When is enough enough?

Do you ever wonder if you spend too much time on a computer or device?

How much time is okay to spend on the computer… tablet… phone… TV?

I suspect all of us feel a certain degree of guilt about the number of hours spent face-to-screen instead of face-to-face. Especially if we have spouses or children. Me, too. My professional labor (and client correspondence) is accomplished on my computer. I keep my calendar, finances and recipes on my machine, as well. Then, there’s personal email (and its annoying cousin, “courtesy emails” from airlines, stores and the like), Facebook and Pinterest. Most of my screen time feels necessary to life in today’s culture.

And then there’s my smart phone (which seems to have rendered me idiotic since I rely on it as a delegated-memory device). 

As one of my varied fasts during this season of Lent, I was challenged to eliminate media. Ironically (providentially?), this fast fell over my children’s spring break. Ugh. Maybe I should put this off a week? I went for it anyway:

  • No more than an hour of time on computer per day. (Including my work, which, mercifully, was light last week.)
  • No app usage on my phone; just calls and necessary texts.
  • Twice daily five-minute Facebook checks to manage work-related social media and moderate an on-line discussion group (which proved unnecessary).
  • No television.

Surprise, no surprise

The results of this week-long experiment were surprising. Also not surprising. Fruitful. And frustrating.

Not surprising: I have have a problem. I use my computer, TV and phone to entertain myself. All the time. I even use my phone as the Hulu-equivalent to channel surfing, opening apps during the obligatory commercials. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?

Surprising: I have grossly over-estimated the necessity of my electronics. Perhaps that isn’t actually a surprise, but this part is: By limiting myself to just an hour a day, I’ve been amazed at how much I can accomplish in that short duration. Simply keeping a list on the counter (old fashioned paper and pencil!) of what was necessary to do ensured I got right down to business. And apparently my “business” can be started (and finished!) in under 60 minutes.

Fruitful: At first I dreaded what I suspected would be a void in our days, especially since I expected the kids to be angling for extra screen time. But I found myself strangely liberated and far more attuned to them and our relationship. I noticed more of the little things happening around me… like blooming daffodils. Fixing this problem wasn’t as hard as I thought. Better still, it’s totally worth it. I may not be able to restrict my computer time as severely when I’m mid-project for a client, but I can certainly limit the rest of it. And phone–make that app–usage can be permanently curtailed. I’m lovin’ it.

Frustrating: Why–why–haven’t I realized this until now? It all began so innocently: to save time and paper by using devices. To record the happenings of my life for posterity. These are gains, to be sure. But I have lost–no, forfeited–so much relationally and experientially. No more. It ends here. It ends now. I want to choose the better thing (Luke 10:41,42).

Join me?

Your decisions don’t have to be radical to reap similar benefit. I can’t tell you “how much screen time” is too much for you. But here are a few suggestions and questions; please share your thoughts with us all in the comment section:

  • How do you decide how much is too much?
  • What small step can you take today to reduce it?
  • Are you uncomfortable with the silence/void of not being ‘entertained’ all the time? Why?
  • Which device is most problematic for you?
  • What software/website/phone application could you delete and see benefit?

If you’ve already taken steps towards this goal, please share your experiences and tips!

What is better - Luke 10:41,42

Please share:

Please share!
    • Jenni

      I don’t have a smartphone. I have been hoping for two years that our budget could accommodate one – I have had all kinds of justifications for its necessity, but just recently concluded that having lived this long without one… I can indeed survive with a phone that only calls and texts. The temptation for me to spend more time on social media and games would be too great. Not sure if this is a “tip,” or just where I’m at…thanks, Kirsten, for sharing your experiences and insights about this topic!

      • Kirsten

        Not starting is the safest way to not get hooked! I think you’re wise, Jenni. (In so many ways.)

    • http://www.youaremygirls.com Jennifer Camp

      My struggle is letting myself rest and surrendering the idol of productivity. Giving up my phone during lulls would be huge. Margin . . . white space . . . time to think and listen is so important . . . I need more of that. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Kirsten.

      • Kirsten

        That is EXACTLY what I benefitted from, Jennifer! My mind was richer for the opportunity to be creative in thought, instead of being entertained. Let me know how it goes. :-)

    • suji

      So true – I deleted facebook about a year ago. Initially it was an experiment and my aim was one month. But within just a few days I felt more alive; more me! So I haven’t gone back.