Bored and brilliant challenge 1: digital overload

You can find the introduction to the Bored and Brilliant experiment here.

The first challenge in the Bored and Brilliant experiment is simply to observe your phone usage and to think about what you want to get out of the challenge.

The brains behind the experiment, Manoush Zomorodi, suggests downloading the Moment app, which tracks how much time you spend on your phone. It tells you how much time you spend out your phone and how many time you pick it up during the day.

I think somewhere is a stat that says the average screen time across users of the app is 3 hours 10 minutes per day and the average number of pickups is 41. I was inclined to bet that I use my phone for more than three hours and pick it up a lot more than 41 times.

The first couple of days I used the app, it set itself to pause during the day for some reason so I’m missing several hours data for those days. Despite that, what it tells me is this:

  • Monday: Pickups: 7, Screen time: 3 hours 4 minutes, with about an hour and a half missing.
  • Tuesday: Pickups: 14, Screen time: 3 hours, 13 minutes, with three hours missing.
  • Wednesday: Pickups:14, Screen time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Thursday: Pickups: 15, Screen time: 5 hours 1 minute.
  • Friday: Pickups: 8, Screen time: 5 hours 58 minutes (to be fair, I was using Google Docs for an hour to take notes at a meeting. . . )

I’m not convinced of the accuracy of any of this. For example, it tells me I was on my phone for 141 minutes from 3pm to 6.20 pm on Friday, which is completely untrue because for part of that time I was watching a movie in another room. And on Wednesday, apparently I used my phone for 10 minutes while it was at home and I was at a yoga class. So it’s tracking something that’s working in the background that is contributing to this.

I’m also sure the pickup numbers are way too low but I’m not sure how it identifies an individual pickup. And it refuses to accept that my battery screenshots are for 10 days, not 24 hours, which it asks for, and so it won’t tell me my app usage. So I’m a bit frustrated with the app.

(I did give it one more chance to track my app usage and it came up with this, which I still don’t think is right . . . see my note above about Google Docs . . . and what’s with all those 16 minutes apps? That seems a little odd to me.)

20190330 Monemt screenshot_
I think we have a clear winner for the app I use the most 

I’m finding the battery setting in my phone’s settings is actually more helpful in terms of telling me how much I use my phone and which apps I use the most—or, more accurately, which ones use the most battery. This becomes relevant a bit later on in the experiment. This tells me over the last 10 days I had an average of 4 hours 27 minutes screen time.

Whatever I look at, it tells me I’m on my phone A LOT and makes me ask whether there’s scope to reduce this and do something else instead, which takes us to what I want to get out of doing this challenge. I think for starters I want to reduce the times I pick up the phone and mindlessly scroll through an app (mainly Instagram), both when I’m not doing anything, as well as for no reason when I’m doing something else. (Picking up your phone at random while you’re doing another task is mentioned in the book but I can’t find it now.) In the case of the former, I could be using that time to think or read or do a small task that I have on my to-do list that I never get around to doing because I don’t have enough time (ahem). In the latter, it’s a case of losing concentration on the task I’m supposed to be doing, so I want to strengthen my “focus muscle”.

I don’t necessarily want to reduce my phone use when I’m using it as a tool—I use it for my meal planning and shopping lists, for writing my journal, for editing photos and things that actually contribute to me doing things I want to do. I don’t want to cut back on that. But I often find when I’m doing those things I can often flick over to the apps that tend to be more time-sucking. I want to become more aware of that and cut down on that too.

So there we go, challenge 1 complete. Bring on challenge 2!

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