook itself. (Although I still have many concerns about the way Facebook does things and the many unethical ways it deals with user data).

I do find Facebook useful as a single sign-on tool for other web services, and that is one reasons I have kept my account active. The other main reason is you… I am connected to many people here on Facebook, and I consider most of you friends. However, I’ve seen less of most of you over the last few years than ever before, and if that’s what it means to have friends these days, then it’s not enough for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of having friends in online spaces like Facebook at the expense of having friends in actual meetspace.

I have to say that since I have deliberately been avoiding Facebook, I’ve been happier, fitter, healthier, and have spent more time doing more things that I like doing. I’ve read more, exercised more, travelled more, and used some of that time to learn a new language. (In fact, the loading page in Duolingo actually says “15 minutes a day can help you learn a new language, what does 15 minutes on social media give you?”) It turns out that I was spending WAY more than 15 minutes a day on social media, and the truth is I was getting very little back from it.

I know some of you love Facebook and get great value from it, so good luck to you. Facebook is not all bad and for many of you it helps you remain connected with people you care about. I’m glad it works for you.

For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…

I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.

Crossposted to Facebook