Technology: Pushing it out of your life

Like most people in the world today, sometimes I waste too much time on social media and other websites. They are designed be addictive, after all, and rabbit holes are encouraged in the never-ending display of suggested content.

But when I focus on getting rid of that wasted time, I usually fail. I have created some better habits. On my phone, for example, I don’t have any social media apps. I’ve also removed email and my web browser. The only notifications I have are for texts and calls. I also unfollow people, try to have screen-free time, have a blocking program on my computer (FocusMe), and use one site ( to check on news.

All those things aren’t enough. I still waste time on my computer and phone–it’s not a personal weakness as much as simply a really difficult problem.

But here is the one thing that has worked the very best: crowding out wasted time with doing good things. When I have free time, technology sucks it up like a vacuum. But when I have lots to do, technology gets pushed out of my life in favor of better things.

This week was very busy. I had to work on painting my house to get ready for winter and I had two papers to write for my classes in school. It’s also Halloween and I worked to spend time with my kids. When I planned to do many good things, I didn’t have time to waste.

Good habits are better formed by crowding out the bad habits in favor of something better. Focusing on my negative technology use and trying to eliminate it is focusing on the wrong thing–I should instead look at what that technology is preventing me from doing, and work on increasing good works in my life.

I want to read books and write and play games with my family and learn new things and serve others. When I plan for that in my life, my technology habits take care of themselves.


(written a few months ago)

My five-year-old son had a meltdown today because I suggested he had to play outside before getting on the tablet. So I made a decision that we were going to take the week off of technology.

The tablet is set up for educational purposes. The kid wanted to do math. But I feel like there is something wrong when not doing math right away somehow causes meltdowns. He gets a thrill from working on the tablet. The kid loves screens. But I want him to see there is more to life.

Our schools can applaud the fact they use so much technology. It improves test scores. It can increase how much they learn. In some ways, it is good. I’m not against it, really.

But then I wonder: are we forgetting how to create? How to play? How to connect with others? Technology makes everything so easy so maybe we forget how to do hard things.

I’m reading a book about a little boy who goes and herds cattle when he is eight or nine years old. He knows how to work hard. My kids barely help me clean the house.

Sure, the kids might be smart from all the technology, but have we overvalued being smart and sacrificed other values, like hard work, compassion, creativity, self-control, and basic morality?

So we will have a break. I want my kids to be smart too, but technology should not be their priority.


I teach 16/17-year-olds in a class at church. One kid does not have a smartphone. I told him that means his parents love him. I mentioned how much I regulate my own phone: no browser, no games, just the things that actually help my life. Depriving yourself of some things can open up the world.


Update: We have done less technology lately and I like it. My kids watch television, but there is almost always a time limit every day for them and they don’t complain when it shuts off automatically. We listen to podcasts and audiobooks of car rides. My kids read actual physical books quite a lot. They sometimes ask to play on my computer, but I rarely let them. We do play Pokemon Go sometimes, but not too frequently. We have an Amazon Alexa Dot and my kids enjoy that, but there is no screen involved.

I am happier (and probably smarter) when I watch less YouTube videos, when I read less random articles on the internet, and when I am going outside and reading books more often.

I liked a quote I heard recently that technology should be a servant, not a master, and I completely agree. Also, there are lots of other things that fall into this category of being a better servant than a master, like money or fire or hobbies or careers or entertainment or homes or just about anything. Because what we really want our values to be are things like serving God, helping others, building families, and becoming better people, and when we prioritize other things, our life gets out of balance.

Happier Without Technology

The internet is a wonder. When I want a movie streamed on a computer, I have 24 frames per second being sent to me over thousands of miles almost instantaneously–and not over wires, but straight through the air in waves of information. I don’t understand how that works.

I can look up about any question whenever I want it answered–like what the standard frame rate is for movies. Which started a rabbit hole about why we have that particular frame rate, and I’ve learned a bit about the history of recording video, CGI and video games, high frame rate, and augmented reality.

I could go into a rabbit hole about the origin of the phrase rabbit hole, which I’m pretty sure is related to Alice in Wonderland, but I will resist. Her rabbit hole was a dream, actually–a fall straight into absurdity.

And that’s what the internet feels like. It feels absurd. It feels like disappearing cats that pop up in unexpected places. It feels like mixed up life that doesn’t sound quite right anymore.

I am pretty sure I would be happier without the internet. And without smart phones. And without computers, even.

The thing is, I don’t have to use them. I don’t have to turn on my computer or check my smart phone. I don’t have to have a Facebook account and I don’t have to follow people on Instagram. But I do.

What stops me from cutting the cord, from waking up from this dream of absurdity and actually living my life instead of falling into the rabbit hole?

Quite a few things: connecting with people, searching answers for simple questions, creating and sharing posts and videos, watching television shows, reading news, taking classes, shopping, listening to music, etc.

There are so many good things that technology can do.

I have invested in blocking software–blocking websites in the morning and limiting distracting websites to certain time limits and numbers of launches.

But on days when I feel tired and cranky, I still find myself wasting time, going around the limits I’ve made for myself and falling down the rabbit hole.

I don’t have an answer of how I can balance this in my life. It’s hard. Having too many options is hard.

Here is what I do right now:

  • I only check social media once a day.
  • I have a fifteen minute time limit on YouTube.
  • All websites are blocked until 11:00.
  • 10 or 20 minute limit on websites I commonly get distracted on.
  • I don’t have access to a web browser or a search engine on my phone.

But I feel like I’m falling down a slippery slope, one that I can’t seem to master. Good days, when I’m feeling happy and motivated, I do fine. But the days where I just don’t want to follow my rules. And I don’t.

I’ll keep working on it. I want some sort of conclusion, but I don’t have one.