Being and Time

Being on time is a sign of how much agency you have in your life.

Various flip-flop-wearing slobs could tell you that people who are authentically free don’t bother being exact about their appointments and commitments. They couldn’t be any further from the truth.

For my graduation, my grandfather gave me a golden watch. It wasn’t anything special in its own right, but I enjoyed it and wore it all the time. In part, because I could keep time and be on a time.

Until one day, when I was in college methinks, a friend of mine said something to the effect of: “Wearing a watch makes you a slave.” Not in those words or in a triggering way, but that was the general idea. And we didn’t discuss the reasoning behind those claims.

I could say that what he said made me think, but it didn’t. There wasn’t any thinking to do. It was immediately obvious to me that the overwhelming majority of the time when I was using the watch (i.e., checking the time on it), it was completely unnecessary and probably harmful.

I was checking the time because I had a watch, not the other way around.

You do the exact same thing with your dumbphone and its endless notifications.

I took the watch off that same day and never wore it again. Haven’t worn – or bought – a watch since.

By that time, mobile phones, although not the dumb kind, were everywhere already. You could easily get the time without a watch if you needed to. But I would have exiled the golden watch in a drawer, phones or no phones.

The difference not having a watch on my wrist made to my life experience was so immediate and so blatant that it never even occurred to me to revisit that decision. I could still be timely with my appointments without inflicting the constant interruption of what time it is. If anything, the “inconvenience” of not having a watch made me even more responsible about it.

The watch effect is nothing compared with the toxicity of the dumbphone in your pocket. Because you have given it a power over your life a watch could never have (unless you’re one of those people who obsess over trinkets). You have allowed your dumbphone to hijack your attention in a way a watch never could.

Just about every app on your dumbphone comes with automatic notifications ON. There’s a reason for that, and you know it already. So you get addicted. So you use what you have, not have what you use.

Please understand this, and understand it in the right way.

If you use things just because you have them, you’re the one being used.

There are no exceptions to this rule.

If you can’t switch your dumbphone off and put it in a drawer for 24 hours, you have a serious problem. I’m not joking or exaggerating for effect. I know people like that and you don’t want to be in their position. Don’t believe me.

So what can you do to improve your life and mental health right this moment?

Get a pen and paper, and your dumbphone, and write down all the apps with their notifications on. I’m urging you to write out the list because it will SHOCK you into action in a way thinking about it simply won’t. Make the monster tangible, take an honest look at your dumbphone Godzilla.

Next, highlight the notifications on the list which are absolutely necessary, and turn off the rest. Again, be honest with yourself about it.

It will change your life.

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