Step Away: Getting Away from Technology through Trees

Sometimes, you just need to step away from technology.

Hi, I’m Tory and I’m a tech-o-holic.

Addiction is defined by Psychology today as “a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.”  And most of us have found that type of behavior with our technology. For instance, you pick up your phone to just check one message that just showed up, a notification that popped up on your screen, a Tweet or a Facebook message that peaks our interest.  We think “Oh, that’s OK, I’ll just check this one thing really quickly and then get back to whatever I was doing before.”

And that’s when it happens.  First, you check what you came for, and then maybe look at a little red notification dot and wonder what that is about, and then you find yourself clicking around on several different apps, or deep diving into another one.  What those apps are designed to do – especially social media apps – is give us a little reward of dopamine that makes us feel happy or spikes a little brain boost.

The problem is you can often find that when you are flipping around on your phone that, despite the little clock up in the corner of your phone, time will just simply fly by and you don’t realize that you have spent hours on your phone.

We have all seen the addiction in our classrooms, at the coffee shops, and sometimes even at our own dinner tables. The world is full of cell phones and technology.  But sometimes, we just need a break.

If you own an iPhone, Apple has recently tried to combat some of this addiction with their ScreenTime setting, where you can see how much time you spend on your phone and what you spend time doing.  You can also use this setting to limit the time you spend on certain apps, or even entire categories of apps such as Social Media. Once you meet your limit, the phone will block your access to those apps and websites that you are trying to avoid. Of course, if you know the passcode to get by that, it is often easy to bypass.  (I admit, giving myself more “time” when I don’t deserve it).

Forest app iconOne app that I have found particularly helpful, which brings joy to my little tree-hugger heart is called Forest, and it’s available in the AppStore or on Google Play.

Forest is an app where you plant a tree anywhere from ten to 120 minutes – and then you put down your phone.  If you move away from that app during any time that you have set that timer for, your tree will die! It forces you to step away from your phone and enjoy the life away from technology.  Through the app, you earn coins that help you buy other, cuter trees or, if you collect 2500 coins, you have earned a real tree that the app developers will donate through their partnership with Trees for the Future.

It might be a bit counter intuitive to use technology to avoid technology.  It is, after all, another app that we put on our phone and another thing that we click and swipe and press on.  However, I’ve used this app for a few months now. I set it in the morning for 30 minutes and I use that time to write. Knowing that I can’t pick up my phone to “quickly look up something” keeps me in the flow of writing, and has increased my productivity in writing, grading, lesson planning (and maybe catching up on Lucifer).  It is amazing to put down my phone and really just live life.

So, plant a tree and get things done… away from technology.  

 

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