Life Happened While I Was Mindlessly Riffling Through My Phone

I have a daily habit of reading the ChicagoNow homepage (try it you won’t be disappointed) and yesterday’s Why I’m Quitting the Internet by Brett Baker caught my eye. Ironically, it’s that type of thought provoking post that keeps me glued to the internet. My internet Achilles’ heel isn’t sitting in front of a computer skimming Yahoo news or online shopping; if it was my 8 month-old would be playing with an electrical outlet. Instead I fall victim to something far more insidious, casual scrolling via my cell phone sporadically throughout the day.

I don’t spend an exorbitant amount of time on my phone but I’m no amatuer. I’m somewhere between that girl who got hit by a baseball while taking a selfie and someone who doesn’t even own a phone. One advantage of my cell phone habit is the readily available population of people also on their cell phones (such as my own husband) making my usage seem innocuous.

Articles constantly surface discussing dangers of the internet as a potential time suck but these articles are on the internet. It’s like putting an AA flyer in a bar. You’re exposing the right crowd but chances are they’ll look the other way during a bender. Mid-internet bender I don’t gravitate towards articles highlighting correlations between over-interneting and declining mental health. So instead I continue my haphazard search to see what my best-friend’s friend’s friend wore on Halloween via Facebook.

Why I’m Quitting the Internet begged the ugly question: how much time do I really spend on my cell phone? It’s probably one of those stats I never want to know like how much time the average person spends stuck in traffic or sitting on a toilet in a given lifetime. If a recent article I read (on my phone of course) is correct and I will collectively spend 23, 214 hours washing clothes, I’m slowly pissing away my life looking at a cell phone screen.

So what happens while I’m mindlessly riffling through my phone? I miss my son’s fascinated look in his bouncer. I miss him lovingly try to pet our dog. I miss tiny moments of him growing up. At night, I’ve missed moments with my husband. I miss conversations that never happened because both of us were getting our scroll on.

I’m not trying to mom shame myself. Or say my husband and I will be featured on True Life: my phone supersedes my spouse. I’ll never put my son at risk because I’m too busy looking at my phone. I’m a great mom whose 100% attentive majority of the time but I’m not perfect. I get bored, yes bored watching my own son play, it happens. Wipe the look of disdain off your face. At those moments I take a pause to delete junk mail; glance at pictures on Facebook that have zero impact on my life; or browse through a bunch of underwhelming tweets. It’s time squandered, pure and simple.

If I was spending time on my phone coordinating social advocacy projects or checking up on the household budget, that would be reasonable. The problem, as Brett pointed out, is that my phone surfing is habitual and purposeless. I’m not jumping ship and quitting the internet if that’s where you thought this was going. The compulsion to maintain my struggling blog is far too powerful.

I will alter my phone habits. I will commit to not having my phone armed and ready when I’m playing with my son. I’ll reserve it for his naptime. I will also disarm myself during the few hours I get to spend with my husband every night. There will be pitfalls since I live in an era that cultivates ADHD but the behavior is on my radar. I’m aware now.

Why I’m Quitting the Internet was the article part of me didn’t want to read, like that one unveiling chocolate allergies as allergies to bits and pieces of cockroaches in the chocolate. Ignorance is bliss. In the end I’m glad I read it because ignorance isn’t always bliss; not when it comes to wasting life’s precious moments. Mindfulness is important and being truly present is what life is all about.

I’m not suggesting everyone else must alter their cell/internet habits as well. I hate those dear the mom who was on her phone at the park blog posts. How tactless. I’m tempted to write a counter every time I see one titled dear mom who was watching me on my phone at the park. Congrats we both missed the last two minutes of our child playing at the park because we were staring at something else. Preach when you’re not concurrently wasting your own time.

Instead I wrote this because it’s what matters to me right now. I’m always striving to improve. Yesterday’s post provided the necessary awareness to stimulate change. So thanks Brett for the thought provoking article. Sadly he’ll miss this life-altering tribute since he’s off the internet. He’s missing something already, damn Internet.

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