Monday, May 24, 2021

Willpower in a box

     Children are a portal to the future. Or should be, in their capacity as members of the next generation you know very well and observe closely. I can't tell you how much I've learned from my boys. My oldest got me drinking Soylent when time is tight. My youngest first informed me that "oriental" is not a word that people use in conversation anymore. He's introduced me to music from the Black Keys to Lizzo. Just now he deposited a gift check using his cell phone. I knew that is possible, having seen him do it before. But I'm not ready for that yet.
     Another practice that the jury is out on is the phone safe. He bought a container to put his cell phone in while he studied law. When I first heard of the practice, I looked down on it, as people tend to do with unfamiliar technology. It seemed to betray a lack of willpower, a swapping of mechanical determination for human control. Somehow seeing the thing: it's a simple white container with a timing mechanism in the lid that sends two plastic tabs out, sealing it shut, made me begin to suspect it's the opposite: owning this is an expression of willpower, removing the temptation to take a break and surf the net by tucking away the source of temptation.
      The makers of the device say it's not only good for cell phones, but "cigarettes, keys, snacks and credit cards."
     Or TV remotes. I've developed a powerful affection for "The Sopranos," having avoided it when it first came out 20 years ago. I haven't yet shirked my writing duties to catch another episode or two. But I can imagine that day arriving.
     Still, I'd be loathe to supplement my will with an electronic hidey hole. 
     Maybe I'm coming to it from a recovery point of view. When I got sober, 15 years ago, I deliberately avoided living in a liquor-free house, at least after the first few months. I would explain to people that it won't work long term to base sobriety on not knowing how to find alcohol. Staying on the path because you never encounter temptation seemed a hollow, fragile, even false victory. So my fridge has always been full of beer and wine I don't drink. I kinda like having it there. It's worked so far...
      Another reason I'd never buy one of these timed safes is that they're quite expensive. The one I found on Amazon, called a "Kitchen Mini-Safe" cost $70. You can see it here.
      The "kitchen" part seems to speak for the device's role in dieting. You can eat two cookies now, then lock the rest away for a day, or two, or five. Which is effective, though extreme.
     I asked my lad about it, and he said that studies back up its effectiveness. Its value, he says, isn't just that it takes away the ability to look at the phone, but stops your thinking about doing so. "It's not about willpower," he said. "It's about concentration."
     So what do you think? Is this a prudent measure? Maybe I'll give his a try in the few weeks he's home.


  1. So when it stops working we can just blame technology.
    "I ate the whole box of cookies because my damn time safe malfunctioned."

  2. Don't succomb to this nonsense. You're stronger than that.

  3. My family finds it odd I leave my phone in the dinning room charging when I go to bed. I find it odd they bring theirs into a room where they will be sleeping

    I'm certainly a slave to my devices but I used to have to buy stamps, drive to a post box, drive to the bank, drive to chess club, carry around CDs buy disposable cameras, buy the newspaper to read the box scores, dial 411. Look in the yellow pages , wait til I was home to look something up in the dictionary or encyclopedia,check the answering machine, own a atlas. It goes on and on how much easier the device is. The hard part is putting it down. If a safe helps I'm all for it. Especially for young children. Self discipline is learned. Maybe saying your phone can teach that skill. Here's hoping cause the screen life culture is a bummer . I miss personal interaction. In person. With people.

  4. Well, it's not for me, but I'm certainly not in the demographic being sought by the creators.

    This is not a problem that I need to deal with. I choose to have a pretty "dumb" phone, which I use for almost none of the functions that FME refers to. I use it primarily for what people did in the prehistoric era -- having a way to contact people when I'm "mobile." And... shudder... texting, since that's the only way people care to communicate any more. Not enough to be much of a distraction, though.

  5. " I can resist anything except temptation." Oscar Wilde



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