I wrote some time ago about my erstwhile angst over my overuse of technology, which has deepened in parenthood, both in terms of how much I use my phone (ahem, what else can you do while supervising a toddler? Too hard to dial into a book, too dangerous to leave the room entirely, too unrealistic to use that time to constantly clean/organize the home) and in terms of how guilty I feel about it. At the dawn of the new year, I decided to let some of the air out of that balloon in two different ways. First, in an effort to be more present, I often (though not always) purposefully keep my phone on my desk, across the room from where I am most commonly sitting with mini. I keep it on my phone stand so I can easily see if there’s a call coming through (because I’ve also resolved, as a 34-year-old adult, to just pick up the damn phone when someone calls me) or a flurry of texts that might need my attention — but it’s far enough away that I can’t mindlessly reach for it in search of a quick scroll through Instagram. And on the other hand, I have resolved to not feel so darn guilty in the first place. I believe myself to be an attentive, involved mother, and have decided to cut myself some slack if I have been dancing to “baby shark” and reading the same four books over and over again for the better part of the morning and I need to take a break and catch up on social media, the news, email, etc. For one thing, it’s good for mini to play by herself. And for another, phones are a real part of this 21st century, and while I don’t want to be a poster-child for being glued to technology, I am also not going to parade around pretending as though phones don’t exist. So. That’s where we are. Imperfect, but trying.
I recently came across a new strategy for restricting technology use in a meaningful way: the one-screen-at-a-time rule. The idea is that we’re often using multiple screens at once, and how can we possibly be affording anything our full attention in that mode? I am especially guilty of turning on the TV and working on my computer or scrolling through my phone, only to find myself distracted and borderline befuddled at the end of the session. My mind’s been pickling in mixed, half-read messages: a glimpse of these shoes on this site, a snippet of this email on my phone, a line from that ad on the TV. And I rarely — if ever! — fully know what’s happened on the TV show I’ve been “watching.” What a waste! And what an unnecessarily noisy world to create for myself!
Mr. Magpie and I both decided to give this “one screen at a time” proposition a test and have been thrilled with the results. I find that watching TV together at night has become more deeply enjoyable. Is it horrible to admit that the first few days I attempted this “one screen only detox” (ha, that’s a stretch of the word!), I felt a vague sense of restlessness during the opening credits of The Office or the occasional 30 second stretches of ads interrupting our programming (I know, I know — we don’t pay for premium Hulu and therefore still have ads on certain shows)? I’d find myself itching to reach for my phone to fill that gap. Ugh! I can’t sit for fifteen seconds without stimulation?! Once I made it through that mild discomfort, I discovered something interesting: Mr. Magpie and I would often use those in-between moments to comment on something from our day, or muse over something in the show we’d just been watching. In fact, I find that we pause the TV a lot more often than we used to because we’re more dialed into what we’re watching and have more to share with one another — “wait, what did she mean?” and “Oh my God, that reminds me…” We’re more aware of watching alongside one another, more attuned to one another’s reactions. And it now feels like a shared activity rather than a time to glaze over. Even more surprisingly, when it’s time for bed, I feel rested. It feels as though I’ve just spent a luxurious hour doing something intentionally enjoyable and relaxing. I can’t say I felt the same when we were both simultaneously “watching a show” and occasionally reaching for our phones or putzing around on our computers; I’d go to bed in a half-alert daze. Now, at the end of a show, I’m unwound. There’s a satisfying feeling of “completion.”
So — test it! See how it goes! And let me know your reactions and results!
+Like the look of these inexpensive joggers.
+This may seem contradictory to the foregoing message, but I’m intrigued by this shower speaker. I think it’d be nice to tune into a podcast while showering in the evenings! (Who else is an evening showerer?)
+THESE BOOTS ARE ERRYTHING.
+In an effort at self-improvement: I am still looking for ways to remind myself to drink more water throughout the day. I think keeping this full and at my desk/in my stroller cup holder at all times might help.
+Into these sunglasses in that bone/pearl color!
+Valentine’s Day is around the corner! A couple of cute little gifts and outfits for the occasion.