I found it personally revolutionary to take a few minutes each day for an Examen practice where I assess the highs and lows from my day, look ahead to the next day, and offer everything to God. A little self-reflection can go a long way.
From clarity over anxiety to sources of fear and anger, I had a much better grasp of my day and how I was reacting to it. On my best days, I could develop better responses and habits to meet its challenges.
However, even with a daily practice of self-reflection in place, I couldn’t quite pin down some of my most obvious struggles without help. The low hanging fruit here, of course, was smartphone and social media use.
How Often Did I Use Social Media?
When I began tracking my smartphone and social media usage, I was simply astonished at the amount of time they consumed each day. It was beyond absurd.
When I limited myself to 40 minutes of social media use each day on my computer, the minutes flew by as I composed replies to posts and tweets, watched short video clips, or scrolled through the posts by friends, colleagues, experts, and random people on my daily feed. If 40 minutes flew by, how long would I spend without a buzzer giving me a five minute warning that my daily limit was fast approaching?
The Moment app suggested a starting goal of 40 smartphone pickups and 2 hours and 30 minutes each day of screen time on my phone. That struck me as a bit excessive, but sure enough, I was picking my phone up and logging time very near those targets. How bad was my usage without this tracker sending me periodic reminders?
While self-reflection can help us begin to understand WHY we may indulge too much into social media or turn to our phones far more often than needed, I was either unable to unable to or too unwilling to see the scale of my misuse of technology with clarity.
Do We Underestimate Our Vices?
Generally speaking, I think most people tend to underestimate our vices. We may recognize some bad habits, but we may never fully see their size and impact without some kind of wakeup call from outside ourselves. Thankfully an app that tracks our usage isn’t very hard to use and learn from when we’re ready for the truth about ourselves!
Certainly social media and smartphones aren’t our only vices. They simply strike me as some of the easiest to recognize–with a little help.
A dramatic increase in depression among teens and young adults correlates strongly with smartphones becoming pervasive. Most people recognize that they probably shouldn’t use their phones or social media quite so much.
However, most of us remain unable to see just how dramatically these tools for connection are leaving us disconnected, fragmented, and even isolated because we don’t even know how often we’re using them. It runs counter to what we would expect, and perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to recognize with clarity.
Having taken some time to assess my own mental health when I am on social media or off it, I have since decreased my daily time significantly, turned to third party tools like Later or Buffer to manage my posting, and slashed my smartphone usage by a wide margin as well.
While working within these constraints can be a challenge some days, I can safely report that by and large these changes have been quite good for me and I’m grateful for the freedom these boundaries provide. Perhaps the counterintuitive nature of these boundaries is what makes it so hard to make better choices:
Removing boundaries on smartphone and social media use can level us disconnected from ourselves and the people closest to us, while we gain more freedom by placing boundaries around social media so that we can connect to the people closest to us with real presence and undivided attention.