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Stories from the Well

Dealing with Digital Dependency

Posted on 09/24/19 by Abby in Mindful Communication

Photo by Erik Pickersgill

The wonder of our modern world is being able to connect locally and globally in a matter of seconds. Yet this growing web of information, complaint and scandal has, in many cases, created a divided community, narrowly focused in on separate issues.

We have been closely observing the philosophies of Tristan Harris and his organization the Center for Humane Technology (CHT). They warn of tech companies race to the bottom of the brain stem to extract human attention.

“It's a race we're all losing,” CHT writes. “The result: addiction, social isolation, outrage, misinformation, and political polarization are all part of one interconnected system, called human downgrading, that poses an existential threat to humanity.”

As tech apps are fighting for our attention by preying on our weaknesses, it can feel overwhelming to put up a fight. But, we believe that the best action is to be proactive. We wanted to share with you some of our considerations about being mindful of our daily digital habits, so we can be as intentional as possible with our attention in the world.

  • Go Gray

    Have you ever noticed yourself picking up your phone repeatedly, opening and scrolling apps, even though there were no notifications? Our phones are designed with enticing colors to grab your attention and keep it. Companies like Facebook and Google have been turning to the field of applied neuroscience to understand how our brains respond to color in their apps and how that color can keep the eye. You can now block out these stimulating colors through enabling a Grayscale filter.

    The process for enabling grayscale differs among different models of phone, but it’s typically accessible via “Accessibility” Menu. In IOS 10, go to Settings > General > Accessibility >Display Accommodations > Color Filters. Switch Color Filters on and select Gray scale. To easily toggle between color and gray scale, go to Setting ? General > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. Now, you just press the home button three times to enable gray scale, and three clicks to return to full color.

  • Screen Time

    Being mindful is being aware. When I first started using iPhone's Screen Time function I was shocked by how much of my phone usage was on social media. Screen Time allows me to see actual data around how my average screen time was used, how many times I had picked up my phone, and notification frequency for the last week. With these things in ming I was able to set appropriate limits to how much time I wanted to be spending on my phone. In the Screen Time function you are able to create and manage daily app limits. For Android users you will need to download a 3rdparty app to manage screen time, recommended programs are Thrive Away or Stay Focused App Block

    To access on iPhone go to Settings > Screen Time

  • Nightshift

    Studies have shown that the blue-light from our phones at night throws off our circadian rhythms and causes our sleep to suffer. It is important to create a nighttime ritual away from our phones and allow our mornings to begin naturally. iPhone offers the options for decreasing blue light based around your schedule through their Night Shift function.

    To access this option got to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift and set up your scheduled time to increase the warm color temperature

    And while we are talking about nighttime rituals, iPhone also offers the option to disable your apps and notifications on a schedule that can align with your night/morning routines. For me I set my downtime an hour before bed and an hour after waking up to allow for a buffer between my rest and technology.

    To access this option go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime and enable choosing your time and selected apps to remain usable.

  • Computer limits

    We have all fallen victim to becoming sidetracked in an Internet rabbit hole while trying to accomplish something totally different. The endless option that the computer has to offer can be held at bay during work hours through apps such as SelfControl (free) or Freedom (subscription). These computer apps offer the ability to block chosen websites and other apps with the time designated by you, allowing you to be able to focus without drifting off into the Facebook feed or that new email in your inbox.

The only reason we know about these techniques is because we have fallen into pitfalls that they offer respite from, ourselves. Along the way we have come in contact with many other individuals in our community who're exploring this topic.

Rabbi/Educator David Burstein shared with us his experience around honoring the tradition of Shabbat as a rest day in the always-plugged in world.

“What I try to do, just on a personal level," He said. "Is to get all my work done by 12 on Saturday (Shabbat) and then I take a break from 12-6 which is a shorter break, which I just check in to my life. I'll read, I'll take a nap, we play games as family. It is an opportunity to check in with what seems to goes by the wayside during the week, not just due to technology but just that life moves pretty quickly.”

David has been teaching mindfulness for about 25 years and is familiar with the need to stay present he says—that is what Shabbat is all about. This technology break is something that David now looks forward to. “It is interesting because when I first started I was anxious, because I was like oh god how am I going to get all this work done?!” But now he has come to realize that giving yourself the freedom to take a break can save your life, and that’s the truth.