Bored and Brilliant

I had to admit I had a problem…

As an avid listener to the Note to Self podcast, it was inevitable that the book, Bored and Brilliant would be on my reading list. I have never been one for video games but I have prided myself on the early adoption of social media and the speed with which I respond to emails, and to be honest, often stand in judgement of those who are not quite as speedy. I make it a rule to never delete or file an email until there is resolution and there is very little as satisfying to me as an empty inbox or no red dot notifications on my phone. But lately, all of that has changed.

My daughter, Rachel, introduced me to this game called 1010. It is simple and addictive. As I take the subway down to work I listen to my podcasts and play this game. Over and over and over again. I sometimes get a little motion sickness that I know would be alleviated if I just stopped playing but I don’t stop. I had the same high score from July until mid fall and I had promised myself that when I just beat my high score I would delete the app. But then I couldn’t. What was this hold these little squares had on me?

Well this hit home a few weeks ago. I had been carrying the book with me. I never leave home without a book (in addition to the hundreds of books I have on my phone) just in case I get held up somewhere, I will have something to read and I found myself carrying this particular book back and forth and not reading more than a page or two which was not like me at all. This game had started to interfere in my good reading habits, my learning and my general sense of well being. How could 100 little squares have this much impact on me?

Then, on a Saturday afternoon, I went to get my nails done with my daughter and ran into a friend — also an educator. She asked me what book I was reading. She couldn’t see the cover because I was leaning on it while playing the game on my phone. I looked at her ashamed and told her the title and gist of the book and admitted to her that I had to stop playing this game and I hoped this book might help me. The irony of this moment did not go unnoticed by either of us and she shared with me that she, too, had a game addiction on her phone as well.

So I put the phone down and picked the book up. I committed myself to the seven steps to “unlocking [my] most productive and creative self”. I stopped the game while in motion and picked up the book and others since. I stopped walking with my phone in my hand. I have put my phone in my bag while out with a friend or in a meeting. I did not have a problem with the photo free day but that step did help me to think differently about what we post, why we post it and the confidence that the moment happens even if I don’t put up a picture about it — a lesson many of us have to learn. I did not check my work email for a few days as I was on holidays and managed to answer them early today rather than during the week when I was with my family. I started doing more writing, reading and drawing again. Going back to work I will find quiet places — being in an open environment has it’s challenges for me and I have to find another space where I can concentrate and avoid interruptions.

You will notice the one step I did not take was to delete that app. I have limited my use of it but still, ridiculously, didn’t want to lose my high score because I was 3000 over what my husband, Jeff, had scored…until last night. He is now 2000 higher than me. Perhaps it is time to commit to that fourth challenge.

I remember years ago, when friends started getting Blackberrys, how odd it was that they were on their phones rather that responding to their children. My brother was the first person I knew with an iPhone and while in conversation with him, there was always an opportunity to check Google for the answer. I remember thinking how odd both of these behaviours were. Now, they are ubiquitous and although I would hope I don’t ignore people around me because of my phone, I know that this is not true. I have to work back to the attentive, empathic listener I was. I have to keep the phone locked away in my purse. I have to know that most things are not so urgent that they can’t wait and if I think something important is impending then I will either tell that person that I will be away from my phone for an hour or I will beg forgiveness from the person I am with depending on the severity of the issue.

Either way, reading this book has reminded me of things that I value much more than a 100 box grid.

  • being present with the people I care about
  • enjoying the moment
  • seeing the world around me rather than the screen on my phone
  • creating things like art and writing
  • learning, always learning

I urge anyone who has difficulty with the preoccupation with their phones (and any particular app on their phone) to read this book and listen to the podcasts that guide you through this process. It is well worth the time. Just think about how much time you spend on your addictive video game, social media site or anything else on your phone and you will have the time to do it!

Yes, I did it. I DELETED THAT APP! I only did it because Rach did it with me!

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