Time well spent

30/01/2020 by Phil Shackleton

Our lives are now ruled by apps. On average, I accumulate nearly 8 hours a day screen time. Over half of my day is spent on a device! It’s frightening and whilst I try to resist, it is simply not a fair fight. Whenever I open Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube, I am quickly immersed in a world that knows more about me than me.

Attention capitalism

Everyone I speak to these days has a story about Facebook “listening in” to their conversations. They could be discussing something relatively obscure that they haven’t ever searched before and, hey presto, an advert for that exact thing pops up in their news feed. I have to admit that I’m not entirely convinced, the idea Facebook is actually doing this seems a little far-fetched – not to mention illegal. Personally, I have never really been too bothered about who has access to my data. If the ads are relevant, I see it as being useful in that they are doing me a favour and saving me time. But, whether or not Facebook is listening in, my digital profile simply knows (and remembers) a lot more about me than I do! Think about it. Everything I have ever clicked on, liked or watched online. They know me better than I know myself.

Apps are designed to be attention seeking and ‘frictionless’ and have become an ever increasing diversion in our lives. My son constantly reminds me I spend too much time on my phone. Before you say it, I’m not “that parent”. But it’s hard. Really hard. So much of my day-to-day life revolves around smartphones.

Equally, you can’t opt out: even if you boycott Facebook or undertake a digital detox, you are still living in a world where people around you might be radicalised by YouTube videos or choose not to vaccinate their children because of misinformation spread on Twitter.

Fundamentally, I believe this relationship with technology is having noticeable real-world effects and we need to do something about it.

The midlife crisis

Naturally I am going to have this opinion. I’m a 40 something Generation Xer that has grown up surrounded by technology. Yet many Generation Xers, who now range in age from about 40 to 55, are redefining the rules of the stereotypical midlife crisis. Forgot the sports car or time on the golf course. Now it’s more likely to be about staying healthy and general well-being. When I hit the milestone “40th” birthday I marked it by spending 7 nights in the mountains on a cycle training camp!

It’s obvious there is a growing awareness of how lifestyle influences health and many are trying to break away from these so called addictions.

I love the beginning of January. The year lies ahead, a giant, blank sheet of paper waiting for us to imprint our dreams and desires upon it. Of course, almost everyone I know is in the middle of trying something new right now. Yoga, couch to 5k, a digital detox or a new mindfulness app on their phone. It’s about reminding ourselves about what really matters each day and letting the other details fall into place. It’s about practicing how to spend our days in a way we’re proud of and in a way that we won’t regret.

Watching my own parents struggle with health has also pushed me to be more proactive with my own health. We are also seeing more research which has shown how diet and exercise can play a role in the prevention of diseases. I know for sure this has influenced me and turbocharged my desire to be the next Tour de France winner!

Digital download

For me, midlife is the age where I have become more aware that time is limited. I’m more focused on well-being and not necessarily worried about the big expensive things or having all the money. For my own “health and sanity” I have also minimised the time I spend on social media and taken steps to create “friction” in using my smartphone.

So where does wellness go from here? A slower pace certainly seems preferable to me. There is a growing desire to replace a quick-fix mentality by focusing on slowing down to build up long-term goals and allowing space to breathe.

I’m certainly not looking for Likes or Follows and to the three people that endorsed me recently on LinkedIn, I’m sorry but I won’t be endorsing you back. Bye for now, I’m having a “Digital Download”.