Feel like the majority of your time is spent looking at a screen? Perhaps it’s time for a “digital detox.” Sean provides his take, plus some helpful tips for becoming aware of your screen time habits so that you can be more present and productive this year.
Technology has changed our lives. We live in an era where information is readily accessible and distributed to countless people across the globe.
We practically consume everything through digital screens that now have our attention almost all of the time.
I know this to be true because I spent my career trying to fight for a part of that attention to sell products which would ultimately keep you glued to your screen with the promise of greater efficiency, productivity or fun. As a marketing professional, I even bought into the same seductive pitch, whether it was from a salesperson or the content I was encountering on a daily basis.
We’ve all seen similar images like the one above. Maybe it was used in the latest iPhone ad or telling you to download the latest version of Snapchat so you can try out the “amazing” new features. Doesn’t that look sexy? Our current reality tells a different story and does not look nearly as glamorous.
I see more people not looking up to enjoy their immediate surroundings but, instead, with their heads down, completely consumed by the content on their screens. As a parent of two young beautiful children, my attention is constantly required, and I can rarely afford the distraction of any mobile device or screen. Enjoying their company and chasing them around has been an eye-opening experience because I have become so aware of this prevailing cultural norm — which frankly makes me concerned for my childrens' future.
The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one, but waking up to this new reality has been hard to digest. I started to do more research and take action. A great resource has been the Time Well Spent movement. They argue that much of the content we consume on our mobile devices is through apps, and the time we spend using these apps directly affects our overall mood and emotions.
Through a partnership with Moment, an app that helps people track their screen usage, they found spending more time on apps is associated with more negative feelings. On average, unhappy users spent 2.4 times the amount of time on any given app than the happy users.
The Atlantic published an even more detailed statistical report that highlights how smartphones and the services they provide could even be responsible for destroying an entire generation. Despite what seemed like an absurd claim, the article has some interesting data which I’ve highlighted below.
Some of these stats didn’t surprise me much, but after reading the full article, it all started to sink in. Researchers continue to find that kids are no longer taking part in key activities that are essential to their overall development.
I’m certain that Steve Jobs or many other pivotal entrepreneurs did not intend for all of this to happen. Like anything new and shiny, we as a civilization seem to consume until we reach critical mass before realizing that it may be time to step back and reflect on what has transpired.
I don’t expect billions of people (or even myself) to simply stop using a smartphone or other amazing technology that continues to evolve in miraculous ways. However, we can practice more restraint or moderation so that we don’t become mindless screen users that miss out on the wonders around us. There is always room for improvement, and it seems that we are at a pivotal point that will leave lasting impacts on us and future generations.
I’ve started taking more strides to limit my screen time, and I've already noticed positive changes. I’m more present when my family is together, and I'm setting a better example for my kids. While I certainly don't have all the answers, I hope this insight is helpful for those looking to decrease their screen time as well.
Download the Moment app! Start by understanding your own personal habits and how much time you spend looking at your phone. Once installed just go about your normal day and then, after a week or so, take a look at the data it provides. You might be shocked once you add up all the hours!
Challenge yourself not to pick up your phone so frequently. You can use the Moment app to set up reminders to help restrict your screen time throughout the day.
Delete unnecessary apps that distract you from more important things. Apps are designed to capture and maintain your attention. The alerts they produce can deter us from achieving the goals we sought to accomplish when we first picked up our devices. If you don’t want to delete the apps completely, simply deactivate the notifications.
Follow key stakeholders and those who are unearthing more information that will help empower you going forward. The Time Well Spent movement is one of many and more are emerging every day so find one that you can relate to.
Designate daily “no-screen time.” Turn your phone on airplane mode for certain periods of the day. It could be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., when you are focusing on self-care or spending time with your family. Or schedule an hour each day to read, walk or eat dinner with no technology.