Put the Phone Down and Slow Down
Time has not slowed down (the seconds still tick as they always do), nor has it increased. I still get twenty-four hours every day just like every other person in this world, but the radical changes in my schedule and immobility due to the ongoing pandemic lockdowns has helped me pay closer attention to my daily habits and how, unfortunately, these rob me of fully experiencing my days.
My closest friends and I have this little tradition in which we begin each year discerning a personal value or trait we would like to focus on developing in the next 365 days. So, in that January video call this year, I shared that mine is going to be Intentionality. I didn’t want to just coast through life in 2021 or just let life “happen” to me like a wave crashing on an off-guard surfer. I want to paddle towards it, catch it, and ride it out for all its worth.
This called for major adjustments, some of which I am still at fifty percent progress or completely failing at from day to day. I share the major realizations that spurred changes that have helped me spend my time instead of wasting it.
Filipinos are the world’s top social media users, logging 4 hours and 15 minutes on different platforms daily. The world average is 2 hours and 25 minutes. Moreover, at nearly 11 hours on the internet daily, we are the most “online” people in the world (We are Social and Hootsuite, 2021). I tried to deny that I was not part of this data set, that I was an outlier. I was totally wrong.
There were weekends last year when I planned to take short naps, but I started the “nap” by setting my alarm then clicking a pink or blue icon on my phone. Next thing I know: my alarm rings and I have not gotten any rest at all, just an eye strain.
Downsizing Social Media
So, I decided to only keep one social media platform and deactivate everything else. I am also scheduling my social media usage, limiting it to an hour or less every day after dinner. I also disconnect from our wireless router before I go to sleep so I do not immediately check on the feed the minute I wake up. Instead, I wake up, drink water, and make myself some coffee. It helps me begin my day at a pace that I control instead of a blur of images and videos.
I have also put my profile on private and downsized who I follow and who follow me. I don’t remember ever my reasons for using social media. It just became a big thing in college so I hopped on the bandwagon and added as many people and approved as many “friends” as I could. I look at my friends list today and see people I don’t have close relationships with, let alone even know personally. If I want to use my social media to stay connected to people who I truly care about then I should limit who I follow to that. Moreover, downsizing my list of followers has helped me regain a sense of privacy that I mindlessly waived during my “add, add, add” phase.
I understand that social media is an integral part of some careers today, so people who are in those industries may want to adopt slightly different regulations.
Literally, putting my phone away
I have so little self-control during this “learning new habits” phase that I have to put my phone away from my sight and reach.
I keep my phone in a drawer during my work hours (yes, still working from home) so that I am not tempted to fiddle with it during video calls. There have been times my name has been called up during a call for my thoughts on the matter at hand, and because I was elsewhere, I had to wing it during an important conversation. I don’t want that to happen again.
During one of the lesser stringent periods of the lockdown, I was able to observe a group of young people have lunch together. It was obvious that these friends have not seen each other in a while, but after a few minutes of catching up, they redirected their attentions to their phones. They were finally together in one space, but then they immediately decided to leave it because online seemed to be a more important place to be in. What a waste.
It is so easy for me to behave similarly so I now keep my phone on the living room sofa or console table instead of the dining table during meals. Meals together, especially today, are moments of nourishment for the body and for relationships.
The hearts on our feeds
I have realized that my online habits were forged by a desire to do everything and be everywhere. While that is the power the internet gives us, it becomes dangerous to just hand over the reins of our lives to people telling us what to do and who to be. When we do it and be it, we get heart emojis. And if we spend most of our hours and days in the digital world instead of the real one, the heart emojis tend to become our lone source of validation. People are so much more than the hearts on their feeds. We lose something by being so preoccupied with the personas we have manufactured and relating to people only at the level of the personas they have manufactured.
So, put that phone down, slow down, and be present in the moment whether it is doing your chores or getting a massage. Spend the rare occasions you have with loved ones within arm’s reach with gusto. Be comfortable with silence and even with tedious phone calls.
Slowing down is not instant nor, with bad habits like mine, easy. It will require discipline. As I hide my phone from myself, I learn to recognize the richness ordinary days contain. Slowing down—even if type, double-tap, and talk less—helps me accomplish more and show love to people even better.