Back in February I wrote a post about wanting to reduce my time on-line. While I do sometimes watch Mad Men with a touch of wistfulness of life pre-hyperconnectivity, I don’t think life without internet is the ideal solution. This fascinating profile on a man who spent a year completely off-line illustrates that while there are many downsides to the internet, permanently going sans-internet is not the solution. The internet has its place. I love exploring different recipes, crafts, e-mailing friends, finding competitive airline tickets, and skyping with loved ones near and far. My relationship to technology, like all things, including my faith itself, is about finding the middle path, the path of moderation. I can’t abandon it, nor do I want to, but I do want to control technology and for it not to control me.
Based on my experience with being more aware of my on-line life, I feel that the main culprit of my hyper-connectivity, is the smart phone. A tiny little computer you can take with you everywhere, and thanks to the beauty of 3G can hook you up even in the most remote of places to check what your high school classmate had for breakfast that morning.
Since February, these are the practices I have decided to adopt to help me moderate my time on-line, be more present with my children, read more books, write more, draw more, live more, and resemble an extra on The Walking Dead, a lot less.
- Removed my facebook and twitter apps from my phone. Instead, if I want to use these services I can log in via a good old-fashioned laptop. It’s reduced my use of these sites dramatically and really only update my facebook blog-page if I do go on there, I’ve found that distance does help create more distance when it comes to Facebook. I’m still toying with the idea of deactivating completely as I’m pretty sure its not worth it for a million and a half reasons [and if you’re friends with me on FB you might have seen me deactivate a few times in the past few weeks as I toy with the idea. I might take the plunge and do it as I did about four years ago for a two year duration] but I am currently still on but if your’e looking for a reason to reduce your usage I recommend this reading this poignant essay, it certainly inspired me to curtail my participation significantly. Facebook may make us think we’re connecting but statistics show time and again we end up feeling disconnected and unhappier.
- Moderate my time on my other apps. I enjoy Pinterest and Instagram and find them not voyeristic but enjoyable. But ofcourse its all about how I choose to use it that will serve to keep it beneficial and not another time suck black hole. I only follow people whose photos or links inspire or interest me, who can snap a picture of a random object and make it beautiful and who share lovely quotes to caption their work that leaves me thinking. I too love sharing photos and pinning but I do however make a point to not actually insta the gram or to browse Pintersest constantly. I only post to the sites when the kids are sleeping, or I’m nursing, since it would defeat the purpose of witnessing a lovely moment if I spent the whole time manipulating the image on my phone.
- No smart phones when with company. This is working fantastic though it wasn’t that much of a problem to start with. Plain and simple if we’re staring into a phone while surrounded by real live people we love, its just rude.
- Charge my phone downstairs, not by my bed. The overwhelming majority of people reach for their phones within 15 minutes of waking and before going to bed. My rationale for having my phone on me at night was to check the time, but now I put an alarm clock on my nightstand and the excuse is gone. [Full disclosure, I am guilty of sometimes sneaking my iPad up to read an e-book or read up on the critique of the latest Soprano or Breaking Bad bad episode we watched– and if you don’t read the episode reviews by the AV Club and Alan Sepinwall– you really should- fabulous insights, they have]
- Reduce checking e-mail. Studies show we get a certain high by checking e-mail and refreshing our inbox. Sure most of the time we hit refresh, there’s nothing of significance, but the one time it is, habituates us to refresh constantly again. The average person today refreshes their e-mail every ten minutes. And I hate feeling like a monkey. To manage this, I disable my ability to check e-mails on my phone while the kids are awake and otherwise, I try to ask myself before I hit refresh, if I’m refreshing because I think there’s something I need to see or if its because I’m doing it out of habit.
- Got a landline. My excuse for having my smarpthone on hand at all times was that what if I got a call, which, while legitimate is now lessened that we have a home phone that can be used to make calls. I can conveniently leave the cell phone MIA while with my children.
- Limit the use in front of my children during waking hours. This is the biggest challenge. When nursing, its just so easy to use the one spare hand to pick up the smart phone and play a quick game of scramble [hi Susan!] and check up on news, or whatever the case may be. I try now to read a book instead. And when the kids are playing or otherwise awake and I really need a bit of downtime, I reach for a good paper book [role modeling is the best indicator of future readers- that, and I love reading], or grab my moleskine to doodle or write. The idea of them walking around like little zombies with smart phones in hand horrifies me. How can I not practice what I preach.
Following these rules has helped tremendously. I see the effects in my life every day. I’m reading more, drawing more, writing more, cooking more, and generally feel more engaged with life. It’s still a work in progress. I trip up on many of the above rules, but having a clear set of guidelines helps me navigate myself back on track should I stray. In making these rules I’m not shunning smart phones or technology forever but I’m controlling the how, why, and when. Because it really is so important.
As I was writing up this post, I came across this video. It broke my heart. Because its not an exaggeration. Because I see it every single day. And I’m posting it to share with you in case you see yourself or someone you love in it. I’m also posting it to remind myself that this is not how I want to live. I want to live not simply be alive. It’s okay if a special moment isn’t memorialized in video or photo. It’s more than okay if its kept as private for me and my loved ones and not broadcasted to every social media site I participate in, only to then, log back in to monitor how many likes and comments were received. Life’s too short to spend it peering into a screen. To wonder what other people thought of a moment we cherished. It just is. Here’s hoping I can continue to work on practicing what I preach.