Imagine all of us were presented with a chart on our death bed. “Time spent at work, time spent with family, time spent staring at your phone”.
I suspect that our generation will face a new type of regret when we’re on our death beds. The baby boomers regretted spending too much time at work, and not with family.
One of ours will be how much we spend on our phones. For baby boomers, work was somewhat restricted to the office, at the very least work communication was. Then we had the blackberry arrive in the 2000’s. Now we had a persistent channel to office communication. Not only was it somewhat cool to be able to tackle work whenever wherever you want, but Blackberry pulled off making the device a status symbol as well. That shiny black rectangle with a full keyboard was a signal that you’d made it. Work was now paying for your calls and you’re important enough to be accessible, and to access, anyone at any time.
Aside from work the Blackberry wasn’t much of a device. That little ball thing was the cursor on a sub par web browsing experience. If you’d forgotten what time your train is and you were desperate to know, you could maybe tolerate the experience for a few minutes. But yet, this was still an addictive device. Truly. “He’s always on his blackberry” mutters Ari Gold’s wife to their therapist in Entourage. I even worked with someone who did all her email solely on her blackberry whilst she sat in front of her laptop.
That was a problem, but it was boxed around work, and despite being addictive, it was functional, built around being able to communicate at your leisure. What we face today is completely different, our devices have penetrated every aspect of our lives and their revenue models are built around addiction. How long can your eye balls be glued to my app so that I can learn as much about you, so I can serve you as many ad’s as possible”.
I’ve written a ton on the arguments for and against social media and mobile notifications, overall the cons far far outweigh the pros. If you need the pros so badly that you must use these applications, put deliberate processes around when you use them and use whatever controls it offers to cut down the application to only the benefits. Unfollow, unfriend, uninstall, turn off notifications, limit applications to desktop use.
I write this from experience, my screen time was around 3 hours per day. I don’t think any of that was productive, truly. And even if it was, at what cost? I’m just getting started with an important task and my whatsapp fires off, how likely will I resume that task shortly, and how many more times will I get interrupted? Shamefully I checked my phone whilst I was bathing my kids. The costs of this is real, too real. It steals time and attention, both finite resources, from the most important parts of our lives that are also finite, our loved ones. This is amplified with children, before you know it, they’ll be grown up.
Bill Gates recently said that “Busy is the new stupid”. I LOVE THIS! It’s so true. You’re ssssoooo important and you’re ssssoooo busy you have to check email a dozen times each hours, and instagram, and linkedin, and apple news and facebook. Be honest with yourself. Imagine if your down time was spent… imagining? Problem solving, daydreaming, thinking, being fully present in all that you do.
Again I write this from experience. I used to be on social media, and I used to be addicted to my phone and I’m by no means perfect with my phone now, but it’s better. I find the phone an annoyance now, which I never did before. I haven’t taken the plunge yet but it’s not far off, getting a dumb phone (or a ‘feature phone’ as the dumb phone makers calls it).
One tip I give you if you unplug is to fill the void with something meaningful. Unplugging without something else will lead to plugging back in. Is it reading, writing, learning a new course, wrestling with your toddlers, playing a board game with your wife, cooking? Take a look at your screen time on your device now and be honest with yourself. Could you replace half of that with something meaningful?
Technology has so much to offer us, but advertising companies have very little. Be careful with your attention, charge a premium for it. “Hello mr App, you want my attention, what are you going to offer me in return, and what is the price I pay”.
Be present, enjoy the time with your loved ones, and enjoy the world around us. (and you don’t have to post about it)