Taming the technology beast

This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Who am I kidding? It’s always on my mind. Because it’s always there: My phone.

I don’t want my kids’ main memory of me to be me staring at my phone. And when they get older and have phones of their own, I don’t want them to think that constantly being tethered to a smartphone and compulsively checking it is just the way it is. Or that your phone is ever more important than the person in front of you.

I don’t think technology is inherently evil. And I don’t think it’s realistic to ban it from my house, although sometimes, honestly, I want to.

I just want to learn to control it. To make it work for me, instead of letting it control me.

At my worst, I’m checking my phone first thing in the morning, and compulsively throughout the day. I go to it when I’m bored or stressed, or when I simply see it sitting on the counter. It’s a quick-fix way to escape the real world for a minute—to fill some free time in a waiting room.

Again, I think our phones offer so many positive tools and ways to connect.

But lately, I’ve realized how much time I was giving to my phone (mainly social media). On average, Americans spend three hours per day on their phones.

Taking calls, working, paying bills, or listening to podcasts is not what I’m worried about here. That’s using your phone intentionally.

But I know the bulk of my phone time lately hasn’t been the productive type. And I want to change that.

I find Adam Alter’s research on modern technology and it’s inherent addictiveness fascinating. A few things he’s discovered:

Technology and social media can be just as addicting as heroine. The next “hit” is getting more likes and comments on your favorite social media platform or getting to the next level in your favorite game. 

Interacting on technology disables our ability to feel empathy and interact with humans face-to-face. 

Playing fast-paced games and watching fast-paced shows is decreasing our and our children’s attention spans.

Put simply, tech addiction can decrease our well-being and the health and happiness of our children. Gah. That gives me anxiety, because look at the world we live in! There is more technology woven into our lives at home, school and work than ever in the history of the world. So how do we strike a balance?

Here are some things that have helped me:

  1. Download Moment. You can see your daily usage and make adjustments. The premium version offers reminders of how long you’ve been on your phone that day and options to cut you off once you’ve exceeded your self-set limit.
  2. Set a curfew for your phone. My husband and I try to put our phones away at 9:30 every night in favor of some actual connection and better wind-down time for sleep. You could even put your phone in another room or on another floor from where you sleep. (Gasp!)
  3. Leave it behind. Remember when we didn’t have cell phones? Yeah. That was a real thing. And we all survived. Purposely leave your phone home when you go out on a date or on a walk with your kids. Sometimes you gotta force yourself to be in the moment.
  4. Be intentional. Think before you pick up your phone. Unless there is an actual pressing need to check it, reach for something else. A book? A child? A sink full of dishes? I’m amazed at how much more productive I am when I decide to be compulsive about something else instead of checking my phone. The phone time sucks me in way too quickly, and before I know it, I’m distracted by some random blog post, article or video that really didn’t enrich my life that much.
  5. Take a break. Something that works for me is picking the same day every week to put my phone in a drawer and not log in to Instagram at all. (For you, it might be another app.) Having that time to completely remove myself from it gives me a needed reminder of where my focus should be, and that it’s good not to share everything with my online friends. Sometimes, a longer break is good too.

Remember, real life does not live on your phone. It lives in the people around you. Let’s all leave our phones behind a little more often in favor of real connection, shall we?

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3 thoughts on “Taming the technology beast

  1. I’m in the middle of writing my next “topic-centered” podcast on technology–no joke, we have almost the exact same tips here. Also, I listened to that Fresh Air podcast on it right before you posted about it. Are we friends, or what? I’m going to text you more about this. (Ironically!)

  2. I’ve started to become more mindful about my phone usage. Facebook is the one app that takes up so much time and I’ve become a slave to checking those notifications when I see them. So, I removed the app and Messenger apps from my phone and am only going to check Facebook when I’m at a computer.

    I’m going to download Moment and see what my usage is like!

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