What are our screens doing to us?

Watch this video. And ask others to watch it.

Of course in a sense our screens are doing no more to us than presenting us with sensory input, or opportunities for sensory input. And so the question is more “what are we doing with our screens,” or even “what are we losing while we are attending to the input from our screens.”

In my case, one of the significant things I’m losing is the quality and quantity of my sleep. I stay up too late reading. I always (thanks to the Zite and Pocket apps) have plenty of thought-provoking articles queued up, ready to read. As a consequence I end up being chronically sleep-deprived. I’m an addict!

I recently tried an experiment in not using screens after 10 PM, allowing myself time to wind down before bed, and also plugging my iPad mini in to charge in the livingroom, rather than taking it to bed with me and having it be the first and last things I interacted with during the day. That was a great experiment. It really felt like I was facing my addiction, and giving myself better quality sleep, which in itself improved the quality of my concentration. And then I did some travelling and there was no longer a separate room in which I could charge the iPad overnight, and when I came hope I just forgot about my resolution.

I can meditate every day without fail. No problem. I can become vegan and stick to it without cravings for dairy. No problem. But getting to bed at a reasonable hour? That’s a problem.

So I’m going back to my resolution: no screens after ten and no iPad in bed. And now I know that when I travel I have to be careful not to blow it entirely. It’s work in progress, and I’ll let you know how I get on. You are my Technology Addicts Anonymous group, and I’m glad you’re there to bear witness to my struggles.

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • This is not good news. We, your faithful readers, need you to keep up your addiction so that we can recover from ours.

    Alas, life is cruel, and so are we: your faithful readers.

    • I know this is tongue in cheek, but I thank you. I’d just like to say first that it’s not whether we use screens that’s the issue — after all I recommended watching this video, which involves screen time — but how we use them. I just need to cut down…

      Also, if I’m better rested I’ll be of better service to you all, in many ways.

  • Great post! Good luck with this. If the first step in addiction is admitting it, you’ll be helping many of us on the path out. Thanks!

  • The guy in the video is still using an iPhone 3G, so it’s hard to believe he has a true addiction.

  • I like the idea of turning screens off at a particular time. I’ve used my phone to time my meditations, but that is too tempting to check ‘just one more thing’. It’s worth a try. Lack of sleep has been a serious issue. Thank you!

  • Funny you mentioned Pocket … I’ve been thinking about how to control my near-addiction to Instapaper which is a similar read-it-later app. It’s become yet another inbox that I feel I “have to” get through … or else what? Maybe I’ll start purging my Instapaper queue once a week or so.

    • Yes, that’s very typical, isn’t it — feeling under an obligation to consume information just because it’s there. It’s probably a good idea to just delete articles or close tabs after a set amount of time.

  • Just a thought. Rather than put the iPad in a different room, how about having something to put it inside when it’s “Resting” (trying to think of a better phrase than “Off Limits” or “Down Time”!)

    Putting it in another room is implicitly saying you can’t stop yourself when it’s nearby. Hence the problem when you were away from home.

    Does it have a “case”? Failing that, how about an ordinary envelope? My (full size) iPad has a cover that closes over the screen, so in that case just putting a large elastic band round it would be an option. The point being that when you reach for the device, there’s a physical reminder that it’s off limits at the moment. A bit like a mindfulness trigger, really.

    • I don’t see much difference between putting the iPad in a case (which I don’t have) or putting it in another room. I’d rather just not put temptation in my way. But I do need to get an alarm clock! I have no other way of telling the time…


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