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Put the phone down, pick it back up

Six hours and 27 minutes—my average daily screen time. I wish I did not know this if I am being honest with you. It is scary if you think about it. 

Let’s start with 24 hours, one full day. Take eight off the top because I value a good night’s sleep. Drop another two or three because I will be sitting in class. Three more because I will be at baseball practice. Then, finally, subtract my screen time—24 hours just turned into five. Where did my day go?

In an article for the Chicago Tribune, journalist Cindy Dampier discussed the innovation of the new iOS update and identified a few of the more popular time wasters. 

“The app lurks quietly in the background, taking note of those scrolls through Instagram that soothe your train commute,” Dampier said. “Your late-night Twitter habit and the text fight you had with your sister? Add those to the total.”

But the problem runs deeper than that. What could I be doing if I tucked the phone away? How could I spend six hours and 27 minutes more efficiently?

According to DayZeroProject, there are quite a few things I could have picked up in my phone’s absence. Here are a few of my favorites: how to pick a lock, use Morse code, administer CPR and even solve a Rubik’s cube. All of these could be skills which might come in handy and serve a practical purpose. OK, the last one is not functional, but you are lying to yourself if you say it would not be cool.

I do understand though. We live in a digital world. Excessive screen time is more probable than we would like to admit, and avoiding it is tougher than we think. It seems to have a certain grip on us.

Larry Rosen, a leading research psychologist noted in Dampier’s article, underlines frequency as the primary problem—a tendency produced by the term FOMO, or the fear of missing out. We spend six hours on our phones and still cannot find time to spell out four words. 

“It’s not necessarily the increase in the amount of time, it’s the rapid increase in the number of times they check-in,” Rosen said. “That’s what they’re doing—they’re checking in, but it’s for about 3 minutes, and then they are off for only about 10 minutes at the most.”

It is becoming an adult’s pacifier. We need it. We want it. We have to check our social feeds. Put the phone down. Pick it back up. We cannot help ourselves. And it does not stop there.

Nicole Pesce, a columnist for Market Watch, has documented how binge-watching, a different but similar problem, is leaking into other aspects of our lives and affecting more than what we should be comfortable with.

“The average user spends one hour and 11 minutes (or 71 minutes) each day watching Netflix,” Pesce said. “And considering recent studies, (it’s) suggested families only spend anywhere from 34 minutes to 37 minutes of quality,   time (each day with each other).”

Sheesh. So rewatching the same sitcom over and over again is more important than your family? According to the numbers, that would be a yes. 

We cannot always put the phone down. Some things are important. Some things are worth sharing. I would be lying to you if I said I did not end my day by winding down to some Netflix. But hey, maybe we should start taking a day off now and then. Hang up and hang out, maybe even learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube.

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