I’ve never really grown out of my capacity to become fixated on computer games.
I remember spending long hours in front of a friends Commodore 64 when I was 14, and now I’m 44 I find myself deleting Madden mobile from my iPad for the 3rd time this week.
It’s not just computer games. I find myself unable to watch just one episode of a television series on Netflix, mindlessly reading news that I don’t care about, or spending hours on end scanning through inane posts on Facebook or Twitter.
I don’t think that any of these things are necessarily wrong, it is just that the percentage of my life they consume is simply not what it should be, and so as a result my relationships, my health and my house don’t get the time or attention they need.
The reason I deleted Madden for the third time, was that I realized I have spend many more hours trying to win a Superbowl than talking to Leeanne. Unfortunately though, this is not the first time it has been like this.
I still remember the shock on Leeanne’s face when she stumbled into the dining room at 4 a.m. in our first year of marriage to discover me completely engrossed in “Sim-City”. She couldn’t understand how it was possible for someone to spend that much time playing a computer game.
When Leeanne started to call my computer “the other woman,” it occurred to me that perhaps there might be something not quite right. I deleted SimCity. Then I re-loaded it. Then I deleted it… You get the idea.
I don’t think I am alone in this. Apparently the average American spends over 3 hours a day on mobile devices for purposes other than making a call. In case you didn’t quickly do the maths in your head.. that’s more than one full waking day a week.
In addition to that disturbing news is the fact that on average, people my age spend 32 hours a week in front of the television. Twenty one plus thirty two is 53 hours!!
Why are we spending so much of our lives disconnected from the reality that surrounds us?
Is it possible that these hours might increase as technology becomes more and more engrossing?
I’m wondering whether our generation might be facing a profound question that no other generation has had to face in quite the same way… Are we in danger of losing our lives to distraction?
I’m wondering whether part of the reason escape is so attractive is that our modern world bombards us so many different pieces of information every moment of every day that we look for escape from that overload.
I wonder whether social media and computer games are simply another form of anaesthetic that help us cope with a world of questions we don’t have answers for?
I am not arguing that we need to get rid of computers or iPads. I do wonder though whether we are needing to face the truth that over the last 20 years the world has seismically changed.
I know that at least part of the answer for me is to both face and acknowledge the things in my life that remain unresolved. An author on self management that I value, David Allen, says:
“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
One of the great challenges that technology has brought us is that most of us have our attention on many, many more things than we would have had 40 years ago. This means that we need to develop new ways of managing life than our parents had, otherwise we will keep defaulting ways of avoiding life.
Another part of the answer is that I need to consciously build healthy rest into my life.
There is deep wisdom in the biblical idea of weekly Sabbath, and even the annual festivals that gave time away from the daily grind to get perspective.
I am so grateful to be working in a place where I get annual vacation. Today is the second day of a three week holiday, one week of which will be spent in the picturesque town of Canmore.
Already, as you can probably tell, just the simple act of stopping has given me the space to reflect on the patterns in my life that need attention. I am realizing that if I am not more intentional in resting, I will find myself escaping, and escaping doesn’t actually produce rest.
I don’t want 20% of the rest of my waking life to be spent avoiding reality.
How does it work for you?