An exercise in utility
I have a confession to make. I’ve started using the Screen Time app on my iPhone, and, well…
“Out of curiosity,” I told myself.
“To confirm it can’t be that much,” I added.
Turns out “not that much” is close to 6 hours a day.
Granted, I’m an iPhone developer, so I suppose some of that time is spent compiling and testing our app, but most of the time I’m using the iPhone simulator on my laptop anyway.
6 goddamn hours.
That means that roughly every 4 days I waste one day of my life on my phone.
It means an average speed reader could read one Lord of the Rings book per day. Instead, I’m reading about two pages per day, in the metro, during my commute, if I find a free seat (I bring my own coffee. Hands are busy. But not busy enough for Instagram apparently).
So last week I decided to run a test. While I can’t bring myself to quit looking at my stupid phone every 15 seconds, I tried to consciously avoid picking it up by asking myself “What am I missing?” every time I reached for the home button.
So I decided to make a list of things I missed while marginally off the grid. That way, at the end of the day, I could tally the outstanding items on the list and figure out exactly how much time I was wasting on my phone versus actually valuable instances where I need to look at it and get value from it.
Here’s my list.
That’s the whole list.
Mom called, and I missed it. Also, it turns out she butt-dialed me. Which I still have no idea how she still manages to do in 2018.
But I didn’t hold firm. I still caved to the siren song of the polished glass screen and reached out for it more times than I’d like to admit. So I made a mental note of what I wouldn’t have missed if I hadn’t picked it up.
Here are my results:
- Several identical dog pics on Reddit with a variation of the theme “boop the snoot.”
- That one supermodel posting several stories in a row that I clicked through in rapid succession because it was a waste of time but I still want my name to show up in her views (The “She’s Not Gonna Fuck You” dissonance principle).
- A quote attributed to Jesus.
- An atheist decrying it.
- “Unfollow button is right there” corollary comment.
- Real-time tracking my delivery guy on Deliveroo and still being startled when he rang the doorbell.
- Several poorly lit shots of home cuisine on Instagram. No accompanying recipes. #yum
- Someone asked where the best soup close to Trocadéro plaza is on Quora.
- Me replying on Quora.
- A few new followers on Medium. No replies.
- Whatever the hell is going on in my Twitter feed, between denouncing the current political and climatological apocalypse, and tweets so thirsty they give Zeus a run for his money.
- Red Dead Redemption 2 gifs galore. I still don’t play the game.
- Fallout 76 video showcasing how terrible it is. I spent 20 minutes watching a game I had no plans on playing just to drive home the fact that I don’t want to play it.
- News on Donald Trump. A never-ending loop of “We’ve reached a new low” and “Muller’s taking him down this week. Definitely this week.”
- Breaking news on Brexit. The needle hasn’t moved for two years.
None of these things up there changed my life for the better. None of them fed into my creativity or helped me achieve my goals.
All of it was wasted time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love checking up on friends and family. Seeing what they’re up to. Creeping on people I haven’t seen in 14 years. That’s entertaining! It’s an excellent way to unwind!
I’m just saying…maybe I don’t need to be spending 6 hours bouncing between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit trying to find the next serotonin hit.
Catching up on friends: Good.
Being addicted to the infinite scroll: Bad.
In any case, data doesn’t lie, and these numbers are telling me something I didn’t want to admit.
I’m addicted to my phone.
It’s also one of the most significant sources of anxiety. Every “30 under 30” article drives home the fact that I’m 40 and I wouldn’t even make it into a “40 million under 150” list. Every minute spent wondering why WhatsApp isn’t blowing up with invites to house parties with the tagline of “just bring some wine” sends me into a tailspin, because what did I do wrong? Do my friends don’t like me?
Do I even have friends?
Oh my god, I had friends, and now they don’t like me.
It’s a fun roller coaster ride, but if last year is any indication, I shouldn’t be riding roller coasters anymore, lest I throw my sciatica out again.
So here I am. This is step 1: Acceptance. I have a problem, and I need to fix it.
Because I want to do so many other things. A friend of mine wrote a book, and I’m letting her down by not reading it. Someone else lent me a book, and I’m letting her down by not reading it. I’ve got scripts to write and worlds to build. I’ve got doodles to draw and pooches to pet.
I’ve got things to say.
God, I have so many things to say.
So I have to stop being annoyed that people are not listening.
Because last I checked, I haven’t said a word.