How to Stare at Your Phone Without Losing Your Soul
How many hours per day can you stare at your phone before you qualify for a 12-step program? Eight? Four? Twenty? One?
Here’s the truth: Screen time doesn’t matter.
It’s not about how much you use your phone. It’s about whether your phone is a needy, attention-sucking vampire.
If that’s the case, the only healthy screen time is no screen time. Zero. That’s why the main metric tracked by screen time apps is deceptive: ten minutes of shooting crack cocaine intravenously are still ten minutes of shooting crack cocaine intravenously.
But that’s expected: a tech company trying to cop around how much you use your devices is like a booze maker helping you track how much booze you should drink. Sure, they want to keep you alive: you are the consumer after all, and you must be around to consume.
AA meetings don’t give out badges to members who drink for less than 2 hours per day. Or to those who stop drinking 2 hours before bed.
Improving the relationship with your phone requires conscious decisions. It’s like couples therapy, but for you and your tech. Sometimes you need some me-time, sometimes it’s better to break up. Sometimes, everything is great! It is, right?
Ask yourself: is your phone a helpful assistant or a demanding boss?
When it helps you to check in on your partner, to get directions, or to edit photos professionally, time doesn’t matter as much—does it?
There are better parameters to evaluate quality, not quantity, of the time spent staring at your screens:
- Does this app do its job and then politely step aside?
- Does it linger in your brain like an awkward party guest at 2:30 A.M. after everyone else already left?
- Did I summon this app, or did it summon me via notifications?
Go on, spend 4 hours on an app. Just make sure you decided to—and that you feel those 4 hours are life well spent.
But consider that anything not honoring your time and attention is disrespecting you.
Tracking for how long your attention is disrespected makes little difference.