Last night, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone, reading Swedish articles about how bad screen time and mobile phones are for you—and especially for young people. And suddenly it was so clear that I needed to find ways to spend less time on my phone—for example by quitting social media.
I literally started fantasizing about what my life would be like without Facebook, Twitter, and an average of 70 minutes per day staring at my phone. I felt a lightness I haven’t felt in a long time and went to sleep like that—excited, expectant.
I’ve taken breaks before, and I even gave up my smart phone for over a year in 2011, but I have not done a wholesale digital reset before. It is never a good time. I always have something to promote—a book, a cause, an event, a new business… But my reach on social media is minimal. It would be one thing if I had a big platform and could influence many people that way, but I don’t—and I don’t like the medium enough to get there.
Last year, I resolved to spend less time in front of screens. The only digital casualty of this decision was this blog, the digital space I should be nurturing the most! Somehow, I find time to be on social media, but I don’t make time to write. Granted, I’ve been in an action-and-input-phase lately—actually working on post-capitalist projects vs. writing about it. Reading, and reading, and learning so much. Fine. I won’t fret about it. But now I want to write again—and not just research papers for my MBA courses.
This is about more than finding time to write again. It’s about value—costs and benefits. I hear Cal Newport whispering in my ear, “are you using social media or being used by it?” I’d rather spend time with people in person rather than in an asynchronous virtual manner. An inspiring conversation is more valuable to me than scroll, scroll, scrolling through my news feed. While I realize some of the benefits of social media, the value to me personally is not great enough to justify its use.
But the biggest reason I’ve decided to jump ship from Facebook and Twitter (I already stopped using Instagram) is that the addiction to these platforms and the resulting screen time is harming people. Maybe it’s harming me—I know it stresses me out to realize I wasted 30 minutes on my phone at night when I’m too tired to get myself ready for bed. How will this disturbing trend change? Only if we change our behaviors and say no (and yes). Say no to 720 friends (and yes to close relationships and looking people in the eye). Say no to checking the phone 30 times per day (and yes to unplugging after work). Say no to wasted time (and yes to being present with people, animals, and our environment).
I know I’ll miss out on things—events, birthday wishes, seeing pics of my nieces & nephews… But that’s about it. Really.
And let’s get back to the real issue here. We are a profoundly sick society. These services & our smart phones are disconnecting us from what is real—eating meals together without disruptions, making eye contact, being bored, noticing our surroundings, having rich, real-time conversations, doing deep, meaningful work.
I’m keeping my iPhone. I need it for the work I do. But I upgraded to Moment Premium to help me control my use. Using technology to help me manage my relationship with technology. I know, weird.
I’d love to know what you think about all this.