Perhaps the most perplexing question I have ever received has been from my eye doctor. I go for a checkup every summer, and I get asked this same question every time, but for some reason, it always ignites an existential crisis in my soul. "How many hours do you spend on your phone?" Yikes. The first couple times, I tended to underestimate my addiction to my screen, "Maybe two hours," I would reply. This answer was always met with a scornful stare that dug deep into the brain. After a few years of back and forth, we settled on six hours, but part of me believes, in fact, knows, that I am once again underestimating myself. So how many hours do I truly spend on my phone? I am not one hundred percent sure. I know that there is a feature in the settings of my iPhone that can tell me, but there is no way I am ever checking that.
Why am I so scared of finding out the real number? Well, because it will simply confirm what I already know about myself: I spend way too much time on my phone, and I know I am not the only one. Besides the fact that my generation's eyesight will probably be shot by forty, we are locked into a virtual life and missing the one that is flying right before our eyes. We are all constantly trying to live the best lives, but is it for our own benefit or for the benefit of our social image? Graciously, I say that fifty percent of my efforts are heard towards the latter. So in this season of my life or extreme self-evaluation and in an effort to rewire my brain before I'm set in my ways when my brain stops developing, I am offering up substitutes to social media for my own benefit and for the benefit of my generational counterparts.
1. Instagram? Go on a walk instead
We love posting pictures of pretty things, but do we actually enjoy the pretty things? I mean, I rarely look at my 107 pictures of the Eiffel Tower. So maybe if we could substitute taking and posting pictures for Instagram, we would see so much more than our limited screen has to offer. There is life in nature and in cities. Breathing life. Not digital life.
2. Twitter? Why not hang out with your friends?
I love a good laugh just as much the next guy, so Twitter is my go to for giggles. But how often do I actually laugh out loud to tweets in my bed? Okay, sometimes, I will admit it. But I have found that sharing tweets with my friends gives me the most joy, so why not, I don't know, share thoughts with my friends? Conversation. If you think your friends are funny online, boy oh boy you'll be surprised to see just how funny they can be in real life.
3. Facebook? Dear God, anything else. How about a book?
Ah, Facebook. I love reading posts that share every part of someone's daily life. You did laundry today? Awesome, Mom! A book, though, a book shares all the essential parts of a story. It's exciting. Riveting. I think we can all agree that we lose brain cells spending time of Facebook, but has anyone ever got dumber from reading? I think not.
4. Snapchat? Stare at your friends. It's awesome, trust me.
Okay, this one is a joke. But seriously. There are a million things you can do other than sending pictures of your face back and forth with your friends (or you feet if you're having a fight). Bake a cake. Do some work. Discover your passion. Build real relationships. Half of the people I Snapchat, I don't even to.
TNow I'm not damning social media to Hell. It can be a fun thing, and it is engrained in our generation; it is not going away any time soon. My suggestions seem simplistic and silly, but are we actually prioritizing these things over social media? Probably not. But maybe we can learn to take a step back. Maybe we can learn to live our lives rather than living through our favorite vlogger. Maybe we can be able to face our eye doctors with honesty. Maybe we can gain back some of that wondrous gaze in our eyes that we had before they became blinded by the light of our smartphones.