Less Internet—But More of What?
Long-time contributor Crystal Ellefsen wrote this post a few years ago, but we think her beautiful advice is still relevant today—maybe even more so.
Apparently we’re all pretty distracted, heads bent over flashing rectangles, our brains turning to mush. Even those who are aiming at a simple life with discipline and determination are finding it challenging to shift away from the compulsive habit of checking their phone.
I’m not pointing fingers. I’m guilty too.
It seems like everywhere people are writing and talking about digital detoxing and the epidemic of distraction. There’s short videos communicating the importance of giving attention to the person physically in front of you. There’s research about the effect of screen time on children, families, and socialization habits.
Tsh and other contributors here have written lots of great pieces about this. I wrote about getting a watch so I could know the time without reaching for my phone.
It seems like we’re on some sort of bell curve of awareness about how the internet is changing our external and internal habits. We all have our own motivations, but most of us want to do something about it.
Changing Your Screen Habits
One thing I have thought a lot about in terms of habit changes is that often you can’t just remove a habit, you have to replace it. It can help to be intentional about what you are doing, not just what you’re not doing. (This really hit home when I did the Whole30, focusing on what food I was eating, not on what food was removed from my plate.)
So, if you’re already convinced of the value of shifting some of your compulsive internet habits and you want to stop mindless scrolling and limit the time you spend hunched over a screen… what should you replace it with?
I would like to suggest that you read poetry instead.
Why? Because really, you’re looking to replace a habit that is in the cracks and crevices of your day. Most of the time, this isn’t about replacing a 4 hour block of internet-ing with a dinner party. It’s about replacing 5 to 10 minute chunks when you’re standing in line, riding the bus home from work, or hanging out at the playground with your kids.
If you’ve been feeding yourself a steady diet of click-bait, words written intentionally to be savored and not skimmed may be challenging at first. But, I think it’s worth it.
If you’re interested in attempting to replace compulsive internet use with reading poetry, consider one of the contemporary poetry books below. In my very subjective, very biased opinion, I think these are poetry books that may appeal to The Art of Simple readers. They are not my absolute all-time favorite books of poetry ever, but I think these are quality, full of delights and worth the money to invest in a paper copy.
5 Poetry Books that could Replace Screen Time:
- Pleasure: Poems by Gary Young
- Entering the House of Awe by Susanna Childress
- Boy by Patrick Phillips
- The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe
- A Thousand Vessels by Tania Runyan
Instead of spending 5 minutes scanning Facebook and increasing anxiety and envy, consider opening a book and reading some beautiful words instead. Imagine ending the day in bed by reading a few pages of poetry instead of compulsively checking to see if anyone posted a new photo on Instagram since the last time you checked an hour ago.
I’m going to be intentionally carrying around a book of poetry in my purse during September, choosing poetry when I have a few minutes and want a little brain-break. I’m going to continue working on being more aware of my own unconscious reaching for the smart-phone.
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