Screen time is money

This is not another "big social media corporates are monetising your attention" telling you how to limit your screen time. If anything, it's the opposite; I'm curious how one can spend more time looking at their screens.

A lot of people are limiting the time they spend looking at their phones by setting limits for themselves, so they can supposedly regain focus on what's important to them. That's all these screen time apps allow you to do, really: set limits for (groups) of apps.

Time and money are both limited

Last year I started budgeting with YNAB. It's a budgeting tool that comes with its own philophy in 4 rules. Rule #1 being the most important: give every dollar1 a job. It means that you need to assign a purpose to every bit of money that you currently have. They'll even tell you to be more specific in saving money, so that the end result is always the same: no money left unassigned (without a 'job').

With a finite amount of money to assign, you'll have to make choices on what's important to you. How very mindful. If I believe spending €50/week on Chicken McNuggets is important for me (I don't) my budget can give me the freedom to do so.

This is where budgeting money and budgeting time drift apart for me. A budget isn't a tool to impose limits on yourself, ideally it's a tool to redirect resources in order for you to gain more freedom on what's important to you. All screen-time applications do is impose limits. How can screen-time apps help you develop yourself?

The time-spent is a stupid metric

Suppose you used to spend 4 hours per day on your phone — measured using screen time, of course — in all sorts of apps you don't actually like. With the limits you set for yourself, you manage to bring that down to 2h. Good job!

Or, is it? Is spending 'less' time on your devices really the simple goal? It can be, of course, but I'm wondering how screen-time apps might help you 'spend' these hours more effectively:

How do these hours fit in what you think is important? How do they fit in the rest of your day? Do they help you sleep for longer, or relax more? How do these screen-time apps handle this? Can they encourage it? Should they?

Besides, there's a lot of things I can do on my devices that I think are interesting/important/good, "but" will count towards my screen-time. Why does watching a documentary count the same as watching a mindless series. Why is every minute 'spent' on your devices equal? The simple metric of time-spent is a stupid one.

End of thought, for now.


1 — YNAB is pretty US-centric in everything.