Reducing phone time and going “analogue” with life

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post on smartphones by Cal Newport…..

Some time ago, my husband and I went out for dinner with another couple. I glanced sideways while we were waiting for our appetizer and saw five young women (friends?) together at the next table, but desperately apart. They had hunched themselves over their cellphones.

None of them was speaking with each other. Instead, they were fixated on their screens — tapping and swiping and avoiding any social interaction with the real live human beings sitting next to them. It was almost funny (except, of course, it was deeply sad.)

I’ve followed blogger Cal Newport for many years now and while I sometimes tire of his obses focus on decrying social media, I agree with his basic principle that we should be less digital and more real.

In a recent post, he suggests that instead of spending so much time on our phones, we should:

  • Join a local political group that meets regularly to organize on issues relevant to your local community, or serve as a volunteer on the election campaign of a local politician you know and like.
  • Join a social fitness group, like a running club, or local CrossFit box.
  • Become a museum or theater member and attend openings.
  • Go to at least one author talk per month at a local bookstore.
  • Create a book club, or poker group, or gaming club.
  • Join a committee at your church/temple/mosque.
  • Establish a weekly brunch or happy hour with your close friends.

Read the full post if his concept interests you.

I think the idea of spending more time on real life activities (and less time on digital ones) is especially important for writers. Writing is a creative task and to be able to do it we need social interaction with others. We also benefit from experiencing the fruits of others’ creative labours —  music, film, art or even food.

Writing isn’t created in a vacuum. And it’s certainly not created by scrolling through a Facebook feed.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Jan. 7/19.

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