I recently came across an article by the writer Charlotte Lieberman entitled “Mindlessly Scrolling for Satisfaction. How to Navigate the Temptation of Distraction in the Information Age.” The irony of finding this article whilst scrolling through my Facebook timeline was not lost on me but I was interested to read what she had to say. I, (like many people I’m sure) have found that when I have some spare time it can be spent mindlessly scrolling through, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds in the hope of some vague sense of satisfaction. Having observed myself regularly getting lost in the internet over many months I tried to get a sense of what lay beneath my surface behaviour. I felt there maybe a number of reasons: a deep sense of avoiding the feeling of loneliness, sometimes boredom or finding it hard to be with difficult feelings like grief. I found these realizations very humbling, particularly as someone who has been practicing meditation & yoga for over twenty years. I also tried not to be too hard on myself as we are all fallible human beings.
In Charlotte Lieberman’s article she explored some of the complex factors that have led to our technological crutch and desire for distraction. She shared some interesting findings including:
“Did you know that Americans spend more time on email in the morning than we do eating breakfast? A recent poll in the UK found that one in seven surveyed individuals have contemplated divorce because of their spouse’s unsettling social media activity”
I think it can be helpful to be reminded that our habits and behaviour are often contextual. An example of this is being on retreat. This is an environment that encourages a break from social media and the internet and I often find that normally after a day has passed I have no real desire to switch my phone on and feel much more content and relaxed in my experience. Now, we may not all have the opportunity to get away on retreat so maybe creating helpful boundaries around our technology use might be beneficial to us. A friend of mine recently shared with me that she was going to buy herself an alarm clock, so that she would be able to turn off her phone and get out of the habit of late night scrolling. I too have been exploring not listening to music on my i-Pod whilst on the bus and trying to be present to myself and the world around me when walking outside.
Technology is such a huge part of our lives and it would be unrealistic to think we are all going to throw our phones and laptops away however I do feel we have an opportunity next time we feel restless or sad to maybe choose not reach for our phone or computer and see if we can just sit with our arising feelings. This is an opportunity to trust that if we can stay open, curious and patient something new will emerge that may meet our needs more fully.
“Enough. These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life we have refused again and again until now.