Look Up

Happy New Year friends!

I hope all of you had some good moments over the holidays, time with people you love, time to reflect on the past year, or even just time for a nap. Since I’m a sucker for arbitrary markings of time (birthdays, anniversaries, back to school, the days they change the dollar spot bins at Target for new holidays), I spent some time doing the whole New Year’s thing this past week. I took a trip down memory lane of photographs, reflecting on some goals and celebrating the ones I managed to achieve in a hard year, and I set some new intentions for 2018. Let’s just say it’s a lot of fun to live with me and there’s been sufficient eye-rolling from my teen/tween sons when I ask them about their goals for 2018.

And now I’m bringing that same fun to you! Here’s what I asked my family: If you could have 872 extra hours this year, would you take them? To save you from doing the math, it’s a little over two hours a day. How about even half of that? Just one extra hour a day to fill any way you want. Maybe getting after those goals you set yesterday. You don’t even have to know how you’d spend it. Just, would you take it? According to numerous studies, we are spending about 872 hours a year staring into our mobile devices. Maybe you are thinking that can’t be true, that you absolutely do not spend over two hours a day on your phone, the internet, social media, but it adds up. Every time we pick it up to “just check” and get sucked down the rabbit hole of Twitter. Every time we are doing two things at once, like checking our phones while cooking dinner, or scrolling Instagram while carrying on a conversation. Or maybe you’re thinking that sounds low. Maybe you know you spend more than two hours a day on your phone. Maybe, like me, you’ve downloaded one of those apps like Moment that tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about how much of your day, even fragmented, you are handing away to that tiny device in your hand. And maybe that truth was a little hard to swallow. It was for me. I spent a good amount of time in 2017 reflecting on this topic and observing the world around me. I took multiple, long breaks from all social media. I took informal polls at red lights (about a third of all drivers have a cell phone in their hands in my town on average) and restaurants (about a half of all diners are actively engaged with their phones while sitting across a table from another human). It is no exaggeration to say that with each passing year, less people are looking up.

We look a lot like this a lot of time.

I’m no luddite. I’m not trading in my MacBook for a typewriter or my smart phone for a landline anytime soon. But of all the hours I spent last year, I would, without hesitation, take back some of the ones I spent online. Not all of them, not even close. This isn’t a blanket judgement about time spent online, but rather an examination of how much of that time is intentional.

And I can only answer for myself.

The time I spent online learning, making meaningful connections with people I care about, watching a show I love, those aren’t the hours I would trade. But there are many hours I would take back if I could, and some of them were spent on things that could be considered good things. Sometimes it’s hardest to say no to a good thing. I also know exactly what I’d trade them for. Maybe that’s true for you too? You can do a lot with an extra hour a day. You can run 1,000 miles in a year like a friend of mine did last year. You can read several books. You can learn to cook. You can learn a new instrument. You can write a whole book. You can play outside with your kids, or go on a date, or talk on the phone with a distant friend. You can take a nap. You can do anything you want really. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were a thing you chose instead of a thing you did out of a habit that isn’t serving you, those you love, or the life you are trying to create?

I realize this very long post is not for all of you. I know that many of you have this figured out. I have a pretty exceptional role model for this that lives in my house. It’s probably only for a very small handful of you, but if it is for you, I wanted you to know you are not alone. If you have ever looked down at your phone and had a desire to just throw it into the nearest body of water, you are not alone. And if this is the year that you want to get a handle on it, you’re not alone there either. I’m with you. I won’t be on Facebook nearly as much in 2018. I intend to spend this year looking up. And I hope that when I do, I see your face looking back at mine.

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