In Your Words: Living With Digital Overload

November 10, 2023 | 6 min read

Do you feel impossibly distracted in the modern world?

“Just turn off Wi-Fi.”

“Put your phone down.”

“If you’re that easily distracted, you’re not a real writer.”

We constantly hear these comments from people who haven’t tried Freewrite. And when you’re a writer who’s struggling to put words on the page, those comments can be incredibly painful. But we’re here to tell you that: a) they're not true; and b) we know that because you're not alone.

We recently hosted a giveaway with the Light Phone, an awesome company just as obsessed with purposeful tech as we are. As part of the contest, participants were asked to share a moment of digital overload that affected their life. Do you know what we learned?

The problem is even worse than we thought.

Most people had trouble picking just one moment. And many were emotional when describing how overwhelming technology has affected their lives. As participant Phillip S. said:

“A moment suggests an isolated period of time with a set beginning and end — the internet does not encourage endings. Most video streaming sites will automatically begin another clip if the user does not intervene and stop the process, often even before the first video has reached the end of its runtime… The sun never sets in this realm.”

 

If you feel alone in your quest to simplify and use technology to support your life — rather than overpower it — we invite you to read a few of the responses below from fellow community members.

(Note: These are all real answers submitted to the giveaway, edited for clarity and length.)

 

 

On Missed Moments…

“I missed my daughter’s winning shot at her basketball game because I was too busy scrolling to be bothered to pay attention to her victory. NO MORE!” - Abrian S.

“I remember my daughter, at maybe two years old, stopping me from taking a picture. I think it was a banal, daily moment. She may have been eating a snack or reading a book, but I felt compelled to pull out my phone and snap a photo because, well, I did every day. Had I not had my smartphone, what would that moment have been? It would have been another pedestrian moment, but it would have been a moment my daughter knew I was there, all there.” - Jooun U.

“I was all-day death-scrolling and woke up one day with a grey beard. Literally.” - Joshua R.

 

On Remembering How To Be Bored…

“We live in times where the possibility of boredom is crushed beneath screens of information/distraction. When the internet was a place I would intentionally visit momentarily for answers to questions, it was an effective tool to assist curiosity. With the rise of social media, the world wide web has been rendered down to an entertainment digital slot machine where the price I pay is time.” - Carlo B.

“We must abhor this idea that we need to remain in a constant state of being entertained, and rather learn to be bored occasionally and present fully so we can experience these truly once in a lifetime moments that happen around us daily.” - Emily J.

  

On Mental & Physical Health…

“My most problematic relationship is with my phone.” - Harrison C.

“I’ve spent years stuffing my emotions, thoughts, and needs under wave after wave of novelty and instant gratification technology. I guess you could say I’m a true digital native. And I want to emigrate.” - Bryce U.

“I started to notice that there was a direct connection between my mental state and how prone I was to start scrolling on my phone mindlessly for a dopamine hit — the more anxious and stressed I was, the more I'd do it. And it would cycle the anxiety and stress upward instead of downward in a positive feedback loop.” - Havely C.

“From not being able to think clearly (brain fog) to shortened attention spans, I have come to the realisation that I need to take a break from normal screen use... After all, the definition of insanity is trying the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” - Jeremy

“It was 2016 and my cell phone broke. I decided to take the risk and go without a cellular device for some time. It was liberating. I wrote letters and sent them in the mail to keep in contact with loved ones. I experienced freedom. Rather than being a slave to a screen that always demanded my attention, I was free to be present in every situation, with who and what was right in front of me. My joy increased as anxiety decreased! I danced more. Laughed more. Lived every minute of the day to its fullest.” - Sara Z.

“My hand was achy from doing ‘the claw’ so often; holding my smart phone to look at news or check email, etc. Not only did it hurt, but I began to feel shame when I would do the claw, in spite of the pain. What had become of me?” - Chrissy W.

 

On Writing & Creativity…

“All I want is to be able to have a clear head so that the words and ideas can flow into something that is nourishing for me and the people I love most.” – Seth K.

“A specific typing device? Like watching my dad on the old IBM Selectric? He wrote books on it! He didn't watch videos on it! ... Return me to that time!” - John VP

“I've done a really concerted job over the last 5-6 years of becoming a digital minimalist — no social media anymore, unsubscribe from all the things, make my phone as dumb as possible — but not being able to separate my word processor from my web browser was my Achilles heel, no matter how hard I tried to make it otherwise.” - Julia W.

“It’s happened a million times: I felt an idea coming on, that low rumbling of something coming round the mountain, and in my excited urgency I ran to my phone to jot it down in my notes app — cut to a half hour later, I’m scrolling on something‚ I don’t know what, don’t care what‚ and the idea that had gripped me so urgently is lost forever to the wind.” - Sammie S.

“I was trying to write a story for class. My smartphone was synced to my laptop and I was getting an insane number of notifications. I ended up accidentally writing some lines from the messages into my story and didn’t realize it!” - Matt R.

“I am an independent hip-hop artist, and I would like to share some lyrics to a new song I've been writing called ‘Stuck’:

AYO WE STUCK - AYO WE STUCK
FACE STUCK UP IN OUR PHONES - EYES STUCK UP ON THE SCREEN
AYO WE STUCK - WHY ARE WE STUCK?
TRAPPED IN A NET WIT' PLENTY LIES IN THE STREAM”
- Douglas F.

 

On Touching Grass…

“…Drop the phone and go outside to dig my toes into some soft velvet chartreuse grass, only to turn around to pick up my phone to bring the camera along with me. I find wild mushrooms growing and snap a picture, at once remembering I have emails needing to be sent.” - Dalone L.

“Ding, buzz, click, scroll, click, click, rabbit hole, and not to any wonderland you'd want. Turn it off, take a breath, look around, you're alive!” – Eli A.

“It’s like trying to capture a photo of the full moon with a smartphone. Just enjoy the moment. Why burden yourself? Go Light.” - Noah M.

 

On Life Itself…

“[I was] almost hit by a car.” - Patrick S.

“…What I'm trying to say is I want my life back. It's just so hard to pull myself away from these distraction machines. I want that vigor for life outside of technology that I had when I was 18 and wanted to travel and live in every major city in the United States. I want to be that kid full of wonder about even the mundane. I want to write again. I want to read again. I want to be at home in the world again.” - Alexander A.

 

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You’re Not Alone

One last quote from the giveaway to take with you:

“It feels like Light Phone and Freewrite are two friends coming in to say, ‘Hey, we got you! You don't have to break that habit alone.’” - Adonis D.

Hi, friends. 👋 Here at Freewrite, we create distraction-free drafting tools for the modern writer. Light Phone is a phone designed to be used as little as possible. Let’s live a little more, and a little more slowly, together.

Shop Freewrite | Shop Light Phone

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