When I first updated my IPhone 8 to IOS 12, I didn't expect the update to be particularly different from IOS 11 or 10. That was before I opened settings and was greeted by a feature I hadn't seen before: Screen Time.
Screen Time measures, in short, how much time a day you spend on your phone. It has a time tracker, so you can track specific hours and parts of the day during which you're more active. It also checks how many notifications you get and from what apps, how many times you pick up your phone and your average weekly phone usage, in hours. Screen time strips your phone usage down into raw data, tangible numbers that paint a picture of dependence or lack thereof. It lets you see, quite literally, how you act and function on your phone.
Now, when I first saw Screen Time, I assumed it wouldn't be a big deal. I don't use my phone unless I'm watching YouTube videos, texting or reading the news. At home, I'm partial to my computer for doing homework or getting work done. I imagined that my daily usage would be two hours, maybe three at most.
Wow, was I wrong.
On school days, yes, my screen time was within those intervals. But on weekends, when I had less work to do, it would increase significantly. There were days during Thanksgiving Break when I had been on my phone for four hours, even once reaching five. I started to break it down and dig deeper. A lot of that time was on social media platforms like Instagram. I don't even post on that platform very often, and there I was, spending upwards of two hours a day scrolling through swells of similar, uneventful posts.
I began to wonder, am I more dependent than I thought I was? I mean, I always considered myself to be above the phone and tech craze, and here I am, spending a good sixth of my day on my phone. Even when I'm not on my phone, I'm on my computer. When I'm not on my phone or computer, I'm watching TV or spending time with friends that are. Technology has truly, completely, taken over the world we live in.
Now, there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with being on our phones. They make us more efficient, quicker to respond and more connected with friends and family that may not live near us.
But, that doesn't mean our lives have to revolve around them.
Screen Time isn't a judgmental feature (though it may feel like it sometimes). It just records raw, objective data. What matters isn't what the data is, but what we do with it.