How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

I can’t decide whether I love or hate the new iPhone feature that tells me exactly how much time I’m ‘wasting’ on my phone. It knows me too well. It observes my habits and aggressively lets me know that I spend half my life on my device, without me even knowing it. I had never really considered myself to be ‘addicted’ to my phone. I always thought I had a pretty good idea of how much I actually used it. But – the new feature tells me otherwise. I am actually very addicted to my phone.

I mindlessly reach for my phone and scroll for what accumulates into hours in my day. I feel the urge to check up on my social media pages, checking for updates and something new to see. I’m always hungry for trashy celeb gossip, discovering new places and learning more about someone through their Instagram portfolio.  And the more I think about all of this – I am unapologetic. We live in a time where a social media presence is almost an essential part of our existence. If you’re not on social media, do you even exist? Are you a serial killer? Are you hiding a past? More importantly, ARE YOU OK?! I went through my phase of deleting Facebook, exiling myself from all social media realms – and I felt really weird. I felt weird because I knew that everyone else was ‘doing it’. They were ‘doing it’ on the toilet; ‘doing it’ on their commute to work; ‘doing it’ in work; while they walked around; while they had conversations; while they watched TV – they were basically doing it all the time! I felt like the unpopular kid at school but the worst part was, I was creating the issue myself. I wanted to do it! So I did and I also got a job where I’m doing it all the time!

I have to admit, my personal favourite is Instagram. I am absolutely obsessed with it. I find myself checking it mindlessly and at every free opportunity. I don’t even know what I am particularly ‘checking’ for. I have been checking my phone on and off in between writing this… I think this is part of the problem. I would like to wean myself off Instagram and my phone in general. I want to spend concise bursts of time on it. But, I guess I just don’t know how to reprogramme my brain. What it truly whittles down to though, is do I really care? And the answer is no.

I know it’s a superficial world. My Instagram doesn’t tell the whole story and it never will! My Instagram just showcases my good memories. My account is allergic to sad emotions. I want it to be a place where I can reflect on my year, month and day and smile. The bad times don’t go away in reality, but Instagram is close to a state of imagination. We know it’s a fantasy world, where things look glossy and a picture can give you a ‘glimpse’ into someone’s ‘life’. But it’s only the stuff that we want people to see. Instagram for me is a platform of positivity. I mean this in every sense of the word. People don’t post anything negative in general. They don’t post a pic of their mascara running down their face after they’ve had an argument with their boyfriend; they don’t post pictures of the trip that turned sour, the mess that their house is in post-Christmas or even their piles of dirty laundry! We see people stitched together with smiles, perfect homes and partners. We see a world of wonder with posts of their trips away, climbing mountains with no other expression but a smile. We are all hopelessly obsessed with painting our lives as fantastic. We are addicted to ingesting it too. I absolutely love seeing where people are lunching. I want to see pics of them dig into their food, even if I know that they’re just eating there to make them look ‘Instagood’.

For so long I rejected the idea that Instagram was anything but a facade. Sure it has so many negative and poisonous side-effects. It can hammer our self-esteem, especially in the Summer when Victoria Secret models are one spoonful of kale away from making us cry into our puddings. It can make us envious, feel worthless, doubtful and wonder why our lives are so shit compared to your mate Kate. But as long as we recognise that Kate was probably looking for validation when posting a pic of her perfectly perky ass in a bikini, we can rest assured that we are all in it for the same reasons. We like to document things as humans – make memories. As soon as cameras were invented, our mothers were onboard, documenting our whole childhood one snap at a time. My Mum has stacks of family albums that show me at each stage of my life. With each turn of a page, Mum will smile at the memories and they’re amazing keepsakes. But at some point, all those photo print outs stopped. We stopped needing to develop film and plaster pictures along our staircase. Because technology caught up. Cameras were now on our phones and we didn’t need to print photos out because they were digitally stored. So we created mini albums on our phones and then hey presto – there was Facebook.

Facebook was my first experience of making a Mum-style photo album. I created sub-albums of cringey webcam photoshoots that me and my friends posed in. I uploaded every holiday pic, selected the best shots of my dogs and made sure that every birthday party was documented for all to see. My family members could like my photos and friends could too. It was fun commenting on the photos that made us ‘lol’ and ‘cringe’. ‘Omg – look at us!’ – they were great ways to reminisce. But then, people didn’t upload their albums to Facebook anymore because along came Instagram. I was super late to the Instagram game and didn’t see the appeal. I wore glasses and they didn’t make trying selfies out any easier. So, I stopped Facebook albums and just didn’t really participate in Instagram. I felt like I didn’t have anything super interesting to share. I wasn’t on holiday, I wasn’t eating amazing food because I was gluten free and dairy free and that was about as rare as having an alpaca as a pet at the time. So, if I couldn’t post selfies, my food or where I was – wtf was the point? I was a silent liker – watching and learning the system. By the time I finally decided that Instagram could be a good way to document my Summer of travelling to parts of America, I had an idea of what I needed to do. My first post was a kale smoothie in 2016 (which was rank but looked the part) and that’s where the addiction begun!

I spend approximately eight hours on Instagram per week. Although I am sure that’s not as much as some, I still think eight hours is pretty solid. It’s more or less my working day. It’s a couple of minutes here and there, totalling eight whole hours of my weekly time spent on Instagram. I spend approximately three hours a day on my phone. The rest of my time is divided between Facebook, WhatsApp, my camera, podcast app, safari, Twitter and YouTube. My weekly total is twenty hours and thirty minutes.. that’s nearly a whole day. I guess that’s when I started to freak out. I am nearly spending one whole day a week on my phone. Re-wind to a good decade ago and I didn’t even spend that long on my Tamagotchi. I got to thinking that I am well and truly hooked on my phone. I also cursed a little bit at the new feature on my phone that told me I was an addict like the rest of them. Don’t ask me why but I thought I was immune to this because I knew deep down that once I started social media properly, I would get hooked. It’s a visual journal of my life for all to see. Of course we all want it to look good. But how much time is too much time?!

I think for me I would love to find the perfect balance. I’d like to feel like I was in the loop but not out of the loop of reality… deep, right? I don’t really care that much deep down about the content I’m consuming. But I do like the artistic layout of some Insta feeds. The ones that are ‘blogger-esque’ with their flat lays, their outfit posts and their Mother Nature backdrops. For me, it’s like flicking through an endless magazine. But I am going to set myself a challenge to be more conscious of when I am using my phone. I’m going to ask myself the question – ‘why am I on my phone?‘.

I am a hypocrite because I constantly question my boyfriend about why he needs to spend so much time on his phone, what he is doing and how he can just be mindlessly staring at cooking videos. Part of the problem is, when he answers he doesn’t even know why he’s on it or what he’s looking for. If he asked me the same question, I wouldn’t know either – ‘just because’. I want to stop using my phone for those ‘just because’ moments. I want to absorb those awkward moments where I’d usually check my phone pointlessly for notifications. I want to live in the moment walking down the street and have a look around. I want to not know where my phone is because I was too busy having a good time. I want  to nuzzle my phone under a pillow and forget about it when I watch a film. And most importantly, I want to know why I am using my phone. It’s not realistic to not use it – whether it’s taking a pic, replying to messages or showing your best friend support on their Insta post. It’s part of our societal makeup to use these platforms. But let’s not get sucked into their monetising traps.

Too much time on your phone is not knowing how you spent so long on it and why. In the same way that I am bad with budgeting my money, I want to be better at budgeting my time. I didn’t think I was going to make resolutions for 2019 but here they are!

  1. Save your money
  2. Save your time
  3. Live your best life

I’ve started off by giving myself ‘no phone’ zones. Bath time is a time when only paperbacks and Lush products are permitted. Plus, the terrifying chance of my phone dropping in the depths of my pink, sparkling bubble bath is enough to put me off using it in there anyway.

2019 will be a year of a lot of baths….

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