Why I wear a watch

watchI haven’t worn a watch for, I don’t know, ten years? Fifteen? At some point I’d realized that I was surrounded by multifarious screens (computer, phone, microwave, oven, set-top box, etc.) with time displays that were far more accurate than any watch I’d ever own, and took the watch off for good.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve learned to live without. Well, sort of. When I’m not in front of a computer, I’ve learned to covertly sneak peaks at other people’s watches. Or at their screens. Or at my desk phone. Or at my desk clock(!). Or at my mobile phone. This last is the worst, because a) it’s far more intrusive and rude than just glancing at your watch (which is a little rude in and of itself), and b) it’s way too easy to be unexpectedly distracted. “What? I have two Twitter notifications? I need to moderate a WordPress comment? Someone sent me an SMS???”

It’s kind of depressing to realize that turning on my phone is more than enough of an invitation to start ignoring everyone around me. This became particularly apparent when I was playing with my children, checked the time, and got sucked into something irrelevant.

I could simply try to ignore the distractions, or turn off the notifications (which I’ve done for most of my apps), but it’s always easier to avoid than to defeat temptation. And so, I bought a watch. An analog watch. Not because it’s a status symbol (it wasn’t that expensive), not because it’s a luxury to switch from highly functional digital to aesthetically pleasing analog, but because there’s nothing else I can do with it once I’ve checked the time.

All of this begs the question: how much of what I do is intentional? If I eat junk food, is it because I wanted it, or because it happened to be at eye level? Was I actually hungry, or just bored? Did I mindlessly surf the web for an hour because I wanted to, or because I was in front of the computer, got distracted by something, and lost track of time?

Sometimes we’re manipulated. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. But each distraction we remove is a little sliver of our lives we get back.

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