Can you remember what it feels like to be bored? I remember being a kid and having stretches of time where I was just plain bored. I'd have to think of things to do, which would encourage me to go see if my neighbor friends could play, or the boredom might prompt me to color, or sometimes it would even compel me to clean my room to enjoy that satisfying feeling of having a clean room when I was done.
These days it is unusual to be bored. The opportunities we have for boredom are now filled with phone time. The next time you are waiting in line, take a look at the people waiting with you. Try to find someone who isn't hunched over the blue-lit screen of their phone. Red light? Great time to refresh Facebook! (Don't do that. But people certainly do!) A few minutes early to class? Better check the headlines. We are squeezing out every ounce of free time out with entertainment from our phones. I think it's Pete Holmes on his podcast You Made It Weird (which is a great podcast, by the way!) who has said all you need to do to look enlightened in this day and age is to not be looking at your phone.
What does it matter anyway? Don't these encounters throughout the day with our phones provide us pleasure? It seems not. According to a wonderful podcast episode of Rich Roll's, where he interviews Cal Newport on the topic of Digital Minimialism, this behavior is having toxic effects on us. I highly recommend this episode, as it is packed full of thought-provoking information relating to how we interact digitally and how it impacts our health. He also gives practical advice and suggestions on how to walk back the habits we have developed around digital overuse.
Cal says that Generation Z is the first generation who has grown up immersed in technology as we know it today (i.e. smartphones), and that never before have we seen such a skyrocket in anxiety in a generation. There are also implications in their communication skills, in that they are so used to texting and email that they have a really hard time with the nuances of face-to-face communication. This is hurting them in the workplace and increasing their anxiety. These are just a couple of eye-opening facts that come from this important interview. Please do have a listen as I can't do it justice here but I can't imagine anyone not being completely fascinated and compelled to change based on the info in the episode.
I personally find phone use and social media a tightrope. For a long time I was an avid Facebook user. I typically posted every day, and I was continuously caught up on my newsfeed. I shudder to think of the hours I spent immersed in that world, and the trickiest thing was I actually felt I had accomplished something when I "caught up" on my newsfeed and had reached a post I'd seen before. I likewise felt a little sense of anxiety (too strong of a word, but just a sense of needing to complete something) when I had let too much time pass and had a lot of posts to catch up on. My heart breaks when I think of time spent with my kids when I had most of my attention on my phone. I was there with my kids in body, but my mind was in social media land.
About a year and a half ago I finally let go of Facebook. I kept my account, but I stopped posting and viewing. It took will power to get through that transition while I created a new habit of NOT checking in with it, but eventually I was able to shake the habit. Now the tightrope I mentioned previously revolves around wanting to reach people relating to meditation and try to (if I may be so bold) inject some light into social media without then getting pulled in. It is precarious, and I know I am sacrificing "followers" because I am not engaging enough on the pages of others. I just know, though, that I am susceptible to being drawn in, and it's definitely worth the result of fewer likes to resist the force of getting sucked in.
I encourage you to give yourself some space to evaluate your relationship with your phone and social media. A good gauge just might be remembering that last time you were bored. If you haven't given yourself enough time to not be instantly gratified, consider nurturing some new habits.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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