Seven Days, A Smartphone, and 152 Taco Bell Tacos

My smartphone usage over a weeklong period
My smartphone usage over a weeklong period

Sixty minutes.

It sounds like a long time at first. You could cook a meal in that time, or read a few chapters of a book, or have a lengthy discussion about life with a friend. A lot can happen in that hour.

But if you’re like myself and so many others, you could also pick up your smartphone and watch those sixty minutes melt away. The endless scrolling, incessant notifications, and information “rabbitholes” totally engross us in our screens and make it so easy to spend far longer than sixty minutes every day looking into the digital abyss.

Guilty of this myself, I was quite eager to start tracking my smartphone usage and see where a majority of my screen time was spent. And as it turns out, an astounding 83% of my time was spent in just five apps: Chrome, Reddit, Messaging, Facebook, and Gmail. While it feels like my phone usage is far more varied than just five apps, I realize how “sticky” they must be in order for me to consistently use them day after day without getting bored.

But what surprised me most of all was seeing that final count of 19.5 hours spent on my phone for the week.

That’s almost an entire day.

I felt quite uneasy letting that sink in. So much of my life was passing me by as I scrolled through endless advertisements, mediocre memes, and yet another article about Trump. But what did I have to show for it? Almost a day of my life gone, without a single meal cooked, book read, or life conversation had. It just didn’t feel right. My return on investment was far too low, and it made me wonder what might be different if that time scrolling was spent working a minimum wage job instead?

What if I was paid for my screen time?

As it turns out, my life would be about $181.44 different. It’s not a huge sum of money, but it is enough for 152 Taco Bell tacos or a ticket and a half to Disney World. And considering how little I got out of my 19 hours of screen time, I think a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth would give me far more enjoyment.

Now all this is not to say I want to work an extra 19 hours a week, nor that I should give up my smartphone entirely, but it does put things in perspective and shows me how valuable my time is. Everyone, myself included, needs a break from the busyness of everyday life, and if that time off happens to be scrolling through Facebook, then so be it. There is nothing inherently wrong with our technology, but we just have to remain vigilant, and make sure we take into account the opportunity cost of every minute spent on our phones.

After all, life’s far too short to scroll mindlessly through it.