It’s normal. Meaning everyone does it.
The title sounds dramatic, but I think my life (and maybe yours) is getting hijacked by something we all think is normal.
In fact, I think it might actually be an epidemic.
Epidemic (n) – A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease – in this case; behaviour – in a community at a particular time.
We were out on a cherished date night. Sitters were holding down the fort at home so we could sit face to face and have an actual conversation.
We were at a new sushi joint, and apparently it was the grand opening. The place was hoppin’. It smelled like great sushi smells. Bold Asian designs shouted from the walls. Little glass soya sauce bottles decorated the tables as we sat across from one another grinning.
It was only minutes before I noticed it.
A buzz. I got a text. A buzz. He got a spaceX update. A buzz. I got a calendar reminder.
We were both looking at our phones. These strange pieces of metal had permission to pause our date night and interrupt our intimacy.
Then it got more jarring.
I scanned the restaurant.
Another date was happening adjacent to us, they were clearly comfortable around each other but no rings – not married. Both looking down at their phones not speaking.
A family of 4 sitting in the booth, both mom and dad looking down at their phones while their kids (maybe 6 and 8) sat there squirming.
A group of girls beside us, probably college friends, 2 of 3 were scrolling something while the other was ordering from an iPad.
In fact, every table in sight at that moment included someone on a smartphone.
What is happening to us?
I mean, do we even know?
I’ve heard wise people talk about us being both the parents and the children of technology. We created it, but we don’t know what it’s doing to us.
I’ve also heard technology isn’t good or bad, it just amplifies the good and bad.
Both good points. But…
…there is also some fairly sobering new data about the answer to that question thanks to Jean Twenge, Psychology Professor at San Diego State and scientific researcher.
What is technology doing to us? Anxiety. Loneliness. Depression.
I was like…. what?!?!
I’m not going to dive into all the data today. While Dr Twenge research is largely focused on adolescents we (adults) are not exempt. It’s pretty compelling. Check it out.
In this moment, I’m simply going to share my anecdotal experience…
The number of times my husband and I have both been scrolling our phones instead of having a conversation after the kids are in bed.
The number of times I have been mentally elsewhere while visiting someone I love.
The number of times I’ve been thrown off my game while diving into a project at work.
The number of times my oldest smacks his brother as soon as I have this hunk of metal in my hand.
The number of moments I’ve missed with my boys.
It doesn’t matter whether I’m messaging my mother, planning a meal, banking a cheque or texting the prime minister. No one knows the difference. The wall it creates between me and the present is the same.
It removes me.
Why I’m waging war.
I’m waging war against the digital time-thieves.
No, really. Actual time-thieves.
Did you know that your time is someone else’s money?
Your precious, finite, personal time. People are after it.
The more time you give to an app, the more money that app can make by selling your time – your eyeballs – to advertisers.
Did you know that?
Cal Newport does a brilliant job of raising this flag in Digital Minimalism. What I’m about to tell you I learned from Cal.
App developers are literally trying to get you to use their platform for longer than you plan to. For longer than you want to.
They are literally out to take what doesn’t belong to them — your time.
Did you know app developers invest $$ in hacking the neurological processes in your brain that keep you repeating behaviour? Why? So they can turn your time into their money.
It’s similar neuroprocessing to gambling. To addiction. Crazy.
Thus, you spend the evening clicking and scrolling when you had had the greatest of intentions to finish that project you’ve had on hold for months.
And then you blame yourself for not having the self-control.
And then the cycle continues.
And I want out.
Do we even know what we are missing?
I think I don’t even know what I’m missing when my time is stolen.
What is it like to have more time?
What is it like to have more focus?
What is it like to have solitude?
Do we even remember solitude? This definition inspires me:
Solitude (n) a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds. (Cal Newport referencing Kethledge and Erwin’s Lead Yourself First.)
Are you even in that state on the toilet anymore?
Yet, it’s so critical to our well-being in every sense of the word.
I think we don’t even know what we’re missing when our time is stolen.
How will I find out?
The Technology Detox
The technology… What?
Detox (v) to abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances – or in this case; behaviours.
Ever tried experimenting on yourself? Foods. Words. Products. Habits. It’s a favourite of mine. Experimenting on myself to get to a healthier, whole-er me.
Justin and I were inspired to take the technology detox by Cal Newport when we read Digital Minimalism. It’s a rather radical approach to healthy digital lives, but what I think is a critical one.
The objective? Detox from technology for 30 days. You set the terms (with clear tips from Cal) and you remove all optional technology – as defined by you – for 30 days.
Our goal: use technology to enhance life, not steal it.
I deleted almost every app from my phone. Even the convenient ones.
I muted (as in, not even a buzz) ALL message notifications except that of immediate family and my boss (who has excellent work-life boundaries with his team).
My home screen includes: Messages, Photos, Maps, Calendar, Grocery List and a banking app.
Did you know it could look like this?! haha!
The next screen over holds small folders of “Apple” (calculator, notes, etc) – “Limited” (Safari, email, etc) and “Work” (Asana, Dropbox, etc). And the Bible app. (Is it sac religious to delete the Bible? Kidding!)
So – since I just turned 33, I chose 33 days tech-free.
No optional technology. No Facebook. No instagram. No podcasts. No online shopping apps. No reddit. No netflix. Limited email. Limited web browser use.
But, I stilled use maps! That one wasn’t ‘optional’ in my world – ha!
The trade? More present – More thinking space – More focus – More time – More doing what I love.
One of the things I love? This. Writing. In fact, a condition on my “detox” terms is that I write more. I’m using my phone to write this blog post while I rock a sleeping babe.
It’s time we reclaim our time and our focus. Let’s use technology to enhance our life, not hijack it.
This week marked day 34. I returned to technology. (You probably got to reading this by Facebook!)
No, I’m not abandoning social media forever. There are many things I love about technology. And many things I missed. More to come on that later.
So now, how do I reintroduce it without letting it hijack my time and intentions?
Next week, I’ll share what I learned. What I missed. What I didn’t. And how new habits are changing me.
How about you? Are you done with losing time and focus? How do you stop that from happening?
In this with you!