Scrawling Versus Scrolling: Can Journaling Break a Mindless Phone Habit?

Welcome! I’m glad to see you here. Are you here for PSA? Yes, Phone-Scrollers Anonymous, that’s right. Take a seat, please. Don’t be shy. (That’s my department.)

Well, I suppose since I’m the one who’s organized this meeting, I’d better start:

Hello. My name is Marian, and I’m a mindless phone-scrolling-aholic. It’s been 34 days since my last early morning, sitting up in bed, sipping coffee in the dark, I-hate-that-this-is-how-I-start-my-day-but-I’m-seemingly-powerless-to-stop mindless phone-scrolling session.

Can you relate?

Here’s my tale: I wake at 5:15. I pour myself a cup of coffee. (Courtesy my husband, who is up at 4:45.) And then I sit up in bed, the room dark except for the glow of my small screen. And I begin to scroll.

I bop from blog to blog. I hop onto CBC and read the news. And then — maybe — pop over to The Guardian. I tell myself not to look at the comments section, but I rarely take my own advice. When that gets to be too much — when my chest is tight with the conflict I’m absorbing — I look through Facebook to see what my eight “friends” are up to. Instagram is next. I drool over knitted items I will never make, vegan dishes I’m too lazy to prepare, zero-waste sites that make me want to do more more more with less less less.

Two cups of coffee and 45 minutes later I put the phone down. I pull on work-out clothes and head down to the basement treadmill.

But I’m feeling icky:

  1. I’ve just wasted a whole lotta time (and daughters of Dutch mothers must not waste time!).
  2. I’ve bathed in a myriad of emotions: fear, envy, inadequacy, hopelessness, rage and disgust. To be fair to the Internet, there’s also been a laugh or two and a feeling of connectivity. But the residue of the negative is the thing that seems to stick.

Thoughts:

  1. This is a terrible way to start the day.
  2. How did this happen? How did I get here? What did my mornings look like before I had this damn phone? Did I used to just, you know, get up? Why don’t I have any willpower?
  3. Hmm. Addictions. Habits. Nature abhors a vacuum. Maybe I need something to replace the phone scrolling as I sit here in the dark and drink my coffee. Gum is to cigarettes what FILL IN THE BLANK is to phone scrolling…
  4. What’s that, Internet? NaNoWriMo?
  5. Yes, well, erm…
  6. How about NaNoWriMo-lite?
  7. Hmm. I already have a journal. It’s right here, in my bedside table.
  8. But it’s dark.
  9. *Actually?*
  10. /Turns on the light/

More thoughts (and some questions):

  1. Filling a page is a glorious accomplishment.
  2. Journaling can be anything you want it to be. It can be a to-do list or a to-blog list. It can be a poetry-under-construction site, an active volcanic eruption, or a flowers-and-sunshine tra-la-la walk in a meadow: look at all the things I have to be grateful for!
  3. There’s a lovely soothing tactile rhythm in keeping the pen flowing, even if the words are — literally — keep the pen flowing keep the pen flowing.
  4. In 34 days I’ve used three pens. They weren’t new to begin with, but this is ridiculous.
  5. Sometimes words come out and I have no idea where they came from. They fall out of the pen and I look at them and say WTF is that how I really feel?
  6. Words are evidence.
  7. Uncensored journaling requires one of two things: a) absolute security and trust in the knowledge that a double-underlined PRIVATE will be respected, or b) absolute fearlessness for any possible repercussions that may occur if that double-underlined PRIVATE is not respected.
  8. A cross-shredder would also work. Or a fire.
  9. There’s ritual in daily writing. I need more ritual in my life.
  10. Journaling is a cheap thrill. ANOTHER page done! Go me!
  11. Journaling is writing exercise.
  12. Thinking is not writing exercise. Some people I need to stop fooling myself that it is.
  13. Journaling penmanship can be different than regular penmanship. (Or is this just me?) My grocery list is an upright mix that falls between printing and cursive. My journaling cursive leans so far to the right it’s almost falling over. It’s as though the words are running a race and are leaning into the wind. Sometimes it’s so messy it’s indecipherable the next day.
  14. I’m curious: is anyone else a cursive chameleon? My cursive has changed over the years. In high school it was upright, rounded, painfully neat. In university it shrank: minuscule writing, crammed on the page, a shrinking violet, just like its creator.
  15. Is journaling in cursive a different experience than journaling on a keyboard? Is the physicality of filling a line, a page, a book necessary to the experience?
  16. If so, has the Ontario school curriculum robbed a generation of journaling?
  17. The Ontario school curriculum has — for sure — robbed a generation of a third-grade right-of-passage.
  18. A certain mean mother who shall not be named forced her youngest child to learn cursive after school.
  19. This was not actually torture, as the child claimed.
  20. Journaling is self-reflection. Contrary to what your mother told you, self-reflection is a good thing.
  21. Journaling is trying words on, taking them down from the shelf, pulling them over your head, turning from side to side. Do my thoughts look too FILL IN THE BLANK in this? Words can lie. Just sayin’.
  22. Journaling is a privileged activity. I’m sitting in a safe place. I’m drinking coffee that’s been shipped halfway around the world. It’s been trucked on asphalt roads to my fully-stocked grocery store. My husband made it without having to chop wood and build a fire. I didn’t have to walk hours to fetch the water. I have a pen and a book, both (likely) made in China, shipped and trucked using cheap fossil fuels. If these run out — the pens and the book, I mean — I can buy replacements.
  23. Journaling is the thing I could have done twenty years ago if I hadn’t done other things, like cross-stitching pictures I no longer own and watching Mad About You and Friends.
  24. If I hadn’t spent time watching Friends I wouldn’t be able to laugh with my coffee-bringing husband as he exits the bedroom dressed in running tights, demonstrating how he’ll try not to run like Phoebe.
  25. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. That’s technically true, but for all intents and purposes it’s actually a lie. (See Kate’s eloquent comment below.) So I’ll rephrase: We can all spend whatever truly free time we have in the manner of our choosing. Some of us don’t have the privilege of having any truly free time. Some of us have free time but don’t have the privilege of freedom to use it as we might want.
  26. I want my time on this earth to matter, even if it’s only in a way that matters to me or to the people I love.
  27. I no longer want to lose hours to mindless and useless activities. I want to be fully awake.
  28. It’s now Day 35: Yes, scrawling can beat scrolling.
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