“The twitch” which Joshua Burns Millburn refers to in his book Everything That Remains is not any relation to “the itch” (they both cause anxiety I guess but the latter can be fixed with… well you know!). The twitch is a self-absorbing act that occurs for most of us probably dozens if not hundreds of times per day. What is this affliction which consumes our being and causes us to panic at times when you can’t satisfy that twitch?
It is an involuntary act caused by our smart phones. The phone itself maybe “smart”- with its latest technology and upgrades each time a newer version comes out on the market – but the phone itself renders the user “dumb” in most cases.
Why do I say that this supposed miracle of the modern world reduces us to drooling fools? Because just like Pavlov’s dog every time our phones beep, ring or produce the latest catchy hip-hop, country, rock, classical, etc. ringtone many of us begin to salivate. The only thing missing is the user sitting up on their hind legs to beg for a treat (note to Apple executives if you introduce this feature on I-Phone 69 I want a cut if I am still around!). Think about it. When you reached for your phone recently and it was not there what was your reaction? I am guessing the emotional range for most runs the spectrum from mild concern to sheer unfettered panic.
I did a little experiment today where I counted the number of times I reached for my phone without even having a reason to do so. I stopped counting at five times in just over one hour. The key is I made a conscious decision to notice this behavior and stop it each time.
If I were to extrapolate the math I would be at almost 100 times when I involuntarily reached for this time-sucking device each and every day. Even if I took an average of one minute (I would argue a very conservative estimate) each time I picked up the device I would be wasting over 90 minutes each day or over 10 hours each week. So many of us complain that they never have enough hours in the day for the important things in life but we are sacrificing precious time worshipping at the altar of one form of technology or another. The smart phone may not even be the biggest technology offender in terms of a “time-waster” in the average person’s life.
This type of behavior leads us to be cut-off from the most important things in our life our surroundings, our experiences and our relationships. After all, the age-old saying does not go, “stop and small the micro-chips or the 32 gig processor”.
With this in mind I am going to begin a 60-day challenge. This challenge will have very specific rules but the focus will be to stop treating my smart phone as an appendage (if I pictured it this way it would probably look like the Alien from the movie of the same name. A parasite which has attached to the host and refuses to let go. The difference is that Sigourney Weaver’s character Ridley will not be rushing in to save me. Too bad.) and use it more in the manner in which I believe it was intended – as a tool.
Here are the rules:
- It is a phone damn it – not a toy! – yes that is right. I will use my device only as a phone for 60 days. No more aimlessly surfing the web. No checking facebook conversations. No texting with whomever sends me a message because they may be bored. No nothing! Well except if it rings and then I will answer it. Old school baby!
- I will get to you when I get to you – I know in this world we believe everyone should respond with lightning fast immediacy. Well guess what? I lived before smart phones and I still had the time to catch up with people when I had the chance – usually after I was enjoying my surroundings, experiences and relationships. Maybe I will miss out on some stuff – maybe not. I will set aside time each evening to respond to all emails. If you text me… see rule #1.
- Rules are made to be broken – I will allow myself some latitude on the above rules under the following conditions:
- Family comes first – if my kids text me I will respond. Rules don’t always apply to family and given that I miss my kids every minute they are away from me I think this one is only fair. I will do my best to encourage them to call dad because after all there is nothing sweeter for a parent than the sound of your child’s voice. Words on a screen are a pale imitation.
- I think I went the wrong way – due to my terrible sense of direction I am going to allow myself the luxury of using my smart phone’s GPS but if it sends me into the lake like that lady in Tobermory I will start buying maps!
- Work phone for work only – I do travel occasionally and sometimes I am required to keep up with my emails so that is another exception I will allow myself.
- My blog my rules – I will also allow myself to post and update using my phone but not check my site statistics. That can wait until I get home and have access to a real computer not a 6 inch wannabe one.
- Listen to the music – I can use my device for listening to music when working out only.
OK, now that we have set the ground rules all I can say is let’s jump in the deep end of the pool! The water’s warm but remember no cell phones allowed. Some of us are trying to swim not just take a picture of the pool.
Wish me luck!