Best Laid Plans

Ep #143: Heart to Heart Screen Time Thoughts

April 24, 2023

Here it is:

Case Studies

1) Rachel in Wales, who spent a month without a smartphone and was converted permanently:

2) Leslie, a self-described “mid/later-life” yogi who always has thoughtful perspectives on all things planning-adjacent

My Thoughts

my notes!

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Yesterday’s DITL, in brief:

7:30 up due to C running into our room. Realize I feel terrible with signs of strep (which had been going around someone’s class last week)

8:00 make urgent care appts; clean up; coffee; bfast; blog post

~10:00 urgent care extravaganza (we used Walgreens UHealth; it was pretty good actually in terms of quality + accessibility. I’m not sure what the bill will look like. Our pediatrician does not have weekend hours so this was only option). Various people (including me) had positive strep tests and multiple antibiotic scripts were filled and started.

11:50 lunch, clean up, etc

1:30 lie down, watch Bad Sisters x 2, fall asleep, read blogs. Kids played on devices. I have no idea what they did and Josh was at work all day.

5:15 realize I had better order dinner. Order + lie back down because I still feel bad. Kids remain on devices.

6:40 dinner arrives. Eat with kids + clean up. Supervise G’s bath.

good except for the cilantro which I thought was parsley and had to scrape off

7:45 read to G. Josh comes home. Lie with other kids. G refuses to go to sleep but Josh deals with it.

8:45 get in bed

9:15 sleep.

SCREEN MINUTES (phone only, obviously): 97 minutes. Top apps: Safari, messages, WhatsApp, Fitness, UberEats


  • Reply Connie C April 24, 2023 at 9:51 am

    Hope you all feel much better quickly!

  • Reply Candice Adelson April 24, 2023 at 10:18 am

    Sorry to hear you are sick! I am looking for TV recommendations (injured runner spending time on elliptical). I loved White Lotus and Big Little lies. Liked Sex Lives of College girls. Currently enjoying Inventing Anna. I watched pilot of GLOW and I am not sure if I want to continue. Thanks for any suggestions

    • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns April 24, 2023 at 10:36 am

      Check out Younger!! I loved that show. Good luck with your rehab! So tough to be sidelined. :(?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 24, 2023 at 10:37 am

      Bad sisters reminds me of white lotus. I also love Ted lasso!!

    • Reply Coree April 24, 2023 at 11:10 am

      I loved Three Pines and we started watching The Diplomat, which is ridiculous but also decently compelling. Kind of Madame Secretary with edge?

    • Reply Gwinne April 24, 2023 at 8:14 pm

      GLOW is excellent once it gets going!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns April 24, 2023 at 10:47 am

    I’m sorry to hear several of you have strep. I hope the meds kicked in fast and all are feeling better! When my 5yo had it in March, he got the penicillin shot since it’s extremely hard to get him to take oral meds. It is very painful but he was better in less than 24 hours!

    I have you to thank for inspiring me to go off social media in December 2021. I had given it up for lent several times but it was best to just cut it out completely. I really don’t miss it. I see fewer pics of friends kids but when I do connect with them, I get the whole picture of how life is going – not the highlight reel. I haven’t been tempted to replace social media with anything. Like I’ve never been on Reddit nor do I really understand what it is (clearly I am an elder millennial!). Before giving it up, I limited myself to 20 minutes/day between FB and IG so it’s not like I was using it a ton. But even using it for that much time had a net negative impact on my life.

  • Reply Lani Inlander April 24, 2023 at 10:50 am

    Ugh! So sorry about the strep! Can we also have more about kids and screen time? (When you are sick doesn’t count!) I seem to be the only one in my family who thinks there is an issue.

    • Reply Amy April 24, 2023 at 11:13 am

      Yes, I haven’t listened to the episode yet but am definitely interested in your thoughts! (I got off social media several years ago but still struggle with compulsive email checking and so on). I did notice the irony between this podcast episode topic and the fact that your kids were on iPads all afternoon. Of course, you were sick, so there were extenuating circumstances, but I would love to hear more about how you think about kids and screen time in conjunction to what you have come to think and feel about its effects on you personally.

  • Reply Jess April 24, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    I love this discussion! I had so many thoughts listening to this Ep that I pulled up my computer to comment as I listen.

    1. I would love to hear an interview with the listener who totally quit screens. So impressive!

    2. The category of watching:
    -I think many people have more issues with TV than you! I would put it in the “usually negative impact to the average person” category. The average amount of TV people watch in the US blows my mind, and I think that a lot of people go to the TV/Netflix habitually each evening & stay there for hours, rather than watching intentionally. I agree that watching limited amounts as a shared activity with loved ones is much better.
    -It’s interesting how TV-watching problems have changed over time due to streaming. People can still easily over-watch (the automatic next episode is terrible!), but at least people are less to likely mindlessly scroll channels and end up watching things they’re not even interested in.
    -YouTube isn’t social media to me, it’s “watching”. Maybe this is generational – I grew up with YouTube, had Netflix streaming since high school, and have never owned a TV as an adult. All of my watching is on the computer. I prefer watching YouTube rather than TV/movies – shorter, more educational, and easier to avoid getting sucked in. I go to specific creators’ pages to watch (kurzgesagt, CGP Grey, vlogbrothers, occasionally Tom Scott).
    -I don’t use TikTok, but unlike YouTube, it seems more like scrolling/social media than watching, since the content is so short and it shows up in a very social-media-ish feed.

    3. There’s an interesting app called BeReal, which aims to be a more authentic version of social media, and is popular with people around my age. It notifies you at a random point in the day, and you take a picture of whatever you’re up to (you can do it late if you are busy/don’t see the notification). I don’t use it, but my understanding is that you’re friends with people on it, so it is a cute/quick way to see and respond to little snapshots of your friends’ average days. My friends that use it like it a lot and seem to have a generally healthy non-scrolling/comparison-related use of the app.

    4. A couple issues that you didn’t discuss in this Ep:
    BLUE LIGHT!!! Sleep impacts/screen time before bed is my biggest screen time problem! It’s so easy to keep doing things (work or fun or mindless) on screens for too long, and have the blue light mess with your sleep. I am working on having a “screen time curfew” an hour before I get ready for bed, with the exception of non-blue-light e-book reading.
    NOTIFICATIONS! I pretty much keep everything silent except phone calls when I can, and I use my phone so much less because of that. I hate how hearing a notification pulls at your attention, even if you don’t check it, and makes you less present.

    • Reply Grateful Kae April 24, 2023 at 12:21 pm

      I have actually been thinking lately that about the TV thing. I don’t typically watch a “ton” of TV, but it is something my husband and I really enjoy doing together. I was actually thinking lately that I kind of wish I made a little MORE time to watch TV! There are just so many really great series and movies and documentaries etc out there these days! A lot of it is highly entertaining but also thought provoking and so well done or just really very enjoyable. I guess I don’t see this as a “bad” thing. I am a huge proponent of reading, and I realize books and TV are not the same at all, but if someone sat around reading fiction novels for 1-2 hours a day, that would be smiled upon, whereas I think people tend to frown on 1-2 hours of TV watching a day…though they are both made up creations by another person, telling a story. (I hope this makes sense- I realize reading makes the brain work differently and is probably “superior”, but I just feel like maybe sometimes we are too harsh on TV being “bad”? I don’t know!) I’ve also been really into some of the great docuseries out there- like there’s some amazing stuff on Nat Geo on Disney+ that I’ve watched with my son, about history and animals and nature, etc.

      I also can see value in some of the time I spend on social media! Lately I’ve been active in a few Facebook groups for travel planning, and I’ve been “giving back” advice to others asking questions about places we just were in Costa Rica. (Since I now have personal experience with these places.) This feels like, yes, maybe a “waste of time”, but on the other hand, I received a lot of benefit from those same groups when I was planning OUR trip! And I appreciated the people that took time to answer my questions. So, I like to give back now, and travel is a topic that I find interesting, anyway. Just an example and I guess a comment that it’s such a complex issue, because there can be good things, and bad things, about screen time.

      • Reply Jess April 24, 2023 at 2:39 pm

        I definitely didn’t mean to say that TV is always bad! I 100% agree with your comment about how people regard time spent reading vs. TV watching. It’s more that when I hear activities people regret getting sucked into & spending too much time, it’s often TV. Seems like this crowd doesn’t have that problem as much – which is the difference I found interesting to notice.

        After reading your comment, I looked up the most recent American Time Use Survey data, and people actually spend somewhat less time watching TV than I was thinking… but it’s still over half their total leisure time (including exercise/sports, socializing, and relaxing! among other things), and it’s more time than parents spend with their children (all categories added up including care and fun). That feels like a bummer to me, though I’m definitely biased because too much TV-watching puts me into a very “meh” mood, much like people have with social media, and I find it easier to log off of social media than to stop watching TV once I’ve started.

      • Reply SEC April 25, 2023 at 5:12 am

        I can tell you, as someone who does sit around and read novels for 1-2 hours a day, that most people do not smile upon it – almost universally, people reply with “I wish I had time to do that” as if I’m shirking my responsibilities.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 25, 2023 at 6:57 am

          Omg … id love to casually ask someone who says that if I can see their screen time app!

          • rachelinwales April 25, 2023 at 3:35 pm

            This was one of my worst/best party tricks once – I was starting my digital detox and asked people if I could check their screentime on their phones. Lots of people were at 6+ hours a day on average, and a surprising amount of Tik-Tok among the age 40+ crowd. I was really floored.

        • Reply Grateful Kae April 25, 2023 at 11:12 am

          Oh really!!! I guess I’m surprised, but I can see that, now that you say it. I do know if I did that, I can think of a certain someone in my extended family that would definitely claim I was “wasting time”. 😉

  • Reply Grateful Kae April 24, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Ok, back again bc I just went on a quick walk break and listened to the episode now. Re: Rachel going totally off smartphones, wow! I honestly think this would not be just an inconvenience for me, but literally impossible.

    I can’t tell you how many “urgent” notifications I get on my phone about stuff for the kids. For example, last weekend at a soccer tournament, we all got an instant message via the group chat Team App (Heja) that the championship game location had suddenly changed, and we urgently needed to drive 20 minutes away! If we hadn’t had the team app, we would never have known this and literally would have been sitting at the wrong field. (The ONLY team communications are via this app, and it was cold/rainy, so we were all sitting in our separate cars, all spread out, waiting, so word of mouth wasn’t really possible- everyone assumed everyone else saw the message in the app!)

    We also frequently get urgent updates via email/ Facebook that swim practice is either cancelled or pool location has changed. I can’t count the number of times the swim coach has sent an urgent last minute update via email about some major change for that day’s swim meet- many times when we are on the way to the meet already. Not to even mention the stuff you brought up, like mobile boarding passes (or the digital notifications that our gate changed FOUR times flying home from Costa Rica!), camera, being able to see where my kids are! (location sharing), and so much more.

    I still found her story so interesting, though! But I think this depends on your lifestyle and maybe how much of your local community uses apps/ digital communication for how feasible this would really be, without being highly disruptive to normal life.

    • Reply Rachel April 25, 2023 at 3:47 am

      Hi Kae! I definitely wonder if I have a different experience because of being in the UK and because my kids are quite young (2 and 4). There are parent whatsapp groups we aren’t involved in anymore, but I don’t think facebook groups caught on quite the same way over here (or maybe just in the area that I live) than they did in the states. And we’re not really in the big “doing stuff” years yet… so it might change when kids are older.

      I did recently fly without the smartphone and I had to print my boarding pass beforehand and check the flight screen when I got through security to see what gate my flight was from. I know I’m pretending a bit that it’s 1990 and I am totally aware that for many people this is much harder than just getting alerts on the phone, but I had a lot of trouble controlling my own phone use so for me it was way easier to never get alerts on a smart phone than to get alerts and then want to look at one more thing.

      Not using a smartphone certainly doesn’t make everything easier all the time, but at the moment the trade offs are OK for me and my current life stage. When I did my one month analogue trial it was surprising to me which things I really missed (driving without live traffic updates!), and which things I actually didn’t need as much as I thought.

      • Reply Grateful Kae April 25, 2023 at 11:14 am

        Totally makes sense!!! And it’s true (and something I tell my kids often 😅): guess what, the world all lived for centuries before this without smartphones!!! (I don’t know if they believe me though.) hahaha.

    • Reply Coree April 25, 2023 at 4:30 am

      Yep, same, I think it’s highly lifestyle dependent. I fly once a week, spend a lot of time on public transport and use that time to deal with email and listen to podcasts. When I go into a classroom and login to the computer, I get a code on my phone, I have to enter. We use Whatsapp for everything.

      I do find these radical experiments really inspiring and interesting though, if not for me.

  • Reply Sophie April 24, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    Great episode! Re Rachel going off smartphones, I was interested so read her blog a bit farther, and she said the family has an iPhone without a sim (kind of like an iPod which they don’t make anymore), for when they need google maps, a camera etc, which they take when they think they’ll need those features, So she can still use those features when needed, but it’s intentional. That makes a lot of sense to me (though she did acknowledge the irony of having a smartphone to back up her non smartphone).

    I’ve basically gone off Facebook and Instagram (though I still have accounts I should close), Twitter is the one I intermittently end up on for longer than I want. However, I “need” Twitter for work so for now it stays. Perhaps I delete it off my phone so I only use it on my work laptop, that may help.

  • Reply rachelinwales April 25, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this Episode Sarah! I’ve really been looking forward to it and it’s fascinating to hear your thoughts. I don’t think it came across as angry – I think if you have a passion for planning you naturally have a passion for helping people use their time well and in accordance with their values. And for most people, lots of screen time probably isn’t either of those things.

    Thank you for reading my submission and linking to my blog as well. I know my choice wouldn’t suit everyone, but I would love more people to try Analogue August and see what it’s like. We mostly all survived the 90s once so I think we should be able to do it again… I never expected to stay off the smartphone but it’s not as bad as I thought (Although I do sometimes miss live traffic, and I do have access to the connection-free iphone, so I am not a full 1990 luddite.)

    I’ve really appreciated all your thoughts on this topic.

  • Reply Pages Projects Plants April 26, 2023 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for this episode! I just listened to it this morning, and the timing was great. I’ve been spending SO much time scrolling Instagram, which doesn’t feel good at all but I’m terrible at self-regulating. And if I use a screentime app to give myself a limit of 5 minutes… Once I get going, I just keep upping the time to watch more. It’s ridiculous!

    So this morning, before I listened to the episode, I was thinking that for May I should try two challenges: (1) Absolutely no Instagram, and (2) no more phone in bed. Then I listened to the episode and am convinced that trying those two challenges is definitely the right move for me. Excited to see how it goes!

    One point I’m especially glad you made, and that I’ll be thinking about over the next few days: What am I going to replace Instagram with? Because I tried cutting it out last year, and I just spent more time cycling through email, blogs, news sites, etc., and don’t think it really reduced my overall screen time (and therefore didn’t really have the full effect of helping me feel less wired / unfocused). So now I know that I need to choose something else to grab instead: The Kindle, a book or magazine, or a craft project, instead of just mindlessly opening every other app.

    Thanks again!

    • Reply Allee April 26, 2023 at 12:01 pm

      I am the same way! I also tried to quit IG on my phone last month, but still ended up opening random apps when I was bored. I checked the weather so many times! It has helped this week to place any app I have the urge to check on “pause” where it is greyed out and requires me to click “unpause” to use. It at least makes me a little more mindful that I am using my phone to overcome boredom.

      I hope you are able to find other fun things to do!

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