Here’s what happened when I turned off all my devices for an extended weekend…
In 2016, I managed a web-app project targeted at 14-18 year olds. As part of our direct field research, I interviewed target audience members on their device usage and their time online. Here were some interesting statistics on the device usage and online habits of our 14-18 year olds during a typical school day:
- 60% spent up to one hour on a PC
- 66% spent between two and four hours on their phones
- Online usage averaged at just over three and a half hours
- 13% spent between nine and twelve hours on devices
During the weekend, the largest majority, which was one third, of the target audience spent between nine and twelve hours online in one day.
At the time, these statistics shocked me. However, recently, I have noticed how stressed my eyes were feeling. The major symptom of this was when my eyes struggled to focus between looking at my phone close up, and then looking up to a television three metres ahead of me. I decided to review my own device usage and online habits.
On a work day, I often spend between eight and twelve hours a day on a device, with nearly all of it being online. I’m a first wave millennial and grew up enjoying the outdoors as well as console gaming on a Nintendo SNES and Gameboy. It was definitely a better balance than the one I have now. It’s clear that I’ve lost that balance, so I set myself a challenge to turn off all devices for a good eighty hours between a Thursday night and a Monday mid-morning, away from home, to kick-start a more balanced screen routine. I had a great appreciation for what happened.
My screenless weekend became an unexpected wake-up call… literally. At home, my Lumie wakes me up. I didn’t have this whilst away. I would have used my phone as my alarm clock, but hadn’t thought about this when packing. Neither had I thought about how I’m going to tell the time! This revealed to me how much I rely on my phone for keeping schedule and to a degree, dictate my actions of the day. I was at the mercy of a friend to wake me up on time, and either had to measure the time by looking at the daylight outside the window, or finding a clock in the house. I found this to be an incredibly liberating experience. It reminded me that there is only so much in my life that I’m in control of, and that it has been a long time since I could simply ‘BE’ for a period of time longer than one hour, as opposed to ‘DO!’. It connected me to a deeper freedom that opened up the door to a beautiful perspective of life. Disciplining myself to turn phone, laptop, iPad and TV off restored an essence of clarity and openness to the world outside of myself, not to mention clarity of sight. So by the third day, not only had my physical eyes freshened up, but it appeared that my interior sense of sight (my perspective) had also received a ‘screenwash’. It’s something I’ll assess when putting together my personal 2020 goals during the month of December!
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