Looking Into The Mirrors That Are My Devices

Do you ever look into the mirror and not like what is looking back at you? I think whether we like to admit it or not, it’s true sometimes. But do you ignore it, or try and figure out what is bothering you? It’s always much deeper than the actual face you see.

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Lately, the metaphorical mirror has been either my phone or tablet and I have been taking stock on how I use each. Why I use each as much as I do and who it is affecting around me.

It was only seven years ago that I did not even have a device of any kind. Yes, I was a very late adopter to the smartphone world and I only got my first BlackBerry because Katie was pregnant.

Now, I seem to have a device in my hand or around me most of the day and God damn I just can’t leave them alone.

Be Self Aware My Feed Loving Friends

I have always been pretty self-aware of when and where and in whose company I am in when I go for the phone or iPad. These days I look around in my daily life inside and outside of the house and this self-awareness is going dark. Not just for me, but for so many people I interact with. Just try to go 10 minutes without seeing someone with a phone.

The social rules for this kind of thing are vanishing by the day. I can only imagine what happens in the next year or five years. People seriously can’t leave their phone alone for five minutes. There is nothing urgent. They are not doctors. There is nothing important happening. There is just this nervous twitch we get to scroll through Facebook, Twitter or whatever network you belong to. Virtual people are outranking the real people in front of your face.

Can you go through a movie without touching your phone? How about the bathroom? Do you spend time doing your business with your little device? Hard to imagine a time when we had no idea what others were doing EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY.

If you have a room full of people having a conversation, you are almost sure to see someone withdrawn from the talk and on their phone. Something or someone who is more important than those in the same room. It’s noticeable to me. It bugs me. I know this is the new normal.

When did this become a thing? I don’t like it. I also want to mention I am not clear of doing it myself. But I  have reached a point where I want to change, at least for me.

I sometimes feel so annoyed about it, I want to remove Facebook from my life. But I don’t because that seems dramatic.

Instead I am looking within and thinking of ways I can stop the obsessing of non-information. Recently I added an app to my phone to help me reduce how much I access my phone (yes I get the irony). I logs the number of times you unlock, how much time you use it for and what apps you use specifically. It is a really punch in the face at how much time I waste on my phone. It’s lame.

Generally, I do my best to drift off into phone land when I am by myself or when the kids are doing something else, or when Katie and I just veg and take some time for ourselves. I really try not to just use it as a filler because I am not sure what to do next. But I do. I feel this need to keep up with feeds and know what others are doing. I scan everything before bed. I am not proud of it, but I think it is a pretty common thing. But it’s also very boring.

I try not to pull out the phone or iPad when we have guests, at someone else’s house, having dinner, at the movies and other places where it has always been a social no-no to do it. If I do, it’s for a quick check of the clock. Maybe it’s time to go back to a watch?

Again, smartphone etiquette is going downhill fast. It’s becoming acceptable and those who fight it, are giving in. They don’t want to be the party pooper even though they are just trying to keep things normal. Again, I don’t like this.

Kids Are Becoming Addicts

Then, there is the topic of what it is doing to our kids. Man, this really gets me thinking and dreading the future.

Why does a six-year-old what a phone so bad? Because we make it seem so God damn cool and important. Sure we can blame marketing but it’s because of us. The parents.

If we live on our phone, use it all the time and make anything connected to it so important, they see that. They want that. They really want that. It’s also pretty hypocritical of us to monitor and take away their screen time when we can’t limit ourselves.

I do agree it’s great for kids to understand tech. Just seeing both our boys use a tablet like they were born with it is amazing. But I also want them to be just as comfortable outside playing baseball, or fixing their bike or just being in the world.

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It’s so frustrating to try to teach the boys manners like walking on the sidewalk properly when they are constantly seeing adults walking and texting and not sticking to any manners. Harry will even ask me why they don’t have to etc. We as parents need to be examples.

Newsflash, Katie and I are not perfect parents (okay maybe Katie is but I am bias). But I do feel happy with the fact that we have managed to control screen time and the love of having more screen time. They are not addicted. They understand it’s a treat. We don’t use it as a crutch.

If you are on the subway, IT’S A TRAIN UNDERGROUND. Why is that not all you need as a kid? I hate seeing parents use devices as babysitters when the environment around them is amazing. Just being out of the house should create wonder, excitement and experience. Hard to do that buried in a game of whatever.

Our oldest if left alone with a phone could probably use it better than a lot of adults. That’s great. He will have his own one day. But I want to extend the amount of time he has one for as long as possible. I was in my 30’s. Okay that is not fair to make him wait that long.

The iPad is for the boys to use mostly and they know what apps they are allowed to access. I love that they understand technology and they are not addicted already. Again, I feel like as parents, we are holding our own against the inevitable tidal wave.

Kids Need To Be Bored

When did parents decide kids have to be busy 24/7?

Now it seems a bored child is a really bad thing. I remember as a kid that I had to learn to entertain myself. Now I did not have the Internet and live gaming and all the other stuff that seems to be turning kids into blobs. I collected hockey cards, played games on my own, read sports stats and numerous other solitaire things when there were no other kids around. I never depended on my parents to entertain me or set an itinerary. They had lives and jobs and probably hoped I would entertain myself.

Now? Kids have so much stuff packed into a day, they look lost when boredom hits. Our kids do it to. They hover around waiting for us to solve it for them. We do our best to not cave. We want them to fight boredom and learn to use their imagination.

Harry loves drawing on paper, building LEGO and doing countless other things that a kid would do 20 years ago. No  WIFI, screens or apps required. When he truly let’s go of the fact that there is no TV or games, he comes up with some pretty interesting games and stories.

Back To That Mirror

So back to me. Yes it’s my blog, so it’s all about me. Like I said, I am not liking who I am when it comes to my phone. I don’t like that texting is a form of conversation. I don’t like that only important things are learned on Facebook. I don’t like that I roughly spend three or four hours a day checking something pointless.

Actual talking has decreased. Actual seeing people in person has decreased. Actual reading has decreased. At the root of it all? That device I call my phone.

For me, I feel there is a still a chance to curb my usage. I remember a time before there were apps and hacks and hashtags. But what about all those people who think it is normal? It’s only going to go the other way. I already see it. I already experience it. I already want to go back in time.

I agree there is so much good that has come out of technology. My whole job is built on it. I just worry for our kids and their kids and where it’s all going. It seems like it’s all going toward a world where we all don’t know how to do the things that make society a happy place.

Maybe I am going overboard a bit, but it is what I think about when I see small kids looking like zombies with a phone in their face.

My Plan

Just like anyone addicted to something, the first step is to be aware of it and accept it. I have.

Now I plan to try and purge slowly what I do on my phone. Do I need to check Instagram 30 times a day. YES. I mean no. I want to cut back. Get back to reading an actual book. That kind of crazy.

Walking, biking, fresh air and disconnect now and then. Maybe take whole days off? Who knows. A guy can dream.

I will update you in a month and see where we are.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you think I am way off base?

Okay, that’s enough for today. I guess I better post this, share it on several mediums and continue the cycle right?

I really do what to read what you are thinking right now, so please leave a comment.

Michael Cusden
Michael is the creator of Like A Dad and uses his daily experiences of being a parent and a marketing dude as his content. Always looking to connect with other parents and bloggers.