If you have ever read the book, Love Does, by Bob Goff, you might remember a powerful quote, “The battle of our hearts are fought on the pages of our calendars.” And it is often true. But recently I have found the battle for my heart is not within my calendar pages. In fact, I have eliminated quite a bit from my calendar and have learned to embrace whitespace on the lines of my Simplified Planner. What I am finding? The battle of my heart is being fought on an iPhone screen.
Time spent scrolling and clicking and reading and watching on my phone has become a nasty little habit that evolved over time as I have worked to grow my online business. In the beginning, I would claim the time staring at my 4 inch computer as “work,” but if I am being honest, that time is rarely work and more often a time wasting activity that I use as an escape from all the things on my plate.
Don’t start thinking I am so wise to have come to this realization. Nope. It hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Actually, it took a couple blows to get to the point of sharing this embarrassing truth for the world to read.
The First Blow
When both Kennedy and Esley were newborns, I was constantly scrolling on my phone as a way to pass the time during nursing sessions. It just became second nature. And it became a real problem particularly after Esley. The cause? I gave up watching TV. I spent years plagued by fear every night from break-ins and crime and assaults and all sorts of crazy thoughts. These irrational fears would keep me up for hours at night wondering if every little sound was imminent danger. After Esley came along I decided to try giving up TV since my most loved shows all revolved around crime, drama, solving murders and the like.
I will tell you the crazy nightmares and fears have substantially subsided. But with the unexpected 14 months I nursed Esley, I picked up my phone more than ever. You could often find us in these sort of situations:
While Kennedy watched her favorite show, I would scroll through Instagram. While Kennedy would color, I would be reading post after post of political opinions that made me want to guage my eyes out. But the scroll went on. While Jeremy played with the girls after work, I was reading some blog post about, “How to Drive Traffic From Pinterest.”
It was all a scrolling blur until Jeremy did a little phone experiment. Our phones are linked under the same Apple ID. In essence, if he purchases and downloads a new app, it becomes available for my phone as well. A few months ago he downloaded the iPhone app, Moment. Moment is a handy little app that tracks your screen and app use time. What I didn’t know at the time is that Moment was downloaded on my phone and also tracking my screen use time. That is until Jeremy sat me down to look at the app. I was SHOCKED.
Most days I logged at least 3.5 hours of screen time. 4 hours. 5 hours. 6 hours? I hit those too.
I couldn’t believe the numbers in front of my eyes. How was I spending that much time on my phone? I definitely didn’t feel any smarter or better off for logging that much screen time even if part of it was during night time feedings.
The Second Blow
At my core, I am very much an active live in the moment type of gal with a top 5 Clifton Strengths Finder theme of Context. This unique blend of flying by the seat of my pants and looking to the past for guidance gives me the ability to experiment and execute in ways that a lot of my friends struggle with. But it also comes with a price.
I have no mind for the future and a serious lack of the responsibility trait. This little combination gets me in quite a bit of trouble as I rarely take the time to assess how my actions and decisions will shape my future. And sadly my kids are along for the short-sided ride.
This came to a clear head when I recently read this article on The Powerful Influence Of Secondhand Screen Time On A Child’s Brain by Joshua Straub. In his eye-opening article, Dr. Straub eloquently explains our culture of parenting that lives in a state of “continuous partial attention” and the long-term effects it will have on our kids.
He explains, “We rarely pay full attention to any one task, to the neglect of all others. With notifications tailgating our every move, our stress levels are heightened and our attention spans diminishing—especially in the presence of our kids.”
He goes on to explain the deeper impact this continuous partial attention will have in the long term for our children including anxiety, depression and an inability to fully experience pleasure.
Is Instagram or Facebook or Email Notifications or a pretty inspiration image on Pinterest or the latest viral video or the stupid celebrity click-bait articles worth my child developing anxiety, depression and a poorly developed pleasure system? I think not.
The Battle of My Heart
Friend, I haven’t fully solved this problem. I haven’t conquered what Jeremy simply calls the “New Addiction.” I am in the battle.
We quite literally have the world at our fingertips in a 4×2 inch computer, but I am choosing to fight for the slow moments and more connection with the people right in front of me.
If you are anything like me and have an inkling that you are living in a state of continuous partial attention, I encourage you to take arms and fight it now. I’m right here with you and have been using a few tools and tips to help me:
- Social Media Free Weekends: I started this about a month ago and now come to crave the disconnect come Fridays. I challenge you to delete every single social media app on your phone come Friday at 5:00pm. No more “work” excuses. There is real and good connection to be had on social media, but there are real and precious people in front of you that crave your connection, too. It is so good for the soul to just live in the moment!
- Turn OFF Notifications: Seriously turn them off. I have all notifications off except for one (explained below). You don’t need to know when you get a new comment here or a random email there. If you are a member of scrollers anonymous, you need to remove the bait!
- Delete Your Email App: This might push you over the edge with customer service anxiety, but it has been one of the best decisions I have made on my phone. There is no need to constantly see work emails, and the temptation to check your inbox is just too strong if your email is accessible on your phone. Just try it for a week and see what you think 😉
- Delete Link Based Social Apps: Example – Facebook. These link heavy apps are basically like the black hole of useless screen time. If you use these social apps for work, schedule your shares on your laptop or desktop and check in for engagement there at another time.
- Use the Moment App: Moment tracks your iPhone screen and app usage on a daily basis. You can set a daily limit for how much screen time you will allow yourself and implement screen-free time. I have a daily limit of 1 hour and 20 minutes and have what they call “Tiny Reminders” aka that one app I allow notifications and alerts for. I have Moment set to alert me for every 10 minutes of screen use and these little reminders really come in handy for not letting time slip away endlessly scrolling and clicking. And this week I have started screen free time from 6:00pm to 7:00am in an effort to focus on our family. You can still make calls and receive texts, but if you activate you screen beyond making a call, Moment will playing seriously annoying noises to get you to put it down. It works, ha!
- Keep your phone somewhere out of your normal “spots.” This little tip Jeremy made up has been a big help for breaking the nervous screen checking tick. The goal is to put your phone somewhere that you don’t normally frequent and in a place that you wouldn’t lounge in for a long period of time. For example, we keep our phones and chargers on the corner of the kitchen counter near the pantry. We don’t normally “hang around” next to the pantry and we have to stand there to check our screens. It is a great little deterrent from the random phone checks!
I know first hand this is a hard and real addiction to battle. I would love to know if you are in this with me. I am here to encourage you!
Photography by Laura Foote