1. Wake up at 6:00 AM.
2. Check your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.
3. Type “lol” “lmao” “haha” “ya” about 50 times and learn where a “friend” on FB ate last night at 9:09 PM.
4. Glance at the clock.
5. Freak out about how it’s already 7:30 AM.
That was an hour and a half of your life that went by in your bed, on your phone. Add three more hours to that value (because it’s an addiction, of course) and you have a whopping 4.5 hours of your entire day spent in front of a glass screen that gives you access to a virtual reality. Now you may think 4.5 hours is a large increment of time, but a recent study organized by British psychologists shows that young adults use their smartphones an average of five hours a day. That is 1,825 hours, which is approximately 76 days a year. If you manage to live for 70 years, you will have wasted 5, 320 days of your life glued to the screen of your phone. FIVE THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY DAYS!!!!! To give you another example of what that means in terms of regular life events, a woman could give 17 consecutive births during this time (I do not recommend this).
How many of us millennials can relate to the morning schedule posted above? *Everyone reading this raises their hand* (pssst, I’m raising my hand, but only halfway and I’ll tell you why later). Ahh, that’s more like it! Psh, forget about millennials…I’m pretty sure my mom follows this same routine every day and she’s well into her fifties.
Our phones have become artificial appendages, and the only utility they provide is an addiction to their multi-colored shine and infinite news feeds that makes three hours seem like three minutes. Of course, that’s why we use them. You go to your doctor’s office, bored and waiting to be called in. So what do you do? You grab your phone because you may die if you sit for fifteen minutes doing “nothing”. This is the subconscious mindset we have built to follow.
Since when have we become so uncomfortable dealing with boredom that facing it causes mental and emotional pain for some of us? Is it really THAT painful to simply sit and wait for fifteen minutes without having to stimulate that dopamine-activated “happy” center of the brain? We have made it difficult for ourselves. We are constantly feeding ourselves junk by exposing our mind and intellect to the virtual world. Everything is easy in this virtual world. You can smash the like button a million times and have them simply get lost in the tallies for a post, write rude comments towards people you’ll never come across in person, and share pictures of expensive ass food that looks great with all the filters, but taste like absolute shit. This world we curate acts as its own entity, growing exponentially based on the minimal effort we put into it.
We become creatures of instant gratification, to the point where we no longer know what authentic hard work, effort or grit really means. We are spoiled children who demand results NOW and if we don’t see those results, we point our fingers to others, oblivious to the fact that we are the only ones to blame.
This may seem like an insignificant matter for most people who have conditioned themselves to be a puppet to their screen, but this issue reflects a great amount of the quality of life you live. This includes your priorities, ambitions, and daily habits, which predicts success in your career, relationships and overall mental and emotional health.
The majority of us have adopted an unhealthy morning routine that revolves around the distorted virtual reality our phone manifests on a screen. Think a little harder and we realize that’s all it is: a screen. Yet, this screen is an outlet that provides us with an easy way out, an escape from reality. This escape is available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and hundreds of engineers are on the other side of the screen researching better techniques to keep you hooked on your phone for longer periods of time. Now, these engineers are just trying to earn a living working their 8–5 job like every other working American. But they are real and they invest eight or more hours a day, five days a week to ensure that the relationship between your eyes and whichever app you use on your phone screen remains strong.
As reality is constantly avoided and escape is highly favored, we throw ourselves into a vicious cycle of temporary pleasure. This toxic cycle is perfectly depicted through a deer’s naive nature when she sees a mirage of water on the road. The deer has been thirsty for a long while and when she sees that a gush of water lies on the road ahead, she experiences a flood of happiness. Her dehydrated body will finally be drowned in water that will nourish her organs and give her energy for the road that lies ahead. With this enthusiasm, she strides forward confidently, realizing that each step forward is a step closer to her final destination. To her dismay, there is no water to be found when she reaches her destination. She looks up ahead and once again sees a mirage of water. The flood of happiness once again rushes in and she proceeds forward.
This cycle of false pleasure has us leashed by the invisible collar around our neck, dancing to its tunes day and night. We run in circles wanting that pleasure, acting to receive it, receiving it and wanting it again in another five minutes. This illusion never stops and by the end of the day, we are upset with ourselves for wasting an entire day on our phone.
We wake up the next day and the same cycle ensues. Each Instagram picture and text activates the pleasure center of our brain and over time, we become addicted to the high volume of information we receive and the great amount of time we stay connected to the world behind the screen. Do you want to see the Great Wall of China today? Alright, no problem. Simply go to Google Earth and type in “Great Wall of China” and there you are. This right here destroys the mystery and mystical nature of the beautiful world we live in.
I have a friend who serves as a perfect example of the phone addiction epidemic. Nine times out of ten, he will be on his phone for the majority of the time we hang out. He was so invested in his phone that we missed a famous celebrity citing. Now, we probably would not have been able to meet Miles Teller and get that selfie with him anyway but the point is that he gave his attention to his phone while he was at an event with some of his favorite actors.
Eventually, our level of tolerance increases and the amount of screen content we must receive to get that hit of happiness doubles. After a few weeks, it triples. Let a few years go by, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were an excessively overweight couch potato munching on popcorn with extra butter, binge-watching the new tv series Netflix released.
We avoid reality every day and choose to indulge in the temporary happiness provided through our phone screens. This leaves us in a very dangerous spot; one in which we risk losing our authenticity. To be authentic, you need to muster grit to deal with reality, instead of choosing to escape it. That is how you build strong work ethic, character, and beneficial habits. If you are repeatedly prioritizing temporary pleasure over the chance to face reality, become more self-aware and improve to become the best version of yourself, you are ripping yourself off. You are using this one and only life you have to engage yourself in behaviors that only take you further away from self-growth and genuine fulfillment.
Here is an example: Although it may be subtle, choosing the smartphone over a cup of tea alone in your backyard takes you one step further from your authentic nature. Why? Because every time you mindlessly unlock your phone for no valid reason, you prioritize others before yourself. Instead of using your morning to self-reflect, meditate and express your gratefulness, you scan the virtual world for updates about OTHER people.
This habit of checking your smartphone unnecessarily, spending hours binge-watching TV shows and allowing yourself to communicate with the people in your life over text and instant messaging 90 percent of the time is killing your authenticity.
So what is stopping us from abandoning these habits and adopting a new lifestyle? Here, I made a list for you:
1. FEAR (FOMO)
The bottom line is we are all afraid of something. It doesn’t matter what you are afraid of because fear itself is what stops you from abandoning bad habits and mindsets. You first need to overcome this fear of missing out. To do this, constantly remind yourself that regardless of what you do, you will always miss out on something. You cannot be in two places at once (although that would be cool) and it is pointless trying. You have to make a choice and this choice is a product of your priorities. What you prioritize in life will determine the choice you make. If you value watching a movie or hanging out with your friends over waking up early and starting your day with a run, then don’t be upset with yourself when you decide to do just that. Your decisions are a direct product of your priorities so if you want to change the decisions you make, then you need to change your priorities.
We all have this issue and we face it every single day. It is embedded in every decision we make. Do I have to wash the dishes right NOW? Do I have to wake up NOW? Do I have to do the laundry NOW? There are many tasks throughout the day that can be completed during the time you are thinking of whether you should complete the task or not. But it’s the laziness that stops us from making the right decisions and executing them. We feel lazy so we don’t want to do the dishes NOW, we don’t want to wake up NOW, we don’t want to do laundry NOW. But wait. There is another side to this. Although we may be able to start a task, we may not be able to finish the task. This is in part from the laziness we battle, but also from our addiction to instantaneous gratification. Therefore, we must keep in mind that building any good habit requires practice. If we can practice not relying on instant gratification and train our brains to become more patient and resilient against the distractions that make us unproductive, we can start making our ways of living a better life.
Stepping outside of the box is not something everyone can do because it requires the ability to deal with discomfort and pain. Most people in the world are okay living a life of mediocrity. They don’t step a foot outside the box that says go to work from 9 to 5, take care of the kids, watch some TV and go to bed. Wake up and repeat. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But there is also nothing risky or uncomfortable about it either. It isn’t comfortable waking at 4:30 AM every day, it isn’t safe quitting your job and investing money into a startup. But is it worth? You bet it is. There will be struggles and dark times that feel hopeless but the growth we experience from the pain and discomfort allows us to become more and more authentic.
Now that I have finished my thoughts on our behaviors surrounding modern technology, let’s revisit why I raised my hand only halfway to this:
A few months ago, I became sick of myself. I became sick of staring at my phone, watching videos of dancers with unparalleled talent, as I sunk into feelings of inferiority. I became sick thinking about how I sleep in until 10:00 AM. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I became sick of feeling unhappy with how I looked in the mirror. I became sick of blaming everyone around me for problems that I created for myself. All in all, I became sick of becoming sick. I spent so much time complaining about my life and I did nothing to solve it. So how did I get out of this rut? I would love to tell you that there was a shooting star in the midnight sky or an inspirational friend who completely changed my life, but that would be a lie. And come on, you wouldn’t want to hear that anyway because it gives all of the credit to external factors. No, no, everything was in my control!
My change came gradually. I fought with myself every step of the way, and I still do. I don’t want to wake up at 4:30 AM every day and some days, I fail to do so. I don’t want to go to the gym every day but I do it anyway. I don’t want to eat a shit ton of veggies in every meal but I do it anyway. Exercising detachment helped me a lot. I stopped attaching myself to instantaneous pleasures because they were not sustainable in the long run. My mind’s desires were only harming me, not helping. So I shifted the way I receive happiness from these desires. That caramel macchiato feels like heaven during each slurp but ends up putting me on a sugar high that I crash so hard from later on. On the other hand, it can be hard to eat the bland sauteed broccoli with sage and oregano every morning, but I sure as hell love the way it makes me feel for the rest of the day. This may sound crazy, but I imagined all the healthy vitamins and minerals from my food intake spreading throughout my body and allowing me to live a naturally energetic and positive life.
This bland broccoli example can be extrapolated to any other bad habit you may have. Set aside and take time to really think. THINK ABOUT IT. What would the end result be of using a real alarm clock instead of your phone alarm? Well, there are a ton of amazing changes that would happen but here are a few: you wouldn’t see 3872 notifications on your phone first thing in the morning, which would allow your brain to stay focused on yourself and your morning routine (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend it). This alone would give you time to reflect on the previous day and organize the rest of today. Assuming you aren’t charging your phone in your room (you don’t need to if you’re not using it as an alarm), you could get a deep slumber, leaving you more energetic and ready to tackle the day. I could go on and on about the benefits of just changing this one habit but I’ll stop here.
There is no glorified way to say what I’m about to say: stop reading about shit you need to do (except my article because I worked hard on it) or habits you need to stop or adapt to improve your life. You know yourself better than anyone else in this world, so get up and do it. Stop talking to people about what you’re GOING to do. Tell your friends and family WHAT YOU DID. The more you notice your sentences starting with “I did” or “I completed” instead of “I want to” or “I will,” know that you’re moving in the right direction.
This was my first Women’s Republic article and I’ll be honest, I was very nervous about publishing it because this is totally out of my comfort zone. However, I had to hold myself accountable to what I preach. I don’t consider myself a professional writer and you probably figured that out as you were reading this but at least I can now say “I wrote a Women’s Republic article,” and not “I want to write a Women’s Republic article.”