Goodbye Wild West

For the past couple of weeks, I have been posting about social media, smartphones, and deep work. Smartphones and social media are a massive distraction in our daily lives and prevent us from doing deep work. We are constantly checking our phones, apps, and notifications, almost the second we get them. At this point, I don’t want to be a slave to my phone anymore. This week I was determined to start to find a way to get away from my phone. I want to find more meaning with my time, but how do I get there?

Finding Meaning:

I want to spend more time doing the things I love. I want to get away from my phone and focus more on my family, friends, and hobbies. According to Cal Newport, three elements allow a person to create deep work. 

  • neurological
  • psychological
  • philosophical 

First, there is a neurological element of deep work (Newport, 2018). As humans, the things we pay attention too have a reflection upon ourselves. If we are focusing on the negative, then we become cynical (Newport, 2018). If we spend time on social media, then those trends become embedded in our lives. If we are focused on our distractions, then we will always be distracted. 

The second element, according to Newport, is psychological. If we eliminate distracts, then we are allowing our minds to flow with ideas (Newport, 2018). Have you ever been doing something, then looked at the clock and realize you have been it for hours? I do it while reading all the time. If we can use the neurological element and hardwire our brains to become undistracted, then we can achieve this flow state of mind (Newport, 2018). 

The last element, according to Newport, is the philosophy of depth. There needs to be a purpose for what we are doing. It is up to ourselves, to look deep and find the meaning of our work.

What’s the Problem?

I have now established that smartphones and social media can be very harmful. Even websites called Social Media Today, admit that social platforms can be dangerous. I think most of us can agree that these platforms have changed how we live as well. Jean Twenge points out in, Have Smart Phones Changed A Generation, that Gen Z is more likely to have depression and anxiety as a teen more than any other generation.

Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.

– Jean M. Twenge, “Have Smart Phones Changed A Generation”

The article states that social media plays a pivotal role in causing anxiety and depression due to the lack of body positivity and cyberbullying. With all this negativity, is the Internet even worth saving? Since we can’t go back to a world without smartphones, how do we cope? For me, my solution is to slowly stop using my phone when I am bored. 

Step Away From The Phone:

In order to start using my phone less, I need to get the right mindset. I also need to ID what my distractions. Since I have an iPhone, I went into my settings and looked at my Screen Time. Usually, I spend most of my time on Instagram, but I was shocked at what took its place.

Do you ever get those Instagram ads displaying a fun game? A couple of months ago, I got an advertisement for a game called Wild West: New Frontier. It is a farming game where the user can grow crops, raise farm animals, and build workshops. When I downloaded it, I was instantly addicted. I found myself playing it all the time. I’ve played while waiting for class, in line at the grocery store, and doing homework. I found out that I spend hours on this game every day, and I didn’t even notice. 

This week I decided to conduct a little experiment. I challenged myself to give up Wild West for five days, and track how the experience was going. With inspiration from Nick Feltron and Dear Data, I planned to visually display the data in a creative way . These two sources specialize in data visualization, and their work is stunning. Their projects inspired me, and I decided to create a project of my own.

The Process:

  • What: Track interactions with Wild West
  • When: 24 hours / Tuesday – Saturday 
  • Why: Experiment with phone usage
  • How: Tracking
    • thinking about the game
    • wanting to play the game
    • seeing a notification
    • opening my phone to play the game
    • opening the loading screen
    • Playing the game accidentally

To get as accurate as I could, I recorded each encounter and the time in which it occurred. I followed this pattern all week and recorded as much as I could. 

Wheat = Wanting to play
Thought Bubble = Thinking about playing
Milk = Playing the game
Pig = Opening my phone with the intention to play
Chicken = Loading screen displayed
Exclamation = Notification
Blue Line = AM / PM

Data Visualization:

Results:

It was interesting to note that my thoughts and feelings around the game rapidly declined over five days. For the first couple of days, I found myself thinking about the game, but the drive to go in was losing its momentum. I also noticed, that during a typical week, I don’t get notifications about playing, but when I stopped, I received notifications reminding me to collect my daily reward. 

Quick Notes For Each Day:

The first day I struggled to stay away. A couple of times, I found myself looking at the load screen and realizing that I was not supposed to play. I also unlocked my phone intending to play but stopped myself. 

The second morning, out of habit, I opened the game and started playing. After a few seconds, I quickly closed out and recorded the data. As the day progressed, I found myself thinking about the game, but not so much wanting to play. 

When day three rolled around, I found myself wanting to play when I woke up, but I didn’t touch the app. Then, later in the evening, I saw a notification tempting me to collect my daily reward. I recorded the data, and I realized that I didn’t feel a desire to play as I usually would. 

On the fourth day of my experiment, I barely even thought of Wild West. I received a notification later in the evening, but I didn’t feel the need to play. 

Day five went by fast. I didn’t think of the game until I received a notification later in the evening. I was home all day on Saturday, and I did not think about it until 10 pm. 

My Final Thoughts:

I was not surprised by my results. I had a feeling that I would lose interest in the game, but not over a couple of days. I noticed that mobile games are a fun pass time, but if you are filling your time with more productive tasks, then they are quickly forgotten. According to Screen Time in my iPhone settings, I had a 31% decrease in phone usage in the last seven days. As a result of less phone time, I was able to finish two books this week. 

These results offer hope for me to cut out social media in its entirety. Some day I would like to delete my personal accounts, but I am not ready to do that just yet. By the end of next year, I plan to give up all my personal social media. Overall, this experiment proves to myself that I can put down the phone and focus on activities that I enjoy. 

Two More Things:

Here is more info about Nick Feltron and his data visualization. The article is incredibly interesting.

Here is a video explaining Dear Data.

I do not own this video! All Rights go to the creators!
References:

Ali, S. N. (2012, August 8). Social Media – A Good Thing or a Bad Thing? Retrieved from https://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/social-media-good-thing-or-bad-thing

Derakhshan, H. (2019, September 12). The Web We Have to Save. Retrieved from https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426

Feltron.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://feltron.com/info.html#follow

Newport, Cal. (2018).  Chapter 3: Deep Work Is Meaningful. In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (pp. 83-106). New York, NY. Grand Central Publishing.

THE PROJECT. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dear-data.com/theproject

Twenge, J. M. (2018, March 19). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

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