Practicing Distraction (#146)
I can say with confidence that I am probably the least popular person in my household this week. While there are likely a few reasons that I would be up for this distinction in any given week, I know for sure that it was my decision to turn on Apple’s new Screen Time function for myself and my kids that earned me the honor this time.
Part of iOS 12, this new Screen Time feature is designed to provide users with detailed information on how long they are on their phone in a given day and for what.
When a company creates a feature that is designed to make you use their product less, it should raise an eyebrow. Apple clearly is aware that our distraction with technology is becoming a serious health issue. In fact, several other technology giants are also starting to acknowledge that technology and social media has both harmful and addictive properties.
There are two main aspects of the Screen Time function: awareness and control. In terms of awareness, it allows you to see your detailed usage stats for the day, including the number of “pickups” – the times when you pick up your phone from the resting position.
In terms of control, you can both limit access to apps and enable “downtime,” which disables the phone overnight except for critical/emergency functions. Screen Time also allows parents to set usage limits and see how kids are using their phones.
I implemented several of the Screen Time features on my phone, including time limits on apps where I know the little red buttons distract me from both the task at hand and conversations in which I should be fully present. I also enabled downtime an hour before bedtime.
When I did the same for my kids, it did not go over as well. They let me know in no uncertain terms how it would impact their life and one of them stated, “Dad, literally no one else does this.” To which I responded, “Great, I don’t want to be like everyone else, nor do I want you to be.”
Here’s the reality. We get better at what we practice. If you practice 100 free throws, chances are that you will get better at free throws. The same goes for driving and studying a subject.
Sadly, what many of us are spending our time practicing these days is being distracted. And we are all getting really good at it. In fact, many of us are probably on our way to becoming distraction masters.
Recent studies have shown that you are actually significantly more distracted just from having your cell phone in the room, even if it’s not turned on. And the distraction gets worse when it’s sitting on a table next to you.
We are training our brains to be distracted in the same way that meditation trains our brains to be focused. And that has a toll. It changes the way our brain develops, hurts our concentration, impacts our relationships and strips us of the ability to be with our own thoughts or appreciate silence and quiet.
We begin to crave technology stimulation like a drug; the dopamine in our brain responds in a similar manner.
A week into our new experiment, I have adjusted to the changes. Even though I can override the controls I set (my kids can’t), it serves as an important reminder for when I am engaged with my phone. This awareness has noticeably reduced my phone use.
While I can’t say that my kids are happy, they too have adjusted. There are no more fights about shutting down at night, they understand the limits and are learning to manage them better and request more time if they really need it.
Hopefully, with less practice at distraction, we will all become worse at it.
Should you need more evidence for why you should use your phone less, watch this incredibly powerful video titled “Look Up.”
Quote of The Week
“We have been seduced by distraction. We are being pulled away from paying attention to the things that enrich our lives.”
Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence