A child tugs on her mom’s pant leg.
“MomomomMOMOM!” she yells, begging for attention.
“Just hang on, I’m on the phone!” the mother pleads, attempting to finish her conversation.
How often have we seen this scene play out in various ways? I remember being that child, desperate for attention. I can sympathize a lot more with my mom now, knowing how needy kids can be; sometimes you need a minute on the phone just to get something done. But now it’s far easier and more common for technology to distract us from the needs of others around us, especially in our families. Today that phone scene might look like a family member only half-listening to a conversation, too involved in a text or a new Facebook status to give their full attention, or a child too glued to their screen to participate in family activities.
I personally have noticed a difference in my life the last few years as I’ve become more and more dependent on technology. I have a shorter attention span; I’m not as good of a listener as I used to be; I’m more easily distracted.
I am definitely addicted to my phone.
I’ve decided on several occasions that enough is enough; I need to stop using social media, go on a “phone fast,” and quit cold turkey. However, that rarely works out as well as I want it to. If technology is an addiction, it’s going to take more than one all-or-nothing attempt to really change my habits. These are a few struggles I’ve noticed as I try to limit my use of technology, and some tips that help me be more aware of the time I spend on my phone:
- Everyone has their own personal weaknesses in terms of time-wasters. For me, it’s Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- It’s hard for me to cut them out all at once because they aren’t all bad—I use Facebook to stay connected to my family, and I use Pinterest for recipes. I’ve found it’s easier for me to set specific, limited times each day that I can use them. For example, I can get on Instagram for ten minutes (and only ten!) to take a break from homework, or I can only look at Facebook while I’m donating plasma, etc.
- I’m much more likely to stay off of Facebook and Instagram if I’m logged off them. Some people like to delete the app, but I find that even if I’m just logged off, the extra effort of logging in often deters me from doing so because it reminds me that I’m trying to stay away.
- Fixing social media settings so notifications don’t pop up on my desktop/phone screen is a BIG help! I could be working diligently on homework, but as soon as that Facebook notification popped up I’d go to check it just real quick and WHAM! I’d be down the rabbit hole. No notifications means no distractions jutting into my other activities.
- Tell someone your goals; they’ll keep you accountable. I know it’s kind of cheesy when someone makes that status saying, “Well I’m taking a break from Facebook for [x amount of time], see ya,” but if you at least tell a roommate or family member, they’ll be able to give you a hard time if they see you breaking your commitment, and maybe just make you feel guilty enough to keep it!
- Apparently when my brain wants its addiction it gets super resourceful. Even if I stop using my main time-wasters, I go to secondary ones like playing Candy Crush and online window-shopping with Wish. When that happens, I have to limit those ones too!
- Finally, perhaps one of the most important tips I have is to find other positive things to fill your time with. When I stopped using social media, I realized just how accustomed I was to filling every moment of boredom with it. I used it to numb myself when I was stressed or needing a break. Finding other things that act as stress relievers has been a huge help in slowing my automatic impulse to reach to my phone whenever I’m looking for a distraction because I have other things to turn to instead. I’ll pick up a book or spend a few minutes talking with a friend or a family member instead of scrolling aimlessly.
Technology can be a great source of connection, but only when we control it instead of letting it control us. How each person uses technology will be different, but I believe that if we set personal boundaries for ourselves and for our use of technology and social media, we will be able to more fully connect with those around us and be more present in our own lives.
BY NATASHA ANDERSEN