April 29, 2018

We Rented The Night Sky

I’m not a lifestyle guru. You probably won’t see a post with a listicle on 11 ways to hack your sleep on this blog. I do, however, have a practice that I have used and want to share about managing bedtime. Specifically, how you manage devices when it’s time to go to sleep and how you disconnect.

I recently implemented a Disney Circle device, which allows you to manage wifi devices and usage profiles for each individual in your house. With the circle, I can manage how much internet time my kids get each day and can apply even more granularity to the usage of things like the major social networks. Fortunately, my kids haven’t gotten to the stage where they have a desire to use the social networks. I’ll enjoy that for as long as it can hold.

The Circle is not only for the benefit of my children, though. It also helps my wife and I to maintain more healthy internet habits. I spend too much of my life looking at a computer screen during the day in a building leased from Red Hat. I need to detach from the screen at some point during the course of evening. Or be forced to do so, if necessary. That is where the Circle comes in. I used to have my WiFi router set to turn off at 9pm, but that became problematic when I my wife and I were watching something on Netflix and it ran just a little bit longer than we expected. Enter the Circle, with its device or user-specific settings. I am now able to restrict only our mobile devices at 9pm (7:30 pm for the little guys) and I don’t have to worry about the Apple TV.

One thing I like about this method is that I don’t have to put away my device completely. I happily read articles that are saved to Pocket on my iPad, for instance. The difference, though, is I’m much more focused and intentional and there are bounds to my consumption. Once I’ve read the articles I’ve saved, that’s it. There are no opportunities to go down a hyperlinked rathole. I’m not going to find myself scrolling down an infinite list of Instagram picks that are curated by a machine to appeal to me. I won’t get engaged in some Twitter rant thread and go to bed angry.

At the risk of overstating the point, how you manage your internet access can have a major impact on your life and your relationships. With so much work having gone into making your device seem like the best way to spend your limited attention, most people need some kind of barrier to overuse. I recently talked to a friend who had been battling with his wife over his child’s YouTube usage. His wife made the point that they needed to rely on the child to curb his own internet usage. To expect an 11-year-old to have the necessary willpower to combat the tricks and techniques of the technology industry is too much. Adults have a hard enough time with technology withdrawal, and kids are especially vulnerable. Ultimately, it’s best to have some kind of system in place to prevent excessive internet exposure.

One thing to note is that the Circle is not a truly end-to-end solution for device management. It can only control internet access through wifi. So, if your kids (or you) are overindulging on games, and those games do not require a constant internet connection, you have to find another solution to keep that behavior in check.

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