There was plenty of dancing this Saturday, when Biden was announced as the predicted winner of the election. My wife and I had teamed up to keep each other from doom scrolling 24/7. We decided that we would look at the news once a day in the morning after our workout was done (so it didn't derail it) and our coffee had kicked in (so it wouldn't derail us).
We didn't find out from our phones or the news. We found out when everyone started cheering. It was amazing to hear the whole city so happy, so relieved.
It feels a little like cheating. So many of our friends were so worried about it. Refreshing the news on their phone at such a pace you thought they were playing a video game. One friend's kid told them, "Momma, put down the phone. I don't think it's good for you." The kid was probably right. My phone isn't good for me, but I've gotten a little sweet sweet detachment from it thanks to the election and I'm going to stick with it.
Right after everyone cheered, I dove back into the news. It was the opposite of doomscrolling which I like to call Scrollingfreude, joy in the bad news of others. Turns out scrollingfreude is only slightly better than doomscrolling. It still pulls you out of the present moment. It still speeds up the thoughts until all you're doing is finding the best headline and picture to share to gloat about your victory. It's still not healthy.
Reading the news together in the morning, reminded me of the way back days where we had subscribed to a physical newspaper. We'd take the sunday edition down to the breakfast spot and slowly read the news and do the crossword over breakfast. I'd actually finish, forget that, read past the headline of a number of articles, unlike today. It would rarely get my anxiety fired up like the wall full of headlines on my phone does. It was all in all a vastly superior relationship with the news. The newspaper was there for me. It wasn't slinging notifications at me left and right interrupting my train of thought. It wouldn't change until the next paper arrived tomorrow.
YOU CAN'T SPELL NOTIFICATIONS WITHOUT "NO"
I was thinking about how terrifying notifications really are when you think about them. Consider this. If you could give anyone a key to your mind that would allow them to interrupt your thoughts with a message at any time, who would you want to have one. Maybe your partner or your child. What about the hundreds of people you've friended on facebook? What about the 24 hour news cycle that desperately wants your attention? What about that app you used to order food one time? Probably not any of those last 3. But we give those keys away all the time. There's a buzz in your pocket in the middle of a thought and it turns out it's just Grubhub with another deal or it's Words with Friends wondering where you've been.
Those keys are very valuable, arguably as valuable as the key to your house. Yet we give them away constantly. I've taken back almost all of those keys. I turned off notifications for everything except the messaging systems I use for work. I highly recommend it.
CONVENIENCE IS THE OPPOSITE OF MINDFULNESS
The other thing I did was move all my apps, except the ones I need for work, off of the home screen. If I have to dig for the app in my whole list of apps, suddenly I have time to consider whether I really need to open it. That space, that pause is where free will lives. Habit is such a strong force and it thrives wherever we do not have awareness. Whenever I have to look for an app, I have time to think about whether I really need it. After a week of this, I find myself reaching for my phone less. When I use it, it's with intention, not out of habit. I'm reclaiming all the time I've been giving up to my smartphone, which is a lot.
Early in the pandemic, I uninstalled Amazon. I didn't like how they were treating their workers and didn't want to support them. Removing Amazon had the awesome side effect that I bought less stuff. There were still plenty of sites where I could shop for whatever I wanted, but just adding the step of finding the site and filling out a form before I could buy something greatly reduced how much stuff I bought. If something is too easy, too quick, there's no pause for us to consider whether it's really a good idea.
STOP PAYING WITH ATTENTION AND START PAYING ATTENTION
The time our eyeballs are on the screen is a currency. Advertisers pay companies to get it for them and then we just give it away in exchange for a scary headline, a funny meme or a music video. Think of what all that time could have added up to? I remember how much I'd get done before phones. I built a lab out of old computers in my school. I taught myself photography. I'd write little short stories set in the fantasy worlds of the games I'd play. If you want to see how bad it is, take a look at your screen time tool on your phone. How many movies could you have watched in that time? How many poems could you have written to your loved ones? How much more calm would you be if you spent those minutes meditating? You're handing those minutes over for nothing more than a distraction and other people are getting rich off of it. That's why they're so good at getting you to hand them over. There's a whole industry designed to steal your time. They're really good at it too. You can stop them though. It just takes one button. The off button. Now get out there and take a walk, read a book or draw a picture. You'll be costing Mark Zuckerburg some money. That is until you post about it.