Updated: Dec 18, 2020
I'm writing this because I realize I have a digital addiction. I've had it for years and years, so it now seems like decades. I wrestle with the knowledge that I'm damaging my brain every time I multitask by picking up my phone to 'see what's happening.'
I've excused my overuse by rationalizing to myself that I do social media for work. I need to address emails and text messages ASAP to be ahead professionally. I'm just reading headlines and not commenting on OPPs (other people's posts). I'm using social media to benefit others by engaging in the Buddhist prayer request group or sharing beautiful pictures or inspiring stories or expressing my support for a particular view or organization. I compare myself to others. If that teacher, person, or pet, can use social media responsibly, so can I. I have many ways I rationalize my overuse. But, finally, I know that my overuse is because I have an itch that needs scratching. I have some deep dissatisfaction in my mind. I have some pain that I'm trying to avoid. I need to be 'liked,' and at that moment, social media is the best place to fill that need. Wrong.
My brain finds it difficult to focus on one thing at a time for very long. It takes me longer to complete tasks that should be quick. I find myself becoming distracted during conversations and have to remind myself to listen to the other person. I can barely read a short blog post all the way through without distraction. I fall asleep watching TV, or streaming, I should say, because we don't own a TV; but, I wake up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep. My meditation practice is mostly distracted to non-existent.
My goal isn't to quit using my devices completely. That's not realistic in this day, where we depend on technology. It sounds like a faraway place. No Technology Land. A place I want to visit sometimes. A place I need to create for myself more often. Honestly, technology has improved my life in so many ways I can't count. But, deleting and staying away from Facebook is a long term goal. I've tried a few times. I have hacks to get around the app not being on my phone. I've made declarations to myself when I first started waking up to the idea that digital addiction is real and that it is having profound effects on me and the people I love.
My goal is to use all forms of digital media intentionally. So, it's not time wasted, but time rewarded.
Things I will STOP doing:
picking up my phone out of boredom
scrolling mindlessly into a void
making judgments because of what I see on my device
getting angry because of what I see on my device
reading comments that cause confusion and anger
picking up my device when I feel uncomfortable in a situation
feeling naked when I don't have my device
picking up my device when I'm watching a movie or reading a book
making others feel less important because they don't have my full attention
expecting to get a response to my post, text, email, tweet
feeling like a prisoner
Things I will START or continue doing:
being intentional about my use of my device
checking email for work during work hours
turn off notifications
no phone in the bedroom at night
no phone while eating a meal
no phone in the room when meditating
NO other tasks when having a conversation with someone
NO phone when driving in the car
when I think of a friend, I'll call or email them; instead of quick exchanges, I'll make a plan for a longer conversation
I'll foster and nurture creativity
I'll go outside every day
I'll watch movies and read books and listen to albums, and pay attention
I'll dance and move my body intentionally with yoga and pilates
I'll experience the natural world and be captivated by IT
I'll keep having conversations about the effects of digital addiction
I'll keep sharing knowledge
What will I do in the meantime?
Will I stop taking pictures because my camera is on my phone? Will I excuse myself from group texts or delete my Facebook account? Will I stop using Twitter and Instagram? No. Quitting relationships or staying less informed isn't the answer. My dad is on Facebook now, and we video chat, and he has a friend he talks to, and he sees my posts and photos. I know he enjoys this. I know it makes a huge difference in his life right now. My mother's death, his sister's death, COVID--he's had a tough year. I've heard from friends that they love the photos of our adventures that I post. I maintain and nurture familial relationships and friendships, and friend groups through our text chats. These connections are essential to me.
So, I will monitor my usage. I will be more intentional. I will pay attention.
I knew digital addiction existed, and probably for me after I listened to the audiobook Irresistible.
I had some interest in How to Break Up with Your Phone but never carried it through. We are still in an abusive relationship.
I recently read Why the modern world is bad for your brain and connected the dots between my physical symptoms of brain fog, insomnia, and tension in my body-- the results of decades-long screen captivation. Thank you to Lucy James for posting this on her Facebook profile today. It captivated me and inspired me to come out with this post.
There are many other films, books, and articles on this topic--I Googled it, of course.
I'll also Google treatments and see where that takes me.
I wish anyone who reads this the best. Keep looking up!
If you would like to have a more extended conversation, I'm so ready.
P.S: I'll follow up with how I'm doing with all this in a future post. I believe it's worth sharing.