Our phones are cool. At times I try to de-attach and acknowledge the fact that tiny pocket-computer resting on the side of my hip contains just about all the knowledge of humanity kindly stored in different servers, flowing through those massive cables at the bottom of the sea. I’m still using my phone for time wasting, neuron-frying activities. Why is this happening? Why do I prefer to burn a ton of brain power in double-taps, story replies or meme retweets rather than go out for a walk with my spouse, make a healthy meal, read a book or meditate?
Well, it’s because most of us got hooked. We feed our brains with dopamine through those likes, followers and retweets. We stuff them with bite-size chunks of the hormone of happiness, slowly converting our brains into lazy, overweight instant-gratification seeking slobs.
This Easter I got sick of that. I got frustrated that I’m wasting my life staring at a screen, consuming the lives of others. I looked at my grandma and grandpa, staring in the blank space, silently hoping that we, as grandparents would engage in a chat with them rather than our phones or laptops. I decided to spend less time on my smart brick. I turned off my notifications, turned my display colour to grey and decided to engage with it mindfully. I had to dedicate some function to this engagement — so I planned to use it for meditation, replying to work-related messages, calls with friends and family and to plant real trees through the Forest app. Oh, and probably continue my Dutch practice.
The first day was easy — I had this rush of motivation. I focused on my meditation practice, read almost a whole book and used my phone only to listen to some music. The second day felt more challenging, thankfully though my read was good so that kept me away from burning calories in apps.
On the third day, something interesting happened. The fear of missing out slowly crept into my brain. I was opening and closing my messaging apps, probably unconsciously hoping for social engagement from one of my buds. Why was I seeking attention? I was surrounded by people I like. Why wasn’t I talking to them? Instead of that, we were scrolling together, consuming a satisfying amount of pointless information, slowly pouring our grey matter with gibberish.
I went through my Instagram messages — on both of my accounts, telling myself that my sister, for example, might have shared something cool. And then the wolf trap snapped.
I caught myself mindlessly scrolling through the grey photos (my display filter was still on) of the people I followed. I took a breath. I closed my eyes. The spark of disappointment was arising. I took another breath and let go. I closed the app, put my phone in my pocket, got up and sat on the terrace which was embraced by the warm spring.
The weather was beautiful — the sun rays felt warm on the skin, the air was so fresh that if you paid attention, you’d feel that it tingles your nostrils. Birds were chirping, and the breeze was swaying the trees, forming a calm waltz-like dance. I felt this arising feeling of gratitude that I’m there. In the moment. Living. Experiencing. I felt like I was in the moment, that even though I was sitting, I was present of that.
Moreover, that feeling stayed for a while. I felt the smell of the Easter bread. I heard the beautiful voice of my spouse. It felt like bliss.
So this is the reason why I’m aiming to take my time back. Through mindful living. Through delayed gratification. Through being honest with myself and my brain. So I know that dopamine is tasty and I’m present in my urge to get my next microdose. However, I aim to control myself because the bliss of being in the moment is incomparable with the simple double tap. Also, when I’m spending 20 minutes of my life watching other peoples Instagram stories, consuming their lives through this weird social app prism, I might be wasting mine. Aiming for mindfulness in all aspects of life helps me value small things like sounds of the birds chirping, or the voice of a loved one more than all the millions of pixels I feed myself with daily.
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