A me­dia diet for the hol­i­days

The Taos News - - VECINOS - Tamra Tester­man Tamra Tester­man is a play­wright and free­lance writer based in Taos. Her web­site is tam­rat­ester­man.com.

Iput my­self on a me­dia diet last month af­ter get­ting a new iPhone XS Max.

The screen is an OLED, or or­ganic light-emit­ting diode. In other words, I be­gan my diet af­ter pur­chas­ing a vis­ual candy store, the best screen to date.

I’ve no­ticed over the years of own­ing a cell phone that as the abil­ity to con­nect us­ing so­cial me­dia plat­forms ex­pands, I’ve spent more time check­ing and recheck­ing the por­ta­ble rec­tan­gle. It wasn’t un­til I used an app to mon­i­tor my­self that I re­al­ized the min­utes were hours, and I couldn’t jus­tify or quan­tify the ben­e­fits in any mean­ing­ful way. I was spend­ing my time con­sum­ing empty vis­ual calo­ries in a waste­land of fleet­ing sat­is­fac­tion, and with a spu­ri­ous sense of fa­mil­iar­ity to­ward strangers and friends.

I be­gan the diet on a hope­ful Mon­day, pro­grammed my phone to limit my time with Face­book and In­sta­gram to one hour a day, and to limit all ac­tiv­ity on the phone from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Fair enough, I thought, time to read in the evening by the fire, like in the old days.

I was “out of time” be­fore 10 a.m. on day one. An an­noy­ing blank white lock­out screen pops up, and the pro­gram gives the op­tion to for­get the rule for 15 min­utes, or toss the rule and con­tinue all day. I

ex­tended in 15-minute in­cre­ments, ev­ery hour. When I glanced at my so­cial me­dia calo­rie count for the first week on a col­or­ful graph, it was not pretty. I later ap­plied lim­its on other recre­ational pro­grams, such as my photo devel­op­ment and movie apps VSCO, Film­struck, and Net­flix. The re­sults were less sen­sa­tional than Face­book and In­sta­gram re­port, but still a re­minder that my time on­line was ex­ten­sive.

It’s now been 10 weeks since I cre­ated the diet. Af­ter some tough lessons and philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings about the con­cept of time and why we are here, I‘ve be­come con­vinced that my dig­i­tal cof­fer is not a good thing when it dom­i­nates my wak­ing hours.

I’m not ready to trade my iPhone for a flip phone or rely on my physic pow­ers to com­mu­ni­cate, but I am stick­ing to my diet. I’m sleep­ing bet­ter, less ap­pre­hen­sive, and tend­ing to cre­ative work. The diet screen still pops up, but it is no longer an­tag­o­nis­tic and guilt in­duc­ing. I’ve dis­cov­ered time for read­ing a real book or talk­ing to a real friend.

I ad­vo­cate the diet for a few rea­sons: for starters one can rec­og­nize how of­ten they are us­ing so­cial me­dia. Then you can de­ter­mine, armed with that ob­ser­va­tion, if it is a valu­able use of time. Sim­i­lar apps are also avail­able across all plat­forms if you don’t like the pre-in­stalled ver­sion.

One such app is Free­dom. It al­lows one to cre­ate block­lists and sched­ule time away from the apps that may be most dis­tract­ing. The Free­dom app is de­signed for both iOS and Mac plat­forms, so one can cre­ate cus­tom block­lists for all por­ta­ble de­vices.

An­other is called Space; it helps set mind­ful goals of screen us­age. One com­pletes a ques­tion­naire about smart­phone habits when the app is in­stalled, then the app se­lects a user type that matches the an­swers, set­ting time use and screen un­lock goals. It will also send mes­sages as screen time in­creases and re­ward achieve­ment badges once daily goals are met.

Want a lit­tle peer pres­sure to quit? An­ti­So­cial pro­vides the usual screen block­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and will com­pare one‘s screen us­age data to other peo­ple in a gen­der and age group.

App De­tox is sim­i­lar to the pre-in­stalled app on the iPhone. It al­lows one to cre­ate time con­straints for spe­cific apps. It also in­cludes an op­tional fea­ture that re­quires the user to take a walk to earn screen time.

The most hard­core of the apps is built for An­droid. Off the Grid blocks a phone for any de­sired length of time. The penalty for us­ing the phone af­ter ac­ti­vat­ing the app is a $1 credit card charge. As with any diet, learn­ing about one’s habits and mov­ing to­wards goals, are all part of the jour­ney. Have fun.

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