We live in a magical time. We live in a time where we carry a universal device in our pocket and it is with us 100% of the time. It’s a phone, a camera, a garage door opener, it can buy stocks for you, play video games, it’s a weather station, the most advanced communication device ever, voice recorder, hi def video camera, Jetson like TV phone, it has every newspaper in the world in it, a travel agency, your insurance card, a juke box with every song ever recorded, it holds the last 20,000 pictures and a shopping mall. NO WONDER WE STARE AT IT ALL DAY!
I love gadgets. I will buy anything shiny with a screen and a button and my iPhone is the ultimate device. They have become part of us. Almost an extension of us. I look around and see people staring down at their screen much like you are doing right now and I am sure there is a proper etiquette for using these amongst our friends, peers and coworkers. Let’s be clear, these devices have only been around for 10 years and they have only been this advanced for about half that time. We are still learning how these fit in our lives.
The question I ask, is what are you doing all that time you are staring at your screen? I started an experiment about a year ago and tracked how much time my phone was being used. I use an app called “Moment”. My phone is on 2 hours and 53 minutes a day during the week, and less than 2 hours a day on the weekend. I pick my phone up an average of 39 times a day.
The app claims the average Moment user is on their phone 3 hours and 42 minutes a day and pick up their phone 52 times a day.
You want to see something enlightening? Go to your General settings and choose battery. You can see what app you have been spending the most time on in the last 24 hours, and the last 7 days. Here’s mine.
I have spent 2.5 hours in the last week on playing scrabble with my friends, 2.5 hours on twitter and 2.3 hours on Facebook and I am ok with all of that. Those three apps, I use to stay connected with people I care about.
These devices can make our lives infinitely better. As much as we see people looking down and their screens and we scold them for being disconnected to those around them, what we don’t realize is they are probably connecting with someone they care about.
I am a connector and have always enjoyed staying in touch with people who are special to me. I have also lived in every time zone in the country and I have friends in every corner of the country. My phone keeps me connected to them.
20 years ago this would have been impossible. We only have time to write so many handwritten notes or postcards. We used to have to pay to talk to people long distance by the MINUTE! Think about how absurd that sounds now. I couldn’t have friends at every corner of the country because I couldn’t afford it! It cost me $22 to break up with my girlfriend over a long distance phone call. True story. Best $22 I ever spent too. But I digress.
This is the new normal and I don’t see it changing. Our kids will grow up with these and it will be the way they communicate their entire lives. I don’t think staring at screens is a negative. I used to think it was so weird to go into a coffee shop and see everyone staring at a computer or a phone and not interacting with each other. What I didn’t put together is that they were most likely connecting with someone else or sharing their own story with others.
I think it’s wonderful that I see where my uncle is riding his motorcycle, or that I can watch my nieces and nephews grow up in front of my eyes even though they live 1000 miles from me. It’s amazing that how easy it is to find the answer to ANYTHING, or expert advice on how to blog more effectively, or be a better husband, father or business owner.
I do think that there should be a limit to how much we stare at these things and a balance should be struck. My use has actually dropped about 45 minutes per day since I started tracking and I think I have found the sweet spot for me is about two and a half hours a day during the week and one and a half on the weekend. My kids are 10 and 8 and they don’t get more than an hour a day on their devices and it is pretty rare that they ever reach that limit. In fact, there are weeks that they don’t even pick them up.
It’s time to start accepting that these things aren’t going anywhere they are a part what we do and who we are. The one thing that we can do better, is physically put them down when we are engaged in a conversation with someone or more importantly, your child walks up to you and asks you a question.
I would suggest in using these devices to better the relationships you have. A good friend once told me that we are only as far apart as the nearest airport. In similar terms, you have the ability to tell someone that you are thinking about them or that you love them at any second of the day. That simple act, a few times a day will enhance your life and the one receiving the message.