I was sitting down last Tuesday night trying to write this article, laptop on my knees, watching “Gold Rush” on Discovery and dabbling with my phone checking Fb, Instagram and twitter not to mention the odd WhatsApp message, just in case I was missing out. I realised I was doing everything at once without really doing anything at all. I thought this was new low until I went for a run the next day. No work, no children and no housework for a couple of hours. I look forward to this. Between the aches and pains, and wiping the snot dripping from my nose I sort out my life, make plans and relive moments and conversations I’ve had. Running was the opportunity to be uninterrupted, nobody else’s thoughts or words invaded. It was an assured space away from a world where it’s become increasingly difficult to be unreachable. More than anything, however, running provided sanity. But on this day I shocked myself, I answered a Facebook message while out for a the run, while at the same time listening to a podcast and having a quick glimpse at a work email that had just arrived. The last defender of my digital freedom, my run, had finally fallen to the power of my iPhone. I have realised that I have become dependent on my pocket lifeline, it has started to dictate where I pay my attention.
Technology of all sorts has become deeply entrenched in our lives. We live in a world of comfort; modern technology has given, and continues to provide us with the amenities we need to live this comfortable life. We work with our fingertips and relax in front of screens. Even for athletes heart rate monitors, GPS watches, smartphones and headphones litter the health and fitness landscape. Runners tend to be obsessive. They are very particular about where and when they run, what they run in, and how they train – rarely deviating from routines. Runners measure almost all the possible variables: speed, heart rate, distance, averages. All these tools are incredibly valuable and provide powerful insights into training, performance and progress, previously only achievable in a lab. The fear of missing out is the driving force for the runner who are constantly posting, comparing, analysing and breaking down digits of all sorts
But my iPhone usage has progressed from simple messaging, calling and analysing runs to being the first thing I do when I wake up – reading the news, checking email, scrolling through social media. The constant compulsive checking of my iPhone had become invasive and my use of it excessive, the iPhone had stopped being fun. Its drained my attention span and I’m not alone, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 – around the time the mobile revolution began – to eight seconds in 2015. To put this in perspective, goldfish are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds! Watching the world go by while drinking a coffee is lost for some, they frantically scroll and click. The enjoyment of interacting with others face to face has been replaced by the Instagram comment, the facebook like and the retweet.
So it was time to change, or try to change. Time to follow Ryan Tubridys lead and try a digital ditch ….. a digital detox. I could have just deleted all my social media apps from my phone and only checked these only from a desktop or laptop computer. I could have “promised” to leave my phone in my pocket keeping it out of sight for meetings, during conversations and meals. But I decided not to take the chance and removed all temptation by opting to replace it with a retro Nokia 3310. In May 2017, Nokia relaunched the classic Nokia 3310 with a fresh, updated design that added a bit of hipster sheen to the original “dumb phone.” At €59, the new 3310 offers calling and text, a battery that lasts up to a month, and, of course, Snake. But it has everything I need and nothing I don’t. Maybe I will watch “gold rush” in peace, and reclaim my digital free running time.