30 minutes. That’s about how long it would take to do your personal banking in 1990. You would get in your car, drive to your bank, fill out your deposit or withdraw slip, stand in line, make your deposit or withdrawal and drive home or back to work. Today, by banking with an app and face recognition technology, that same banking transaction can take just a minute. That’s 29 minutes back in your day, thanks to technology and our smart phones. This is just one of 100 examples that could be listed as to how much “more time” technology has given back to us thanks to efficiencies and convenience. In the past we checked the weather by watching “Weather on the 8’s”. Long distance road trips required us to our local AAA office for that highlighted “TripTik”. We now order groceries, home goods, pay our bills, etc. without ever needing to leave our house or office. The list of tasks we complete more effectively and efficiently than 30 years ago because of our phones is nearly endless.
With current technology and the efficiencies it creates, we should have more free time than ever. However, most people describe their lives as feeling busier than ever before. During trainings, coaching sessions and conversations with just about everyone I meet, words like, busy, overwhelmed, stressed and stretched are the descriptors I hear far too often. So, what is going on? While there are many factors, one place that often gets the blame is the ever dreaded “screen time”. The same smart phone technology that has given us the opportunity to create more free time is often what steals it right back from us. We all know the usual offenders: mindless scrolling through social media, fantasy sports, online shopping, etc. We even have technology that tracks how much time we spend on our phones and how many times we pick up our phones a day in an attempt to manage (or potentially shame) the time suck that phones have become. I would like to offer a different perspective, however. My belief is that at its core, technology is neither inherently good nor bad. Technology neither gives us more time nor steals it. Technology in and of itself, is neutral. It’s what we do WITH technology that determines its place in our world and our lives.
While getting ready for work the other morning, I picked up my phone to check the weather. Ten minutes later I noticed I was scrolling Facebook. I scolded myself, wondering how I even opened Facebook. I put my phone down. Two minutes later, I realized I had never checked the weather! I would like to claim this was a one-time occurrence, however, this is a scenario that happens all too frequently in my world. So often, our phones become a reflex, a default, a time filler, a rabbit hole and yes, even an addiction.
The challenge I present, to myself and to you, is to choose technology intentionality over default. To recognize the power and efficiency that technology adds to our lives while not being lost in it. To be present and intentional with the time technology can create for us, if we let it. To feel the space that can exist when we don’t immediately fill it with something else. This will simultaneously reduce the timewasters and unintentional space fillers that makes our phones so alluring. My goal is to not to eliminate screen time or put it in “the bad box”. Rather, my hope is that we look more thoughtfully at how we interact with technology and use it to enhance our lives in a meaningful way.
So, the real question becomes, what wonderful things are you going to do with those 29 minutes?
Lindsey Weigle, Partner