Do you frequently find yourself reaching for your cell phone, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Do you feel as if you are being hypnotized by thoughts from the images that your eyes are quickly sending to your brain– judgments, laughter, or avoidance.
How can we conquer mindless phone usage? Giving up social media cold turkey is not tuning into awareness or being mindful, that is simply avoidance. Mindfulness is simply paying attention, on purpose. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as, “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it”. Breaking down this quote, we see that paying attention may be easy, however backing it with a purpose comes difficulties. Being present within a moment can be done, but in a non-critical, self-loving way is problematic. As if your life depended on that moment, with no judgment, and a purpose is the most strategic part of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition. This fits perfectly into recognizing the usage of our cell phones.
Mindfulness and awareness are not necessarily the same thing. You can be aware that you are using your cell phone, however you may not be acting mindful with your scrolling. Simply being aware lacks purpose, what is the purpose of being on social media? Are you looking for something specifically or aimlessly scrolling due to boredom? Purpose within our mindfulness practice is what shapes our minds, and ultimately creates us and our practice. Finding and defining the purpose of your use, at that moment, will better anchor you.
Have you ever lost your phone and went into a mini panic attack? This increased heart rate and sweaty palms, is attachment. Being presently aware, in a mindful moment, with no avoidance or attachment IS mindfulness. Easier said than done. Buddha once said, “The root of suffering is attachment”. Suffering is an interpersonal emotion in which we instill within ourselves. The mind creates all types of thinking, emotions, and expressions. When mindlessly scrolling through our social media feeds, we may not only experience an array of emotions, but also attachment.
Next time you are drawn to your cell phone to rummage through the news, receive updates on friends, read articles, stay up to date on political discussion, or simply to find yourself in a wormhole of conversations; take one breath, and think. What is the reason you are reaching for your cell phone, right now, in this moment? Is it boredom, an outlet to escape the present moment, to collect information, or to make a connection? Figure out the purpose to which you are on your cell phone and relinquish any attachment you may have to the device. Find your breath first, and your purpose will follow. Like most addicting things the urge will arise, but nothing lasts forever.