What this month of intentional self-care has taught me – above all – is that our attention is a precious tool that has a direct effect on our quality of life. Attention and intention go hand in hand and yet it’s oh so easy to lose our attention to habits that keep us scrolling.
As the internet becomes easier to use and widely assessable, it’s changing our relationship to our daily routines, our boundaries and our relationship with nature and each other and not always in a good way.
What makes excessive screen time even more dangerous is that we tend not to see the effects until it’s too late.
So I’ve been reflecting on my habits and on my screen time in an attempt to be more mindful and intentional about the ways I use technology. Instead of reaching for the phone first thing in the morning, I reach for my book instead and bring it with me into the kitchen to read while I drink my coffee. I set an intent and a time limit before switching on social media and do what I intend to do whether it’s to respond to a friend or post a photo and then I switch it off. I’ve removed the unnecessary notifications and deleted apps off my phone that I no longer use. Teaching myself to use technology mindfully gives it a place in my life without allowing it to take control.
I read an article recently that said that the newest trend in building design will be to restrict the use of wifi to create quiet spaces like in cafes and libraries and that in the future, wifi free spaces, free of digital noise may be something only the rich can afford. The same article then suggested that people use apps to restrict their use of the internet which to me is defeating the point. Why pay for apps when you can just switch your phone off or put it aside?
Here lies the deeper issue. That the use of the internet and apps is creating habits that are difficult to control because they are being intentionally designed to keep us scrolling.
When I was small the only phone available in our house was one attached to a cord and the only way to get on the internet was by getting on a computer attached to a landline. Both had a fixed place in my life. I didn’t take the computer outside with me when I went out to play and if someone wanted to get in touch with me, they would leave a message. I was free of the screen and engaged with the world directly.
Now, with the internet accessible almost everywhere, simply by stepping outside it is easy to see how people are consumed by their phones. Walking, taking a break, eating, shopping and even driving – the convenience of technology is making it way too easy to lose sight of everything else and get wrapped up in click-bate, fake news and feelings of not owning or being enough.
This is the last post in my self-care challenge and perhaps the most important. Self-care includes habit tracking and gently reorienting our attention to focus more on what makes our lives meaningful and joyful and less on what sparks fear and anxiety.
Our attention is one of our most important assets when it comes to survival and creativity and we need to protect it from being constantly exposed to ads, colour notifications and bottomless newsfeeds which turn our habits into profit margins.
So as part of my embracing a slower pace in life, I’ve also been on a digital detox which includes being more intentional about the sites I engage with and the type of media I consume and setting a limit to screen time so that I can spend more time being engaged in the real world.