Screening My Time

Over the past few weeks, I’ve cut down the time I spend staring at my black mirror by 40%. Ever since Apple started sending screen time reports, I’ve been fascinated with the connection between my happiness and the time I spend on my phone. 

To paint the picture a bit let me tell you what my experience was like before cutting out Facebook and Instagram (for now at least, probably will go back to this one once in a while)

This is what a typical day looked like:

Alarms going off, reach for my phone, turn it off, while I’m at it – check Instagram, scroll for a bit then put the phone down and start my morning.

I tried to get to sleep early last night and could use some more sleep and recovery but with my early morning scroll I just lost ten to fifteen minutes that I could of spent sleeping. Damnit. 

After getting back from my run, grab the phone, check e-mail, check social media, scroll a bit before showering. 

My body could use some more time stretching, I’ve had issues with injuries since high school I just talked to a friend the other day about the importance of working on my core – too bad I just gave another ten minutes to my phone.

Eat a quick breakfast, maybe scroll and eat. Now off to work. 

Get into the flow of the day, now time to go to the bathroom – maybe take a few minutes and scroll while walking – repeat this a few times throughout the day, leaving exactly no time for day dreaming or ruminating over an idea. 

Day is done, head home, tired, spend some time on the couch with the T.V. on but not really watching it, open Instagram, close, it, open Facebook, close it, maybe open Instagram again and my phone just won another half hour of my time. 

I’ve been saying for years how I need to go to the gym more and get stronger. I’m always in awe of people who make time to read everyday, it’s so interesting to hear all the things they’ve learned. 

Never did get around to learning the piano. 

My Spanish is still weak, wasn’t I going to get Rosetta Stone?

My good friend called me the other day, maybe I should give a call – too late, it’s 10:00pm now I’ll go to bed and scroll a bit before falling asleep.

Now my mind is racing, I can’t believe some of the things I just saw – they went where?!? Wow, that’s so awesome. I’ve always wanted to go there…alright time for sleep, damnit it’s already 11:00pm I should have been in bed an hour ago…

Recently I listened to an interview with David Goggins who has an unbelievable story of triumph in how he has managed to thrive despite a tumultuous childhood. His mentality and dedication led to him losing over 100 lbs and becoming a Navy SEAL, among other remarkable accomplishments. He spent time discussing various injuries and recovery, specifically touching on the importance of identifying the true source of pain. He said if your knee hurts, it’s most likely because of a tight quad, not the actual knee.

This threw me for a loop and caused me to reflect on the root of some of the major decisions in my life.

It might seem like a small thing for you, but for me, not spending two-three hours a day on Instagram and Facebook has been a life altering change. But why did I do it really?

Was it a call for attention?

Was it just to be different?

Where is the real catalyst?

After a lot of thought over the past month or so, the answers have materialized, crystal clear.

I was fed up. I have a strong desire to belong and despite all the connection, I felt lonely. 

I think it’s why my faith has grown over the past few years because I really do experience a strong sense of belonging in my relationship with God. I feel accepted and can operate without shame or worry about not being enough.

For a long time I would retreat to distractions when longing to belong. Sometimes I still do. I reach for my phone when I’m uncomfortable, in an elevator, walking to the store, anytime I’m bored. 

When I dive deeper into social media and then put my phone away, I’m still left with this void, sometimes it even becomes bigger because all the time I’ve spent paying attention to the lives of others is now gone. Time I really could have used for me.

Time to address my deep-rooted insecurity or the unrelenting sense of not being enough – important issues that deserve attention I’ve been giving elsewhere. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve made the decision to screen my time and not give it away so haphazardly. 

Being deliberate with the time I give to others, even by thinking about them or looking at their pictures, has helped me reclaim some self worth by entertaining the notion that I’m worth my time. I’m worth checking in on, following and paying attention to. 

This time has also reminded me about what it means to really connect with someone. I always considered myself a positive presence online, liking a lot of pictures, making positive comments and celebrating accomplishments of others. Now, the challenge is even greater, I need to go out of my way to check-in with people and see how they’re doing. If I want to celebrate something, then it might look like a card or a phone call. This takes a lot more effort but maybe if that same person is getting virtual support and in person support then the impact could be even greater. 

Regardless of where this journey ends, with me getting a flip phone or just being mindful of my use, I know it’s a worthy endeavor because it’s making me think about what’s really important and what I can do to better live my life for myself and others. Thank you for being a part of it. 

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