Let me paint you a little picture…
It’s a Tuesday night, you’ve been working all day at completing assignments. It took you extra long to get home because of an earlier crash on HWY 1. After dumping your belongings on the ground when you step in the door, you try your best techniques to defrost chicken in the shortest amount of time possible because you neglected to take it out of the freezer that morning. You go over the basics of your day with your spouse while cooking up a crowd pleaser. After dinner, you find yourself on the couch- your presumed spot for the evening. It’s been a long day and all you want to do is relax, escape for a little while. You let the next half hour pass before your eyes as you scroll through IG and try and beat level 341 on Candy Crush. Before you know it you’ve spent the majority of your day on your bum and in front of a screen.
Sound familiar? Me too.
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend at school about his plans to “convert” back to a flip phone. Why on earth would you ever want a flip phone, I questioned. Over the course of the next half hour, he explained to me that he had downloaded an app called Moment. Moment tracks your daily usage on your cell phone and can tell you how much time you’ve spent on each app. After being surprised himself by the amount of time he spent on his phone, he called for change. He explained that every week he would use Moment to note which app was being used the most and then delete it. Slowly but surely, he deleted his way through Snapchat, Instagram and eventually got himself down to a basic calling, texting and calendar device. He gave me the lowdown on all the benefits he has noticed by putting the cell phone aside and canceling out so much excess noise in his life.
This new notion of spending less time on my phone had me interested. I downloaded Moment instantly and began to track the amount of time I spent on my iPhone. Well crap. It is amazing how time adds up. A quick scroll here, a video or two there, I was blown away to see that each day I was spending over two hours on my phone. Not only was I spending hours on my phone daily, my top apps were Instagram, Candy Crush, Messages, and Facebook. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that you won’t change the world by spending your life wrapped up in a video game. Do you realize how much I could be doing with two hours?! I justify not working out and not emptying the dishwasher because I have no time. Well, there it is ladies and gents, all wrapped up in a 5 X 2 electronic device. Now before you rush to go download this app on your kid’s phones, I dare you to check your own usage first. It adds up so.darn.fast.
After trying not to touch my phone for the first couple of days with Moment, I found myself much more aware of the times I go to grab it. I am constantly drawn towards it as a “break” from my homework or as something to do while watching TV (seriously Alex, if you need a break, stand up and stretch! Don’t just move from one screen to another). I noticed that Matt and I spent too many evenings in front of the phone rather than spending time together in conversation. Of course, we both need to unwind from our busy days, but it doesn’t need to be wasted on our cell phones. I gravitate towards it when I am eating alone, when I am waiting in a line or when I tune out during class, heck I know I am not alone in saying that it’s the new bathroom magazine. It’s a boredom fixer, an awkward moment reliever and an excuse to be anti-social. Think about it, you arrive at the dentist office and they tell you to just wait a couple more minutes before your appointment, what do you do? I know I am not alone in reaching into my bag for my phone to pass three unruly minutes. Gone are the days where you would chat with the receptionist, flip through the Life magazines or let your imagination wander. We consume ourselves with our phones and square away from anything outside our bubble.
Throughout my experimental phase, I have noticed that my desire to be constantly connected has weakened, and my productivity and joy on the rise. I have suddenly found the time to do a quick workout or to clean up the little piles collecting here and there in my house. My mind has been clearer to focus on my tasks at hand and to use my time more wisely. More importantly, I have found a decrease in my habitual comparisons to others. More often than not, social media leaves us with a sinking feeling of comparison. We measure our rate of success, happiness and wealth to those around us. As if a single snapshot of their trip to Seattle can tell us anything about their joy. More often than not, we frame pictures to show the world how good our life is going, when that really isn’t the case. Personally speaking, I can compare myself to others just fine without the social media drug juicing up my angst. If you followed along in my last post, you would know that I have been over my head in unit planning and starting my practicum (this Monday!). Each time I open up a social media app, I am hit with an overwhelming array of pictures displaying everyone’s best self; my friends are out hiking, they are traveling, fabbing up new projects and out for meals. In this season of my life, I don’t have the time or the means to do all these amazing things, rather I am glued to a black library chair in SFU’s overcrowded education building googling “free resources to teach mixtures and solutions to grade five students”. By greatly limiting my time on my phone, I can spend my time actually hearing about my friend’s experiences rather than coiling up in jealousy from my couch. We have all been there. We see something on social media and we begin to let our minds consume us with edginess towards our friends. We get jealous, but when we actually spend time with them, that all wipes away.
Over this next stretch of time, I have decided to challenge myself to what I am calling: Project 45. I am going to do my best to only spend forty-five minutes on my phone a day. From the moment I wake up, to when I go to bed, 45 minutes. If you think that is still a lot of time, I challenge you to track your time spent on your phone as well. I think you will be shocked at how quickly a scroll here and there adds up. Here is my disclaimer- I am not ready to go as far as my friend and exchange my iPhone for a flip phone, nor am I ready to cut cold turkey on Instagram. I am not saying goodbye to every form of social media either, I have just decided to considerably cut down on my usage and spend more time in the present than on my phone. I do not want it to be the first thing I touch when I wake up, nor do I want it to be the last thing I say goodnight to. I want to engage more with those around me, and I want to challenge myself to resist in times of boredom and awkwardness. I want to hear about my friends’ amazing adventures, not just see one photo of the day. I want some face to face action, is that so wrong? Are you with me?
Colossians 4:5 says this “…make the most of every opportunity”.
The reason is right there in the verse, enough said?
I read that on average we will spend 5 years and four months on social media if we live to be 70. What could you do with five extra years of life to live? Who knows where those conversations with the dentist receptionist may lead if I keep that phone tucked away. Imagine the ideas that could flood my head if I allowed them to do so. Put a hold on the comparisons, sneak in that workout, pee without Pinterest and be social! If you haven’t already started a New Year’s Resolution, I challenge you to join me. Start by tracking your phone usage and see if you too can cut down on your most used apps. Bite the attraction to your device and spend some more time in the real world, I look forward to seeing you there.