I heard the most alarming statistic the other day - the average American spends 4 hours per waking day watching television, that adds up to 13 years 24/7 over an adult life span - more than a decade spent in front of the box.
It really threw me and made me reflect on the way I am spending my time, not only with television, but with all forms of media.
I wrote early in the new year on addiction to technology (you can check it out again here http://www.sachastewart.net/blog/2015/1/4/are-you-addicted-to-technology), but I felt compelled to address it again at the 6 month mark as I have seen some of those habits creep slowly back. That computer sneaking back into the bedroom, constant social media scanning, and the odd marathon TV series being the worst of it. Hmmm? How have you been going with it?
I decided to do a little experiment in the last 2 weeks, mainly with Facebook. It had become a compulsion to constantly check throughout the day all the latest posts. So I allowed myself 20 mins once per day, and some days endeavouring not to go on it at all.
It was eye opening for me to see how much I found that it has become a tool of communication, and it was very difficult just to let it sit when you have a number of notifications waiting for you, birthdays to be acknowledged, and messages to be answered. And in that 20 minute window I had to attend to all of these things as well as go through the latest of what is happening.
What I discovered was in that time frame the quality of posts was much higher - (in other words I believe the technology when you look at it constantly highlights more and more ads and irrelevant content because it is aiming to refresh with different information). And I did get all I needed to done, and I believe saw the posts I needed to see (yes I think beforehand I had a bad case of FOMO). It really had just become a habit when I was bored or procrastinating with something, and it distracted me from what was really important.
I spoke with a friend about it and her issue was the constant checking of news bulletins. She was compelled to constantly refresh her media feed to see if something new had happened. Most of the time.... not much since last time she looked! Again I saw the pattern of compulsion to check over and over really didn't give us more quality - it just took up a lot of our energy.
What is your little time waster? It could be podcasts, watching youtube videos, or like me a good pinterest session now and again, or are you a news junkie too?
There is a time and place for all of these things. We all want enjoyment in life and access to information. I am not going to completely stop Facebook, I want to be connected, and my friend won't give up reviewing the news daily.
My question is how much time and energy we are putting into these endeavours? Are we so distracted by everything that we are not really feeling and experiencing life? Are we using it as a tool to escape what is really going on?
There is nothing wrong with a little escapism now and again, we need it, but I think we also need to question whether we are connecting enough with ourselves.
What is important to us?
What do we want to achieve?
Are the activities and media we are engaging in furthering our development or are they hindering it?
Now I am grateful that my habits are not nearly as bad as the average American's, nor do I think any of you that would be reading this would be either. Imagine though, in those 4 hours (and ultimately decade of time), what could be achieved if our energy is put into things that really matter to us:
- our relationships, family and friends
- our hobbies
- learning a language (yes I'm looking at myself here :)
- furthering our work life or building a business
- a new path of study
- getting healthy
- listening, reading and watching things that are going to benefit ourselves
and that is just to name a few.
For me this last week it has really come back to a lesson in getting simple again and setting some clear boundaries. I won't go into these as I think we all know where we have our energy leaks and it is different for everyone. However I have to say because of it I have seen my productivity soar and I want it to remain that way.
So I have asked a lot of questions here and I encourage you to answer them if you feel you are facing the same issue. I think we can all benefit from being more present, mindful and awake to our activities.
What would happen if we put more of our attention on the things we really love and value, with all the possibilities that brings?
Incredible things can happen!