One side effect of living an always-on digital life is the tension, along with the thrill, that can arise from being able to peep into people’s worlds at any moment and comparing their lives with yours. This tension may be inevitable at times, but it’s not inescapable. It’s possible to move beyond the angst that social media can provoke — and to be glad that we’ve done so.
In this article on NYTimes.com, Jenna Wortham reflects on her experience of being forced to disconnect from her digital life and liking it. Living in the moment… enjoying a conversation with a friend… relaxing.
I’ve been doing more of this — not on purpose, at first, but the last few days have been on purpose. I’ve left my phone in another room, silenced, so I can focus on what ever I am doing. Playing with the kids, making dinner, chores around the house, whatever. And I’ve liked it too.
In fact, yesterday, with the exception of a quick news check and to look up some info after we discovered our central air drain hose backed up and leaked on the basement floor, I didn’t use my phone at all while at home.
In the article, Wortham interviewed Wilhelm Hofmann, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, who recommended a “screen diet”:
Mr. Hofmann recommends setting up a kind of screen diet, building in a period each day to go screenless, either by going for a run and leaving your phone at home, or by stashing it in a drawer during dinner or while hanging out with friends.
“Ask yourself: How important is this, really? How happy does it actually make you?” he said. “Harness that feeling of pride when you do resist and stick to it.”
Great questions. (Emphasis mine.)
I do think there is a place for social media and being ‘connected’, but given that it’s still such a new phenomenon, we have to teach ourselves restraint and regain control over our time and attention.
There are too many things competing for our attention, very little of which is urgent, and even less that requires action from you us this moment. In the end, it all comes down to FOMO.