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Input Monster

This is a repost from when I first started blogging, but it’s something I am trying hard to work on again. I continually have to remind myself to just Put. Down. The. Phone.

Tonight Davy and I did a rare thing. We talked. Not about our kids or our new house or work or parenting strategies or worship leading. We talked about Davy’s video game, and he explained all about the amount of damage he can do. And then he told me about a TED talk he listened to. And then we talked about something very interesting. Hence, this post.

After hearing about the TED talk, I made some comment about it being nice to listen to something that challenges me to think outside my normal range. To think about a topic in a way that exercises my brain and gets that flow working. I used to love this about college. I loved working through abstract and complex concepts – it felt like my brain was growing. Like I was smart. There was such a sense of satisfaction to it that made me crave more. Not just learning, but chewing on what I learned, examining it, working my way through and around it, and then coming out the other side of it. I loved the process. There was something I didn’t have back then that, I think, may have enabled me to fully dig my brain into that process.

My smart phone.

You thought I was going to say kids, didn’t you?

Hear me out. Before I had my smartphone, I didn’t turn to technology every time i had a spare minute. I didn’t have a trusty place to zone out to that was within grabbing distance at all times. I didn’t have the pull to check on all my sites for new information or comments or likes. Before my smartphone, my brain had a chance to do a little independent processing.

Enter smartphone.

Now, as I’m waiting the three hours it takes my two year old to climb the stairs, I immediately reach for my phone to read that article I haven’t finished on how to entertain my toddler with tot trays. Or I’m heating up lunch for a minute in the microwave, and I think, “I’ll just check Facebook and see if anyone commented on micah’s latest quote I put up. And I’ll just scroll to see what my closest friends have posted.”
Or I finally have Norah asleep and have Micah set up for quiet hour, and I decide it’s a great time to find some more house ideas on pinterest. Or I am finally sitting next to Davy with no kids between us (never mind that he’s driving), and I’ll decide it’s time to respond to all my text messages.

Result: I have quickly and efficiently learned how to fill all of my precious moments with my phone. Let’s just briefly mention the amount of time my kids look to me and find my face buried in this screen. How many moments am I missing with them? Sadly, I don’t, and probably won’t, even know. Because they already passed me by. Let’s also just briefly mention how this must look to them and what they’re learning about social interaction, personal responsibility, priorities, and the ability to simply focus on one task: that technology is more interesting, takes priority, and trumps responsibility.

But that’s not the point I’m making tonight. The point is, actually, that I’m finding technology, for all it’s blessings, to disable my brain instead of enable it. It’s pull on my life short circuits my brain and robs me of the precious time i need to actually THINK. I think somewhere I picked up a false idea that I have to be productive to be worthwhile, and “multitasking” on my phone at least feels productive. But my brain needs more than the idle reading of useless, or even sometimes useful, information. I don’t need more and more and more input. This just leaves my brain fat and still hungry. I need my brain to exercise. To work out some of these ideas, to come up with new ideas, and to have the time to actually see an idea through from start to finish. Ironically, I need my brain to be left alone.

As we were talking, I was reminded of this instance not too long ago in the bank. I was waiting for the teller and resisting the urge to pull out my smart phone. I firmly told myself I would not check Facebook. Then I noticed something. The music in the bank was French. I started thinking about what differentiated French music from other music, and you know, I found quite a few reasons without even looking them up on google.

I have a theory that the level of input I receive from my phone is sedating my brain. It acts as a placebo, tricking my brain into thinking I’m still “learning” so much, like I did when I craved growth in college, but without actually giving me growth. It soothes the crave, but like a drug, leaves me empty.
I also have a theory that it contributes to my heightened level of distractedness. Maybe I’m teaching my brain to not be able to focus on one thing because every spare second I have, I’m turning to more and more and more input. I think by having something to “do” every time I have a minute to myself, my brain can’t stop long enough to process a single thing in its entirety. It’s jumping from input to input, thought to thought, and it learns never to spend longer than a few seconds or minutes on a single thought.

This bothers me. I want a strong mind, not a distracted one. I want a brain that holds up against the wave of information, not one that is tossed by it. I want to be an input processor, not just an insatiable input monster. And I don’t ever want the memory my kids have of me to be one of my nose against this dumb phone screen.

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