The Most Devastating App

 I recently updated my iPhone operating software and apparently as part of that update Apple has included a new app called “Screen Time.”  It’s a brilliantly devastating app because it reveals exactly how much time I spend each day on every app on my phone. It also tells me how many times a day I pick my phone up to look at it and how many times I receive a notification.  I say it’s a devastating app because I don’t want to be controlled by this little device I carry around, but I was stunned the first time I looked at the weekly activity report.  I really had no idea really how invasive the phone had become.  I receive almost 200 push notifications a day.  Think about that for a second; my phone is trying to interrupt me every 4 to 5 minutes every single hour 24 hours a day!  How is it even remotely possible to focus on a task or just be present with this constant appeal for my attention.


I am embarrassed to even share how much time I was spending each day on my phone.   I decided to do an experiment and delete one of the apps on my phone I felt was taking up too much of my attention relative to it’s importance. I started with my twitter app. I reasoned that I would remove the app for a month and see if what I missed (the news information and little bumps of dopamine social media gives us) by not having it exceeded what I gained in focus and time by removing it as a distraction.  I figured I could always reinstall it.  It’s been about three weeks since I made that change and I don’t think the twitter app is going back on for me.  In fact, I am now considering a few more apps to wipe from my home screen.


Yesterday my family went for a hike up a trail called Yonah Mountain about an hour or so from our house. It was a perfect day for a hike – sunny yet cool with the vibrant colors of Fall-time foliage serving as the backdrop.  About halfway up the mountain we passed three high school girls who had stopped and were sitting together on top of a large boulder.  They weren’t talking or taking in the scenery around them.  They were all lost to the world.  You could probably guess what they were doing . . . staring at their phones.


“Technology break?,” I asked them as we walked past.   Two of them didn’t even hear me.  The third looked up and said, “Oh we are live-streaming from Instagram – for our fans.”


This problem is well documented and their are plenty of memes like the ones below about how addicted we all our to our phones.  What’s interesting is how I seem to notice when others, like the teenagers who have stopped to live-stream during a hike, seem to be missing life because of their phones but then justify it when I do the same thing – like when I check out by opening up my ESPN app at the end of the night instead of going to bed on time. Or when I get distracted by an email in the middle of a conversation with my wife.  I thought I was the one in control of my phone, but then I got the data from Screen Time. It was a pretty devastating realization that maybe I wasn’t as in control as I thought.


Anybody else have plans to stare at their phones somewhere exciting this weekend?

Leave a Reply