I wrote the following post four years ago. The issues outlined in it are still a struggle, but we can only change what we name, right? Right. So, here it is again, slightly modified to fit the present.
I spend too much time looking at screens.
I have decided this before, but it screens have proved very persistent at creeping back into the limelight. They have become a central part of my days, and I am realizing that my balance is off. I have been crafting my definition of what “simple living” means to me for a long time now. But even with a mindset that is pretty solidly committed to principals of simplicity or “enough but not too much”, it still seems like screens have been taking center stage. I need to figure out how much screen time is enough, but not too much.
Generally, when I think about living simply, my list includes the following:
- I am spending time outside.
- I am remaining truly present with people when in their company.
- I am doing things slowly and with intention.
- I am being fully present in each moment
- I am practicing authenticity. This means I am eating real food (that preferably doesn’t have a bar-code), I am being active because I enjoy the activity (Hiking. Yoga. Planting things.) or because it accomplishes a task (Weeding. Picking rocks out of the field. Hauling wood.) and I am putting real energy into relationships (With the neighbors. With dear friends who live states away. With family members.)
- I feel alive.
Then I think about what my life is like when screens are a central part of the day. I haven’t really watched television in years, but I spend my work days in front a computer monitor. And lately I’ve noticed I spend a fair amount of my non work time interacting with a personal laptop or the iphone. Granted the phone can’t be used to make calls since it’s not activated but it can connect to the internet when near a WiFi connection. I work from home, so…I can almost always connect to WiFi. Sometimes I find myself just taking pictures so I can post them to various social media accounts, either for work or for personal projects. This is necessary sometimes. But not all the time. So for whatever reason, screens have worked their way into the fabric of my days.
My list when I’m spending too much time in the company of screens? I have noticed the following:
- I am inside, usually not even looking out the window. If I’m outside taking pictures, I’m not fully paying attention to what I came out there to experience.
- I am clicking from one thing to the next and reading emails and messages quickly. I send an email instead of calling. I type a quick hello on social media profiles instead of emailing. I just glance at profile pages instead of typing a quick hello. I am not really present with anything, I am just skimming the surface as I zip by to the next task.
- I am annoyed if a page takes more than a few seconds to load.
- I am never really in the moment because I’m constantly thinking about what to look at next, what to post next, or what the reaction to what I post might be.
- I am eating breakfast either while at work, staring at my computer, or I’m eating breakfast at the dining room table…with the laptop or phone as my dining companion. In the evening – after a full day on the computer at work – I’m scrolling through Facebook or Instagram feeds instead of meditating or writing in a journal or looking at the moon. I am reading books on an e-reader like it’s a race. I email my neighbor instead of picking up the phone or stopping by. And so on.
- I feel defeated.
Sometimes too much of something makes the rest of life feel like it’s not enough.
Though I will still need to interact with my work computer for 40 hours per week, I will limit, schedule, or at least be very intentional about the use of my personal computer or iphone and use those things as tools to stay up to date with administrative tasks or pay bills or approve edits to my next book – i.e. things that must be taken care of online or that are facilitated by a screen. I will allow myself to read slowly. I will eat my breakfast in the company of my food and the rising sun and my own thoughts. I will use a pen to write on a regular basis. I will sit in stillness. I will pay attention to the experience of being outside and in the company of others.
Screens provide many tools and resources- that goes without saying. I’m just looking to find my balance (again) by swinging the pendulum back in the other direction.
So, four years later, most of what I noticed and wanted to change remains the same. Time to find that balance again.