Making Time for Living Life – How to Reduce Screen Time
I remember the days when my husband and I would laugh and wonder at all the people obsessed with their phones, heads down, rudely ignoring what was going on around them, placing so much importance on a tiny screen. It really wasn’t that long ago that smart phones became a norm. And while we were some of the later converts to the phenomenal tools that smart phones can be, we eventually joined ranks in the brainless hunchbacked.
It’s all too easy to be so wowed by what these small miracles can do, from making recipes and knitting patterns appear at our fingertips, to answering every question we could ever wonder on the fly, to communicating in many ways – text, voice, video – with everyone in the world we can think of, to filling the mundane moments where we would otherwise be waiting around.
But so much is lost in figuring out how to use tech responsibly. It’s a challenge to go from nothing to everything, to have so much power at our fingertips, to mentally clock out from the day-to-day realities, without the guide to continuing to living life here and now. Our smart phones are addictive. Anyone who disagrees with that statement is flat out lying. Even the most responsible and hands-on of people find themselves caving into mindless scrolling when the apps are right there, and a sense of boredom (real and concieved) hits.
So how to we start to change the story of how our generation fell into a downward spiral of swapping life lived in it’s truest, most proactive and mindful way, for a virtual reality of disconnected misconnected unproductiveness?
It’s been a consistent struggle for myself. I’m sure I’ve written about it previously, but am I going to link back to it right now? No, no I am not. I’m realizing more and more each day what the important pieces are, and what doesn’t serve my life. There is a time and place for everything, but not everything deserves a time or place in the now. Each moment is precious, and unless what I’m doing is serving myself and my family and my community, why am I doing it?
So, while it may seem that writing this here, right now, doesn’t serve my life, I feel like it could help someone else. It could potentially help remind someone out there that there’s so much more to life than a screen, and there are ways we can improve the negative habits we’ve adopted as life as we know it changes with the tools at our disposal.
I had a brief conversation with my husband recently, while travelling out of country where our phones were put away most of the time except for to take a photo or to look up a translation (no data when you’re travelling and cheap!). We both expressed how the times have changed for us, since laughing at the smart phone users in days gone by, and how we’ve both become more likely to lose ourselves in our phones than to spend time together or busy with actual life. We each wished the other spent less time on their phone, and of course, we both considered the other to be more addicted and spend more time with their precious iPhone than ourselves. Bad habits. It’s always easier to see the other’s problems, right?
Tuning out on our phones has come between our relationship. It’s made us worse parents. It’s left our house messier, our lives less organized, and our hearts emptier. But, if you’re anything like us, the opportunity to improve through competition is strong.
So we decided to challenge ourselves to see who could spend less time on their phone. We tried out a variety of apps until we found one that is a) free (important to my thrifty desires), b) tracks time spent on our phones, and c) can be linked with others to put on display for eachother exactly how much time we’ve spent. The challenge is on.
Being monitored for myself and in competition with my partner, I immediately noticed a huge difference in how often we both reached for our phones, and how long we spent on them when picked up. And, resultingly, how much more time is spent tidying up, making food, thinking, looking, and interacting with my life and loved ones in the here and now. It really has helped when, what has previously been a private and unseen amount of time, is tracked and shown to the other. Even with the motivation to spend as little time as possible on our phones, I was shocked at exactly how much time was being clocked in quick and simple texts, calls, putting on music, checking of information, etc. Let’s face it – these tools are a necessity for the expectations of life as we now know it, and we do have to go on them from time to time. I’m talking hours. Can you imagine how much time we would have spent on our phones if we weren’t being clocked?? It disgusts me to think how many hours of the day have been lost on scrolling and sharing.
So today I’m asking you to consider adding a screen time tracker to your phone, and linking it with someone else who will hold you accountable to how much time is spent staring at that screen. The app we’re currently using (again – free, tracking time and not just pick-ups, and linkable with others) is called TIMEDOWN. There are a couple others I found in searching that I will probably move to once our daughter is using a device of her own, as some can lock the device, or certain apps, add time limits, and other useful parenting tidbits for the digital age. But for now, this one is perfect for our needs.
Will you take the challenge and get back to living life more fully?