For an assignment for my Writing, Research and Technology Class, I was asked to track my phone usage for 48 hours. Each time I picked up my phone, I had to write down the activity I was doing, how long it lasted, and what (if anything) I interrupted to check on my phone.
I started my assignment at 6:00 PM on Monday, February 23rd, and ended it at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, February 25th.
During the course of this assignment, I picked up my phone 56 individual times.
Phone calls: 2 times (social) (1 minute)
Text messages: 15 times (social/textual) (2 minutes)
Facebook: 5 times (social/textual) (10 minutes)
Google Survey: 1 time (social) (2 minutes)
Spotify: 5 times (social) (4 hours)
Other social websites: 3 times (social) (15 minutes)
Google Sheets: 1 time (textual) (2 minutes)
Google Docs: 2 times (textual) (10 minutes)
Email: 2 times (textual/social) (5 minutes)
Browsing the Internet: 3 times (social/textual) (10 minutes)
Tweeting: 10 times (textual/social) (4 minutes)
Playing games: 3 times (social) (30 minutes
Miscellaneous social activities: 4 times (social) (10 minutes)
Total time spent on phone: 5 hours, 41 minutes.
It wasn’t all that difficult to take note of each activity… except when I was walking around. Unfortunately, most of my periods of heavy phone usage occur when I’m walking somewhere. In these instances, I had to make sure I only checked my phone when I could get to a flat surface to write on, or to make mental notes to write the information down the minute I got to one. The little Field Notes book was easy to carry it around as I walked, and I was able to write down all the phone activity that took place.
I feel as if this activity connects to technological determinism because, well, tracking technology on paper is sometimes horrifically inconvenient. While I was conducting the assignment, I often wondered if it would be easier and more efficient for me to keep the log in a Google Sheets document instead. I definitely think technological determinism is a spot-on perspective; the more new writing technologies come my way, the less I like writing by hand.
I decided to lessen my phone usage during the 48-hour period. The main reason for doing this was so I didn’t have to write down a note every five seconds. Fortunately, since I don’t get a lot of texts and have other methods of communicating with my friends (mainly from my Chromebook), no big problems occurred. I wasn’t acting against societal pressure to use technology so much as plain ignoring society’s pressures by doing things on my own terms. I’m not into text-based communication due to its awkwardness and lack of direct emotional expression, so it wasn’t very hard to do.
Considering how I still logged a considerable amount of time spent on my phone, though, what does it say about my phone usage during a normal week? In a 48-hour period of more typical phone usage, I suspect the numbers would double.
I wasn’t all that surprised to find that other apps took up the rest of my time, since I don’t text much. Most of my phone usage was when listening to music on Spotify… which totaled up to 4 hours of my total time because I spent all of my time scrolling around on the app. I also spent a lot more time on phone games than I thought I would; though it only totaled about 30 minutes, that’s twice as much as I expected. This tells me that I’m more interested in music and interactive media than participatory culture.
In her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym says that “People, technologies, and institutions all have power to influence the development and subsequent use of technology.” (p. 47) I agree wholeheartedly with this assumption, and believe that our society has fully changed the way we do things, and has created a boatload of technological advancements. But that doesn’t mean I feel the need to O.D. on them just because others around me do.
I love my phone, and I feel it plays a vital role in my life, but I wouldn’t say it’s been fully domesticated into my life yet. It’s an incredibly convenient tool in many ways, but not something I can’t live without. It does, however, offer me things that a lot of other devices cannot: considerable portability, relatively quick ability to interact with others, and a lot of interesting other bits of interactivity. The way that my phone use changed reflects my fight against the current technology overload in the world: I don’t particularly care about what the “societal norms” regarding technology usage are. I do either what I have to do or want to do when it comes to my technology usage.
I’m not sure I’m as digitally literate as I thought I was before this project. I know how to navigate the spaces I enjoy, but not so much how to branch out beyond them. Interacting on social networking beyond close friends sites like Facebook is still a profoundly bizarre experience; self-promotion and “selfies” are things I try to avoid like the plague. It’s jarring to see others around me who are so accustomed to using technology already and how the world changes to make us even more tech-friendly–this is part of the social shaping phenomenon where tech and users feed each other’s changes–but I’m slowly coming around to changing as well.