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Screen Time

How much screen-time do you have each day? Come on, be honest. I read an article some time back on how tech companies are now into the digital detox industry – which is a billion-dollar industry by the way – creating apps for people to take responsibility about their – you guessed it – digital addiction!

Can a problem be its own solution? That is an intriguing thought.

As I began to write this, I was listening to Osho in one ear, my mind was in overdrive as I could not type fast enough to get these words on – right on – the computer screen and suddenly I heard Osho say, ‘a human being prefers to be unhappy and depressed rather than remaining idle’!*

Social psychologists have done research on people concluding that we prefer to be engaged in any trivial activity than remaining idle.

Homer uses a Drunk App

Suddenly it all fell into place. It was a light bulb moment. Why are we so constantly connected online? Why has this addiction developed? And how can we take personal responsibility for changing this behaviour?

Tech Companies

More and more apps are being developed, by these very same companies that sell us their tech, to pause, take a moment, be in the moment etc. There are apps for reminders to stop [Moment, Headspace, Screen Time], digital detox retreats, and other wellness programmes that monitor and teach us that we need to take a break. It is like fire telling you to fear it!

There are reports that giving up mobile phones have made people happier [Simon Cowell], or that people are giving up smart phones and reverting to #idiot-phones. But do we have to get that extreme? Can we take a little bit of responsibility before just banning a very useful item from our lives?

Root of the Problem

But we all need to consider the root of the problem. That is – why are we so addicted? Why are we so busy with tech? What are we trying to avoid? How have we allowed tech to take over our lives? And how can we change this narrative? Can it be changed at all? So the three basic questions as always are:

What? – What is the problem?

Why? – Why is it there?

How? – How can I create a solution for it?

The What?

The problem has already been identified as addiction to tech. I personally feel the problem is much more basic than that. It is Addiction. Period. The mind IS addictive – just the what changes over time. It can be to tobacco, alcohol, work and now tech.

Cat stressed at work

The Why?

The next main question is really why does this addiction exist? And that is a harder nut to crack. So my solution to this quest for change would be to ask yourself a question each time you pick up the phone/tablet/computer/TV ‘Why am I doing this?’

And keep on asking the question with no need for an answer. Again the mind will try to get to an answer. And the subtlety of the mind’s tricks is that then the asking of the question itself will become the addiction! But stay with me, keep on asking the question each time you pick up the tech. Try it, I promise you it works.

You are probably reading this right now on some screen. Take a moment to ask yourself why you are doing it? What is preventing you from just taking a moment to sit down and do nothing? Go on, do it! I know you can.

And now, observe what happens.

The How?

The How is intrinsically linked to the question above. The moment we start asking the basic question of ‘Why am I doing this’ the how appears. That itself is the technique. And slowly, slowly you will find the question disappearing. Not that you make it disappear, it disappears on its own.

So there is no need for any free or expensive apps. Just a simple question to yourself posed just when your hand reaches out to the tech that you use the most. It can be your phone, your computer or the remote for the TV. And just pose the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’

Blaise Pascale has put it succintly, “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room.”

Does the adage, ‘An empty mind is a devil’s workshop’ suggest that we have been discouraged to sit still and idle?

While researching for this piece, I spent some time on the internet and I found myself drawn into this and that article, this and that website, so easily lured away from my basic quest. I just experienced the nature of the monkey-mind – as the Zen mystics call it – in such a simple activity as online research. And that is how the mind functions. It likes distraction, diversion, newness. And at the flick of a button or a few keys, it is at our fingertips.

So focusing on the Why can easily help us look at how we get ourselves in a tech addiction. Try it and let me know how that goes for you.

Happy un-techhing!

* Ashtavakra MahaGeeta, in Hindi #4

2 Comments

  • Avatar Savita says:

    Nice one, Shruti!
    I always suggest to people that when a change of this sort is to be made, they start, as you suggest, with just one moment of stopping and watching (asking why?)…nothing more than a few seconds’ pause…(how threatening can that be?). And then the next time extend it by a few seconds more. Each time expanding it a little longer.
    You’re so right that it’s just another addiction. We are an addicted culture!
    It can just as easily be likened to reaching towards the box of cigarettes for a smoke, taking out the wine glass for the first tipple of the day, or grabbing the remote to see what’s on telly. Stopping for a few seconds to look at what that impulse is is all it takes…

    • Shruti Shruti says:

      Thanks Savita! You are so right. We are an addicted culture. But change can happen – one small step at a time. Just like the journey of a thousand miles…!

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