Personal reflection talk: not owning a smartphone
December 2016
Stuart McMillen personal reflection talk at Sunday Assembly

A personal reflection at Sunday Assembly Canberra

I am a regular attendee of the monthly non-religious gathering Sunday Assembly Canberra. Each month, Sunday Assembly chooses a theme for their event, and then curates a programme of songs, speakers, and readings that are relevant to that theme.

In December 2016, the event theme was “Connection“, and the main speaker was Megan Gilmour, who spoke about her not-for-profit foundation Missing School, which aims to “keep seriously sick kids connected” to their schoolmates while they are undergoing treatment for medical conditions. Her talk is on the Sunday Assembly Canberra YouTube channel.

I decided to contrast with Megan’s talk by taking this theme of “Connection”, and talking about how I deliberately limit my connection to the internet by blocking my internet usage during certain hours of the day, and by not owning a smartphone.

Creating the talk

Preparing this talk was a worthwhile exercise in itself. I have had anxiety towards public speaking to various degrees throughout my life. I am finding that this anxiety is diminishing, as I proactively choose to speak in public more frequently. Every time I speak before an audience, it becomes a little less scary.

I was determined to memorise the talk and speak from memory, without any notes. That is the most natural and engaging way for someone to speak before an audience. And it is surprisingly easy to memorise a 5 or 10 minute talk. The key is simply to speak the words over and over again. This is something that I would do on my 20-minute long bike rides to work, in the lead-up to this Sunday Assembly Canberra event.

It was a nice little project for the fortnight leading up to the talk, memorising the order of “humpback whales, Kurt Cobain, the Church of Scientology, Margaret Thatcher, crayons, The Wind in the Willows, the Hindenburg Disaster…” over and over again!

I suspect that most people have been down the “Wikipedia rabbit holes” that I discuss during my talk. Even though I was discussing the unusual decision to continue to use a ‘dumbphone’ in 2016, I suspect that the audience understood my motivation for making this unusual decision.

A topic for my comics

This talk made me see that this thematic topic – of our hyper-connectedness to the internet – would become a fertile topic for me to cartoon about. I am about to release multiple comics on this topic:

  • Blocking My Reptile
  • Defending Dumbphones

These comics spawned themselves from the thoughts that arose during my planning for my 7-minute long Sunday Assembly Canberra talk.