074 Fighting Phone Addiction II: Are You Also In Trouble?

Is Your Child The Only One Having Problem?

Last week’s article titled “073 Insights Gathered From Fighting Phone Addiction” garnered much interest. Many friends shared with me more stories.

A father A was concerned that his three-year-old son was becoming restless, irritable or even agitated when the phone was taken away. A mother B was dismayed that she had to resort to texting her teenage daughter who preferred to shut herself behind closed doors. Another mother C was upset that her phone-obsessed teenage boy hardly talked to her except when he needed extra money. A mother D pushed back her teenage son’s repeated pleas for hand phone amidst concerns over the peer pressure the boy had to face.

As a parent myself, I understood their worries for their children. But as I listened to them more, a big question emerged, “Is your child really the only person with a phone addiction problem at home?”

Source: WordPress Photo Library

Why Do Adults Frown At Children’s Phone Habits?

It was a tempting question that I fell short of asking.

From my observation, more often than not, children are not alone in having a phone problem. But I have yet to meet any adult who admits to being a phone addict. They would say, “I am a heavy phone user.”

Many adults easily rattle off a list of reasons to use phones frequently: for work, social network and to keep abreast of news. And who can blame them for wanting to spend a little time on online entertainment after a long day of work?

Source: WordPress Photo Library

Well, children use hand phones for exactly the same reasons: for school work, to be in contact with friends and to be in the know of what’s happening around them. And they, too, need breaks from the monotony of school routine.

So why do adults frown at children’s phone habits then?  The way I see it, we adults have a terrible habit of being too lenient to ourselves, and too hard on others.  

A Pot Calling The Kettle Black

I am speaking from personal reflection.

At the height of my complaints about the then twelve year old son, Conan’s excessive phone habits, the boy retorted, “Well, I am not complaining that you use phone a lot too.”

I defended quickly, “There is a difference…” before saying, “I know when to stop. But you do not.”

Seeing that Conan made no rebuttal, I went on, “Before you get started on anything, you must have an idea when to stop. Always begin with an end in mind. ”

It was a cliche that you might have heard a thousand times. The truth is people are easily carried away when they catch on to doing something.

Admittedly, there were sporadic periods of time that I became engrossed in all sorts of online entertainment such as latest dramas from a variety of sources. And there was also a prolonged period of time that I was messaging with friends so intensively that I was constantly on a lookout for new messages. Even for blogging, there were also times that I woke up in the middle of the night to do editing.

I was like a pot calling the kettle black. That probably explained why my early efforts to correct my son’s phone habits failed miserably.

Source: WordPress Photo Library

Where Had All My Time Gone To?

I should have noticed that my phone habits were spiralling out of control. The red flags were obvious when it began to disrupt the normal routine in my daily life. It was until I abruptly stopped all the time-consuming activities on the phone for several months that I finally resumed control.

We adults tend to underestimate the adverse effects of excessive phone usage on ourselves. If you have been feeling time-deprived, and think that you have so little time for work and personal life, I suggest you do a quick estimate of the hours you are spending on the phone.

In a recent survey by a global consultancy firm TNS, young Singapore adults aged 16-30, spends 3.4 hours a day on mobile devices. That amounts to spending a whopping 24 hours a week!  And those aged 46-65 are no better. They spend 2.3 hours a day on their phones, with an additional 1.5 hours of video watching online daily!

Do you now know where all our time has gone to?

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/tech/

Do Not Let Technology Consume You

More cause for alarm is how bad phone habits are hurting relationships between people.

A wife X derided her spouse as a useless father who only knows how to use his hand phone to babysit their toddler. A newly-wedded Y in her early thirties is dissatisfied with a husband who would rather spend long hours playing online games, than to cherish the evenings they have together. And a middle-age man Z stopped having conversations with his wife who is obsessed with watching Korean dramas.

Source: WordPress Photo Library

It’s an irony to see how people are becoming more disconnected with the proliferation of smart phone and social media apps that promise to connect people even more.

Technology promises progress, but it also comes with its downsides. Do not let technology consume you. Take charge of your life. Perhaps it’s time to heed a word of caution from Albert Einstein, the titan of modern science.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

-Albert Einstein

William W K Tan

(aka Uncle William)

31 August 2019, Saturday


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072 Counting Down The Remaining Days Of Our Lives

Our Days Are Numbered

I told a friend MM recently that my days were numbered.

“Probably no more than fifteen thousand day left,” I emphasised strong on the numeral.

MM was stumped for words.

I explained with a chuckle, “I am not dying. Just do your sums. It’s the same for everyone. Most of us do not live beyond 90, as much as I hope to live till 100.”

I continued, “My age has already passed the midway mark. Based on the simple calculation of 365 days a year, fifteen thousand days is probably as best as it can get. And it’s actually fewer if you count only the healthy years.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

“Life feels really short after hearing the way you put it.” lamented MM, “All the more we should treasure our health and cherish every living day.”

Thirty Reams of Papers

Fifteen thousand days is indeed shorter than most of us can imagine.

I captured a powerful image of its brevity when I was in office one day: thirty reams of photocopy papers. That’s it!

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/

With each ream containing five hundred papers, these thirty reams of papers exactly amounted to fifteen thousand pieces in total.

I thought to myself, “If one piece of paper represents a day, what I choose to write on each piece of paper is tantamount to how I decide to live each day.”

Every day counts only when you make deliberate decisions on how you wish to spend each day of your life.

Counting Down The Days Brings You Closer To Your Loved Ones

Counting down the remaining days of my life has certainly changed the way I spend time with my loved ones.

I decide to spend more time with my parents who are in their eighties. In addition to the fortnightly family gathering, I made it a point to have one-on-one conversation with them on every alternate Monday evenings.

I shared the reason with my thirteen year old son, Conan, “You have thirty thousand days more to go in life. Your dad here used up halved of that. And your grandparents are probably left with no more than three thousand. That realisation made me feel a pressing need to spend more time with them.”

A recent picture taken with my dad n mom at a family dinner on 3 Aug 2019.

Conan said, “I can understand why you are doing this. Time is running out faster than you think though. Even if you are visiting grandpa and grandma weekly, you have only one hundred and fifty times at best.”

I am heartened that Conan has taken to hearts these lessons of life. And I was surprised how a simple idea can trigger an action in me that made my parents happy. It probably also made me a better son, and perhaps, a better parent by example too.

Know What Matters To You Most

Out of curiosity, I wanted to find out how others would respond to the idea of counting down the remaining days of their lives. Interestingly, their responses were varied.

Some agreed that it also gave them an extra impetus to rethink and act on their life priorities quickly. Others rolled their eyes in disbelief at the silly idea and remarked nonchalantly, “Why worry about the inevitable? Life goes on all the same.”

A friend X made a most hilarious response. He said, “Imagine how many meals I would have left after counting the number of remaining days! I pledge myself to be a gourmand for the rest of my life!”

I laughed out aloud.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

Our response may all be different, but it certainly does not take a genius to figure out what matters to each of us most!

Taking a leaf out of the bible, know that your days are numbered and spend it with wisdom.

11 Aug 2019, Sunday

051 Let’s Not Allow A Joyous Occasion Turn Dreadful

Chinese New Year (CNY) is meant to be a joyous occasion for gathering of relatives and friends. But that is not always the case for everyone.

  • The Dreadful Questions

Some people dread the thought of meeting inquisitive relatives at CNY gatherings. Here are five annoying questions commonly asked:

  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you going to have a/another baby?
  • What job (title) are you holding now?
  • What are your children’s results in PSLE/O/A levels?
  • Which schools do your children go to?

These questions pry into people’s privacy. They cause discomfort to people who are not ready to share, and annoy those who have grown tired of being asked the same old thing all the time.

  • Skipping Town Is Not The Answer

I have friends who skip town to avoid CNY celebrations altogether. It seems like a prudent thing to do, but it may not be a happy outcome for those who are left behind.

On the eve of CNY, an elderly neighbour lamented to me, “The few of us (pointing to two other elderly women and a helper) just had a simple dinner at the coffeeshop. No preparation for CNY because the young people have all gone overseas for vacation.”

I felt a tinge of sadness. Staying away is not the answer.

  • Have You Lost Sight of Others?

Some people attribute such declining motivation to celebrate festive occasions to an erosion of traditional values in a fast-paced modern society. Perhaps so, but I see a much simpler reason: people may be losing sight of others around them.

I had also been asked questions when I was least ready to reply honestly. For example, I didn’t know how to answer a simple question about my job at a time when my career went into a tailspin. And when my elder son was first diagnosed with autism, I could not answer people’s questions about my son’s condition in a befuddled state of mind. But I never blamed people for asking me questions that put me in a spot. Those questions made me realise that I had become too caught up with myself, and lost sight of others.

  • Have Genuine Interest In Others

Quickly, I learnt to deflect inconvenient questions with a sense of humour. Just the other day, I was asked, “You like children so much. Why not go for another one?”

I replied, “We have only two COE (certificate of entitlement: a license for car ownership in Singapore) for childbirth. My wife challenged me to find someone else if I want another one. “

Jokes aside, I think having genuine interest in others is the key to keeping the CNY spirit alive. My 70-year-old aunt was talking about herself becoming more forgetful. Immediately, I seized the opportunity to share with her the colouring books my mom was working on to alleviate the problem. They started colouring together, much to the delight and amusement of the other family members who looked on. It was a happy moment: everyone was in smiles and laughter.

We had another round of laughter later that day with a teenager. Usually, teenagers are the people least interested in CNY gatherings. It is not uncommon to see them looking down at their mobile phone all the time. But that day, the conversation turned out great for a 16 year-old boy. How did I do it?

Simple. I raised a topic of great interest to young boys- “Do you want to know how to raise your chances of getting a girlfriend?”

The boy replied shyly, “I cannot imagine any girl will like a guy like me.”

I was startled by his response, and looked straight into his eyes,

“Look at your Uncle William. I am neither tall nor good-looking.”

Then turning to my wife, I said, “But you see, I have a pretty wife.” I laughed.

He looked convinced and laughed heartily.

Embarrassed, my wife said, “Alas! I had postage stamps pasted over my eyes!”

“Young man, you are tall, good-looking and you attend the No. 1 institution in this country. Have confidence in yourself!”

I added, “Anyway, I can assure you that there are many more girls with postage stamps pasted over their eyes 👀 at your age.”

More laughs.

William WK Tan

8 Feb 2019, Friday

011 What Happened Over Ten Weeks Of Blogging

Ten weeks has passed since I started blogging. Here are the results.

What these figures mean to me are:

1. Blogging checked!

Eleven posts published over a time span of 10 weeks! That means I managed to write consistently an article every week without fail. I guess, I can now tick off blogging on my bucket list.

2. A Great Start!

Together, the blog attracted 600 visitors and almost twice as many views over a period of 10 weeks. That translates to about 60 people reading the post weekly, and it seems that you like it enough to read it more than once.  This is surely an encouraging start for a beginner blogger!

  • Harvesting of friendship

You are among the first who I have invited to my blogging journey. I have no idea how long I can continue and how far it will take me. But I know that I am already enjoying this journey because of you.

Many of you are kind enough to message me your thoughts and feelings after reading my blog, which has become the part I enjoy most after publishing each post. Such exchange got us to know more about each other in barely 2 months than we did in years.

I believe the greatest gain I get out from blogging is the harvesting of friendship. Long-lost friendships are reignited, existing friendships are growing and new friendships are flourishing. In effect, it even bring joy to home, workplace and the neighbourhood.

  • At Home 

My 11-years-old son was pleasantly surprised that his Dad blogs. The first thing he said after reading my blog, however, was a word of caution, “Dad, you really have to be careful with your grammar and spelling.”

I laughed heartily as I knew he would say that. But the best part was the conversation that followed.

After reading my struggles with friendship in post 06: “Lessons on Friendship”, my son felt comfortable enough to share the problems he faced with making new friends and keeping old ones since he changed school almost 2 years ago. 

Like father like son, I thought. We cherish friends, but not adept at the art of friendship yet. Nonetheless, having a heart-to-heart conversation with my son really made my day. 

  • At Workplace 

When my colleagues read about my plight of being all alone in hospital for days (Post 06: Lessons on Friendship), the most laughable response was “I will surely visit you the next time you stay in a hospital!” 

The same post also generated other more thought-provoking responses. A friend shared how betrayals by friends in business had made him wary of friendship. Another friend told me she concluded that maintaining friendships are futile endeavours, which is why she is learning to enjoy being alone. I would never know all these struggles they have outside work if they have chosen not to share with me. Instantly, I felt their trust in me.

Although we share different views about dealing with the challenges about friendship, their candidness allowed us to foster mutual trust and develop a deeper appreciation of one another not merely as colleagues, but also as friends.

  • In The Neighbourhood

All this while, I enjoy a cordial relationship with my neighbours. We greet and smile whenever we meet. But we seldom make conversations, as everyone always seem to be in a hurry. Things went up a few notches since I shared my blog with a few friendly neighbours. Just a couple of days ago, we shared a cup of tea together!

After I posted on a homemade remedy (post 10 “Homemade Remedy: Tangerine Peel Brown Rice Tea”), I was delighted that a neighbour texted to ask if she could sample it. I was more than happy to share with her and another neighbour who we regularly meet in the gym.

My neighbour reciprocated by sharing her own concoction of homemade “Bentong” ginger tea (文冬姜茶) which happened to be one of my favourite teas. And through her, I got to know another neighbour who generously shared his testimony of an effective detox program that he had undergone in Thailand recently. These are small acts of kindness that got started when people start to know each other better. 

My neighbour and a new-found friend C told me his observation, “By opening yourself to others through your blog, you are also encouraging others to open to you. It takes a lot of efforts and courage to do so, but it is really good.” 

  • Using pockets of time 

Not to over-exaggerate my efforts, blogging is actually quite manageable. You might be wondering how much time I spent on writing each blog post. Well, it really depends on the topic, mostly between 1-3 days. I simply write as and when there are pockets of spare time and work towards a self-determined deadline to complete by Wednesday.

Mostly, I make use of the time when commuting to work on public transport. I also blog often at the airports and on flights when travelling overseas. So, the trade-off I made on blogging is lesser time spent on online entertainment, but the returns have been tremendous.

William W K Tan 

20 September 2017

Written in Mumbai, India.

Personal Notes:

Trapped in the hotel now because of heavy rain. Schools are closed and flights disrupted. Hopefully, get to return home on schedule tomorrow.

001 Living a life true to myself 忠于自己的人生 自分の本当に望む人生を過ごす

1. One of the top regrets of dying people, it seems, is to have lived a life others expected of them and not lead the life true to themselves.

2. 据说对将死之人,最大的遗憾之一,是为了顺应别人的期许而过了一辈子,错过忠于自己的人生。

3. 死にゆく人が人生で一番な後悔の一つは、他人の期待に応えようと生きて、自分の本当に望む人生を過ごさなかっただそうです。


Admittedly, I am guilty as charged for not leading a life completely true to myself. To be true to myself, I probably have to rethink and make tough decisions about work and relationships.

But again, a bigger question is whether I have thought through what I truly want from life with clarity.

Without an answer to this question, it is a folly to commit a mistake of thinking “I deserve better” when what I should really do is to cherish the people and work opportunities I perhaps undeservingly have now.

It is a worthy thought to live life to the fullest without regrets, but it must not be used as an excuse to make selfish choices in life.

29 July 2017, Sat

William W K Tan