Thoughts on Reducing Tech Use

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Let me start this off with being clear with you about something. I love technology. I am fascinated by the operations of tech companies, I would like to learn to code, and I think its amazing that I can do so many things at the click of a mouse or at the tap of a screen. With that being said, I have a tendency to get too dependent on my apps and devices.

In the last six months or so I have made some moves to reduce my screen time and I have found that as I limit my tech/app use I feel happier, healthier, more engaged, and I have read so many more books. Don’t worry, I am not going to go dark any time soon but I will say that getting in touch with the reality of how much I use my phone was humbling. When I first began my journey to where I am right now, I started off by feeling a lot of shame. You see, I would get stuck in an instagram rabbit hole, you know the one where you click on someone’s story and then you go to their page and watch all the videos they have ever been in…

And 20 minutes later you realize you are late for an appointment and you now know way too much about the inner workings of Jedidiah Jenkins and his trip to South America. So a wave of shame would wash over me and I would become very frustrated with myself, “ugh, how could I do that to my time?”. But interestingly enough my friends, shame does not have a lot of power over behavior change. Usually it simply begets more shame, which just buries you deeper in your hole of frustration.

There is a reason why I find it so challenging to detangle myself from apps like instagram or youtube, and that reason is that there are literally hundreds of people who are way smarter than me who’s literal job is to figure out how to get their “users” to spend more time on their app. Funny how drug dealers and tech companies have the same name for their customers (source: Tristan Harris).

So where do we go from here? A practical way that I have increased my awareness of my phone use is that I look at the time I have spent on my phone by using the “screen time” add on in the iPhone and I get veryyyyy real with myself about my time. I let myself be okay with the number that is there and then I consider what else I could have done with that amount of time. I have let awareness be my first step toward growth in this area.

Change the Conversation | Screen Time Call Outs

Challenge: Connect with your friends about your screen time and get real about how you are spending your overall time.

I recently sat down with a new friend and he kindly challenged the both of us to pull up our screen use and discuss what we had used that time for. I sheepishly noticed that I had already used up all of my allotted screen time for social media and my day was not half over. However, because of the work I am doing to get more aware of my screen time, I brushed off the shame and connected to my values of who I want to become.

My friend’s realness with the way that he broached the conversation was open and kind, he wasn’t trying to make either of us feel badly; he was enabling the both of us to get in touch with how our days were going and how much screen time we were engaging in that day.

Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit | Make Behavior Change Simple

Create patterns of detachment for yourself that directly impact chunks of time during your day. The low-hanging fruit for me was kicking my phone out of the bedroom. I found alternative ways to wake up (i.e., a good old fashioned alarm clock) and now my phone gets charged in my kitchen.

Its extremely difficult for me to not mindlessly scroll on my phone while laying in bed so I had to change the environment in my room to induce change in my pattern of behavior. Get a bed side table, a lamp, and a good book to read before falling asleep. I bet you will be surprised by what happens when you kick your phone out of the bedroom. 
If charging your phone outside of the bedroom isn’t possible for you, what is the low-hanging fruit for you?

How many times do Americans look at their phones per day?

This topic is important to me because I myself struggle with using my phone too much, I use it to work, to connect, and to escape. I am sure that there are many people out there who don’t struggle with detaching from technology, but I wonder if it would surprise you to learn how much you use your phone or how many times you pick it up in a day. The average amount of pick ups is once every 12 minutes or 80 times per day (source). So while I am sure you like to think you are on the lowest end of that bell curve, you probably are not.

See if you can become more aware of your tech use and decide what you would like to do with the time instead. Would you rather read? Play an instrument? Learn a new language? Connect with a family member? The options are endless. Pick an activity that is in line with your values and you might just feel more fulfilled.