A Technology Consumption Resolution

My Discipline Problem

Even though I regularly write, think, and speak about faith and technology, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the lure of “technology addiction.”

Specifically, one area that I often struggle in properly disciplining is avoiding unnecessary email and social media checks when I’m home with my family. Sometimes when I pull out my phone “just to check the time,” I find myself wanting to check various apps and clear out unread items.

That’s not to say I’m always on my phone. Judging by other dads around me who are often glued to their glowing rectangles, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping my phone in my pocket. Yet, the battle seems tougher than it needs to be, and being a rather lazy soul, I wanted to find a way to make things easier on myself.

Old Tech to the Rescue

Swiss Watch

So for Christmas I asked for something simple: a watch.

When I have my phone in my pocket and I my mind wanders to something I could do on the phone, I have to make a choice not to pull it out. Or if I need to check the time, I have to make a choice not to do more.

But now that I have the watch, when I got home from work the first thing I do is put my phone on the kitchen counter (turning the ringer on so I can hear it). This way, I’m free to play with my kids and enjoy my family, but I can still keep up with the time if needed.

By putting the phone off to the side, it’s a little harder to get to, and therefore less of a “temptation.” Of course, there are time when I do need it, and it would be more convenient to have it readily available. But with a watch on my arm, I have the tool I need is readily available, and the temptation I don’t want is just far enough away to make it unworthy of pursuit.

Thresholds are Your Best Tool

This strategy is very similar to techniques often recommended for diet and exercise. If you want to avoid sweets, you can make it easier on yourself by removing them from your immediate area and thereby “raising the threshold” necessary to consume them. Driving to the gas station is much harder than walking to the fridge, so when temptation strikes, you’re more likely to conclude it’s too much trouble to get them and then the feeling will pass.

Similarly, you can lower a threshold to make a difficult task easier. If you want to exercise in the morning, it’ll be easier if you set out clothes and shoes the night before. When you wake up, there will be less resistance (and fewer excuses) and you’re more likely to do it.

With technology, if there’s something you want to avoid you can raise the threshold a bit, intentionally making it just a little harder to consume so that you’ll have to think twice about whether you really need to.

I’ll let you know how my little watch experiment goes.

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

7 thoughts on “A Technology Consumption Resolution”

  1. Would you believe that I recently did the exact same thing? I went and dug up an old watch, got the battery replaced, and started wearing it so I wouldn’t be so quick to pull out my phone.

    It worked brilliantly for about 2 weeks…

    1. Excellent.

      As for me, each time I miss a function on my phone, I add another device alongside the watch. My pockets now contain a small camera, a notepad, a pocket Bible, and some marbles.

  2. This is exactly why I still wear an analog watch–I can quickly check the time without having to engage my phone. I often feel like I’m being rude if I pull out my phone to check the time while I’m talking with someone, but perhaps that’s just a temporary cultural imbalance. I would love to research the adoption of pocket and wristwatches to see if cultural critics complained about rude people constantly checking their watches while in company. Has anyone looked into that already?

    1. Yes, it does seem that checking ones watch while another person is talking is often considered rude, a sign that the listener isn’t really listening, is growing impatient, bored, etc. But now, checking a watch is a lesser almost unnoticeable offense compared to checking a phone. If you find any old articles on watches, I’d love to see it.

  3. I am 39 years old and have noticed my personal habits change over the years as technology changes, but this has recently become much more apparent to my when my wife bought me an iPad. I thought to myself, “hey, this will be a neat way to occupy my downtime”. The problem is that over the past 2 weeks I have caught myself actually trying to increase my downtime so I could play with my iPad. Thank you for the wake up call! I need to set some thresholds.

    …and yes, I am submitting this from my iPad. :)

  4. Wow:
    A guy.
    A guy who lives in Texas.
    A guy who lives in Texas, and understands “The Interwebs”.
    A guy who lives in Texas, understands “The Interwebs”, who probably has friends that “get on the interwebs to check their spacebook”.
    A guy who lives in Texas, understands “The Interwebs”, who probably has friends that “get on the interwebs to check their spacebook”, and Loves Jesus!!!!!!

    Can we get coffee sometime? HA!

    1. Hey there are more than a couple of people who live in Texas and love Jesus. :)
      @John – I’m glad the watch thing works for you. I just never could deal with having something on my wrist – even as a teenager in the early 90s when they were cool. I use a watch when I run, but that one stinks and I’d never wear it any other time. We have another low-tech solution at my house. We have an analog clock on the wall in our main room. Seriously, that’s how we keep up with time at my house. My wife and I made a pact when our kids came along to drop the phones in a designated place when we come home.

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