I have a problem. It arises when I’m working, when I’m eating, when I’m hanging out with my friends, when I’m watching an all-right TV show, and almost every waking minute when my mind isn’t 100-percent focused on something— the urge to check my phone.
I’m sick of it. I hate how much of a distraction, and how addictive, technology is. According to Time magazine, Americans check their phone eight billion times per day. It’s no surprise that people between the ages of 18 and 24, my generation, check their phones most often at 74 checks per day. That number goes down as the age goes up.
Technology is very helpful. I can talk to friends from college and my aunt who recently finished another round of chemotherapy. But I also spend a lot of time on social media sites, just scrolling through Facebook or Instagram without a reason.
The other day, I had a book open on my lap (“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr) and I unlocked my phone to check my Instagram “really quick” and then 20 minutes later, I’m still on my phone. Why do I subconsciously find more value in stupid memes than in a Pulitzer prize-winning book?
Have my priorities shifted? No. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, and if you ask me what I’m passionate about, it will be about my favorite books and authors, journalism, and my latest project. Deep down, I don’t care what meme is popular this week, nor do I need to see every Facebook post that comes across my dashboard. But it’s addictive entertainment that’s easy to get sucked into.
I know there are psychological reasons behind this. Getting a reward, or a new notification, is like getting a treat and it becomes addictive, and affirmation from people online makes us feel better about ourselves. But how much value is that bringing to your life?
When I become self aware while in that rabbit hole, I always tell myself there are many more productive things I could be doing: reading my book, writing, working on my blog, working on my latest cosplay, literally anything besides staring at a tiny screen at things that don’t matter.
Out of the 77 percent of Americans (from Pew Research) who own a smartphone, how many of us do you think use them to learn something new, except for Googling something when we have a specific question? I’m learning French using an app called Duolingo, but I also could be learning about Ireland’s two potato famines or Sylvia Plath’s childhood instead of reading political fights on Facebook posts in the comments.
It’s a staple of human nature when pop culture sites with memes are more popular than researching literally anything that challenges the human mind intellectually. Although, you could make the argument that social media is a bridge to news and information. There’s value in that, but, unless you’re getting paid to do it, I don’t think anyone should be spending hours on social media every day.
I worry about future generations. A doctor told BBC that kids need to be bored in order for them to develop the ability to be creative. She said technology short circuits the development of creative capacity, and it enables them to entertain themselves. It’s worrisome. Google it.
To fix this, I now use voice activated functions a lot, and downloaded AppDetox on my phone because, ironically, there’s an app to help you get over a smartphone addiction. This app tells me how much I use each app, and I can set limits for how much I’ll use each one.
It’s ironic to check an app on my phone to see how much I’m using apps on my phone. But technology is a double-edge sword and I’m determined to wield it to the best of my ability — not when I want a distraction.