This month’s personal challenge has really been on my heart recently, and now that it’s in the forefront of my mind, I’m seeing it everywhere and it’s driving me CRAZY. Perhaps you’re feeling the same way. For so many of us, the internet holds a vast amount of our daily attention. We work online, pay bills online, bank online. We find our next dinner recipe or schedule our doctors appointments online. We chat with friends. We shop. We find creative inspiration. We share pictures and stories and questions. Truly, almost anything that we could need or want to do is online, but sometimes our phones, or tablets, or laptops, turn into a powerful magnets, sucking us in and blinding us to our surroundings. I never thought *I* would fall prey to smartphone addiction, but alas, as a stay at home mom, as a member of the online quilting community, and really just as a human being in the 21st century, I’m finding it harder and harder to resist.
I suppose I’ve always been attuned to phone “manners” and have loosely tried to limit myself to what felt like appropriate times, but it wasn’t until recently that the real effects of “phone addiction” started to creep into my awareness. Truly, I’m not pointing fingers because the perpetrator is most often me, but there’s just something about being on the other end of this scenario that really drives it home. Some loved ones had stopped by for a casual impromptu dinner last month. No special plans, nothing fancy- just a glass of wine as the kids played outside. As I bustled about the kitchen mixing up a quick casserole, and my guests sat around the kitchen table, we casually chatted, until suddenly things got quiet. I looked over to see that everyone at the table was engrossed in a screen…a couple were on phones, one on a laptop. The silence was deafening, and as I stood there browning the meat, I felt myself becoming really agitated. Here we were, healthy and blessed to be able to spend precious time together, and how do we spend it? Scrolling Instagram and Facebook, commenting on photos of what other people are doing, checking email, tweaking our websites. At that moment, through the silence, it felt as if my guests were saying “This moment isn’t interesting,” “I’m bored,” “I’d rather be somewhere else,” “This time isn’t important to me,” “YOU aren’t important to me.”
I know my guests were probably not actually thinking those things. I know they love me and our times together. But I can’t change how their actions made me feel, and how it seemed to drive an invisible wedge between us in that moment. I was convicted- I couldn’t help but realize how truly ugly my own incessant phone checking habit had become.
I just love Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, and am so moved by his call to practice true quality time. “Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention.” Maybe this moment felt so hurtful because my love language is quality time, or maybe, just maybe, we all need and deserve quality time. Gary continues, “A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention.” I see a lot of things getting in the way of focused attention in my life, but I think the biggest culprit is most definitely screen time.
This month’s challenge is to take a good hard look at what’s getting in the way of our togetherness, of our quality time with the people we love. For me, it’s the phone. For you, it might be TV, or cleaning, or work. Whatever it is, let’s bring it out into the light and call it what it is- a bad habit, a parasite sucking time and attention from the relationships we hold dear. Changing these habits is hard! It’s going to take some effort that might not feel all that great at first, but I know that the effects will be profound and lasting. Here are a few ideas for what this might look like for me:
- Leave phones at the door. This is a really tough one, but I feel like we need this in our home. A basket or bowl in the entryway to catch phones on their way in and to keep them “in their place” during our quality time together. To keep things from getting awkward with guests, perhaps make this into a silly game, a funny household rule that everyone must play.
- Add a custom background or note to a phone or computer home screen to remind yourself, “Is this quality time?”
- Schedule screen-free time periods in the day and stick to them- maybe this is no screen time after 5pm, or no screen time when our family is all together, or when you’re enjoying another activity like relaxing on the patio or watching a sports game.
- Instate phone-free zones in your home- like no phones at the kitchen or dining tables, etc.
Perhaps you have other ideas! I’d love to hear them! Tell us about what’s getting in the way of your loved ones receiving your full attention, and what steps you might take to overcome that obstacle.
I also have a special treat for my Sugar Block Club members this week! A fabulous fabric giveaway, courtesy of Pat Sloan and Moda Fabrics! Pat (who, by the way, is such a sweetheart!) has a darling new line out called “One for Me, One for You”, and she’s so generously offered up prizes for 4 lucky winners!
To enter, you must be a 2014 Sugar Block Club Member. Good news- if you’re not one already, you can easily join right now, and will still be eligible for the giveaway. Contest will be open through 4/7/14, and the winners will be announced and notified on 4/8. Since the prizes include both the standard fabric line, as well as the batiks version, in jelly rolls and layer cakes, I’ll do my best to send the winners their preferred prize.
Happy April, friends!!!