Ever seen someone with phone-face? Their jaw drops open the slightest bit, a tiny, almost invisible furrow settles onto the brow, and their eyes stare at the tiny screen in front of them with the intensity of a molecular biologist peering through a microscope to watch cellular division in a petri dish. It ain't a pretty face.
I'm not here to argue the pros and cons about smart phones and the internet nor am I here to tell you about what happens to your dopamine levels every time you view a novel internet image (another day, another blog entry). I'm here to be that little post-it note reminding you to stay more present in the now.
The now is pushing your kid on a swing in the park, not scrolling through your text messages. The now is listening to what your business partner is saying, not multi-tasking your way through another boring meeting. The now is putting your phone down instead of checking your Facebook feed once again. The now is ignoring your whatsapp ping and just being where ever you are. Waiting, practicing patience, practicing presence of mind, and making eye contact and offering a friendly smile with whoever else isn't staring at their screen.
What about work and kids who need to reach us and parents who are calling or texts you might miss? What about sending that witty thing you just thought of to your faraway friend who would really get a chuckle? How will you stay in touch with all your friends overseas?
Yeah, there is all that urgent stuff out there. Yeah, we need to move along with the times because this is the world that we are living in. I get that. I feel that. I'm in the same boat. But how about we get a little more honest with ourselves about our phone usage. How about we literally stop to smell the flowers instead of walking and talking or texting. How about we give ourselves a chance to enjoy the quiet and cut down on all of that input that is flying into our lives in all forms of media.
Here's how I cut down on screen time:
1. Aside from computer time that you need for work, set yourself a daily limit. Once you reach that limit, shut it down. Even if you haven't finished reading the article you were on, even if you're in the middle of a really witty, informative blog entry :), or even if you are about to get 50% off at Jcrew.com. Just shut it down. Having limits and sticking to them is powerful in any forum.
2. Set limits on how many times a day you check the news, your Facebook feed, or whatever other website you find yourself compulsively checking. I check my Arutz Sheva feed once every morning. I fondly remember a time not so long ago when the only news I got was from my one-time-a-week newspaper purchase. I long for those days. Maybe that will be next on my To-Do list.
3. Download the app Moments. It tracks how much time you spend on your smart phone and how many times a day you pick up your phone. You will be surprised. You may be slightly appalled at how much time you spend on your phone. And after you see those numbers, remember that your phone is giving off some solid radiation that the World Health Organization says causes cancer. Then get scared and throw your phone out of the window and say some tehillim.
4.If you can, get a old-fashioned, non-smart (dumb?) phone. See my post from a few days ago.
5.Change your Whatsapp profile pic and status. I changed my status to say that I am not available via Whatsapp and to please send regular texts or call me if something was important. Most people won't bother sending via regular text unless it's important. It'll also cut down on your expected participation in group chats. Yay for less pressure! Just knowing that people don't expect me to answer within seconds or even minutes or hours took away a little of that desire to check if I had any new messages. The most effective way to get your message across that you aren't so available is to write a note, take a picture of it, and post it as your profile photo.
6.Filter what you are reading. Look at the websites you frequent and see which ones you can cut off completely from your daily rotation of checking. I used to check Gap.com for great sales. And then I remembered I didn't live in America nor did I have anyone to bring me stuff from there so basically I was just wasting time. Then they opened Gap in Mamilla and now I just waste money.
All of our relationships will benefit from cutting down on our screen time. We'll be more present in our conversations, our executive functioning* will increase exponentially, and we'll experience more clarity as we filter out all the unneeded stuff.
*Executive functions (also known as cognitive control and supervisory attention system) is an umbrella term for the management (regulation, control) of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution. Thanks Wikipedia for that succinct definition!