The Big Problem
My device for reading, my laptop for the yoga studio business, my desktop for writing and continuing education courses (produced and taken) and for the service that I am involved in, as well as my ever present phone for all of the above and more – all at hand all readily available, all part of the misery that become a compulsion.
I am screen dependent. Even when I watch TV I have a another device at hand in case there is something more compelling to pay attention to. I both causes me disappointment in myself and it is part of my efficiency. How can I stop? I know multitasking is not good for me, and I know that I am not really “multitasking” when I use one distraction to distract me from another distraction.
I have been down this path before and have fired myself from various services and platforms only to “reapply” and soon I am back to my old position with the “company”- checking in as if my life depended on it.
(Just now hopped over to a social platform to check in- austensibly to see if my item for sale has garnered any interest, but I didn’t stay there- I wandered around and checked my “likes”, followed up on a few friends and so on.) Just like that- my craving needed to be satisfied,proof that I am no longer able to do one thing at a time. I am disappointed in myself and the negative mind chatter ramps up.
As I write this I need to say that I have no magic bullet, no secret, no special wisdom to impart. I have only my personal experience and, in setting it out here in black and white, font to monitor, to see the depth and pervasiveness of this attachment.
What The Harms Are
Aside from the studies that show that gray matter atrophies with an excess of screen time (Lin & Zhou et al, 2012) and that our nervous system is negatively impacted from this exposure (Article in the Epidemiology of Mental Health June 2018) I continue to live that bifurcated life of a regular meditation and a steady yoga practice (to improve gray matter and health the nervous system) at the same time I rush to my chair to check in on social media or “look something up”. Evidently reversing the benefits of what I had just done.
This strange balance of half a healthy lifestyle with behaviors that conflict with those intentions remind of the period of time that I ate a macrobiotic diet, smoking hash and drinking like a fish. Hypocrisy, anyone? This memory alone frightens me about my current behavior.
As a person in recovery I am super sensitive to behaviors and activities that light up the pleasure seeking areas of my brain in a kick in the pants, compulsive way. I know the feeling of that kind of jazz. It isn’t the sensation of happiness as the result of a job well done, or a challenge met, a difficulty overcome. It is the straight juice- all sensation with little if no contribution of effort or commitment. It is just a type of high. Another meme, another silly video (“You Will DIE Laughing”) or a rabbit warren of information on topics I didn’t know I was interested in, all contributing to a flood of dopamine unrelated to effort or intention. New different, funny, serious, so much information about all the things I care about and all the things I fear.
This is not healthy. From Dr. Gaadi Lissak on “The Effects of Screen Time on Health” “”Screen novelty” affects dopamine, an important neurotransmitter influencing arousal, attention ability, and response to new stimuli. Dopamine is also considered a key element in the creation and maintenance of addiction.”
I can’t be completely off the internet, off of social medial, away from my computer as I need them for my work and for study. What I need is a plan for “harm mitigation”; a way to moderate and modify my behavior so I don’t run to my computer for distraction- whether it is a game of solitaire or a romp through social media. I need to find a way to do my writing and my research, my study and my presentations without losing time and self esteem.
There is lots of information about how screen time damages a developing brain. I have three thoughts on this. 1) OF COURSE IT DOES!!! 2) The damaging part holds true for adult brains as well; not the developmental part, but for brains healing from addiction – we may not get there if we include this counterproductive activity and 3) if we adults are modeling this compulsive behavior, how can the kids take our advice seriously?
So where am I distributing this written self analysis? On a flier taped to a light post at a pedestrian crossing? On a bulletin board in a lobby at a community center or house of worship? Tacked to the pegboard outside a grocery store or in a cafe? NOPE! Right here on the internet- created in front of a screen and put out there in a digital blog. Hypocrisy anyone?
Into The Solution
This is what I intend for this week, a day at a time, as I approach my eating and my “meddling” (pre recovery codependent behavior.) If I am going to the device and/or platform because I am bored, because I am lonely, because I am uncomfortable I will stop. I will put pen to paper and write down why I am going online, texting, or scrolling. Just taking that pause MAY divert me from the unconscious knee jerk “tap the spacebar to see what’s out there” reaction so seeing a device. It may help me define what I am feeling and redirect the solution. I will restrict my “check in” to 15 minutes in the am and 15 minutes in the pm for a general perusal. And, this may be the most difficult of all, I will only use one screen at a time. You may laugh, but try it. You may be surprised.
Wish me luck. I will check back in a week (March 3) and let you know how it went.
Kyczy Hawk is an author and yoga teacher in the San Jose area. She leads Y12SR classes Monday 7-9pm at the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center, “Resilience Yoga and The Art of Rest” at Willow Glen Yoga, and online (yes) at In the Rooms– an online meeting platform.