Gaaahhhhh. Enough, enough, ENOUGH! I am so fed up of myself. So fed up of wasting my time on my phone, caught within a cycle of social media platforms. So fed up of not being productive and frustratingly reading yet another click bait article about how some celebrities look older than -shock horror- they did when they were 30 years younger (who knew people looked older as they got older). I’m also fed up of the neck ache that seems to accompany me most days and I hold my mobile phone use fully responsible for this. I am also becoming painfully aware that I am some kind of role model to my daughter (god help her) and seeing me hunched over my phone most of the time, is not…cool. So I read the wonderful and fascinating Irresistible by Adam Atler (my review of it can be found here). It gives a very insightful look into why us humans get addicted in general and why we are becoming addicted to our phones and the internet. Whilst this book was great and equally terrifying, it still wasn’t enough to stop me from picking up my phone every 5 seconds to check if anyone has “liked” a recent photo that I’ve uploaded or to complete a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Parks & Recreation character I am (Donna obvs). I needed to be nannied and told exactly how I can break free from my habitual and unnecessary use of my phone.
And along came How To Break Up With Your Phone. Not only did this very simply and succinctly reiterate everything that I learnt in Adam Atler’s book, but the majority of the book is a step by step daily guide of how to -well- break up with my phone. The plan stretches over 4 weeks and at the end of it one will no longer be addicted to one’s phone. Hooray! I love this book as Catherine doesn’t believe in just going cold turkey. She believes you need to understand firstly, why you’re reaching for your phone so often. She also feels that not using your phone at all, ever again just isn’t realistic. There’s nothing wrong with going on social media or indeed doing the odd Buzzfeed quiz, it’s when your phone use is addictive that it becomes problematic. It’s not the phones nor social media that are the issue, it’s how much and how often you use them that is. The scariest part of this book is how our phone use is changing how our brains work and shortening our concentration span. This in turn is changing society as a whole and making us much less empathetic. This is not good. So, for the next 4 weeks, I will be doing the How To Break Up With Your Phone programme and detailing how I get on with the daily tasks. Here is how I got on with the first week.
[By the way, this week’s post is a bit wordy, but I think the following weeks’ posts will be less so. Also, I’ve been completely honest with myself in my answers as I won’t get anywhere if I don’t look at thing truthfully.]
Week One- Technology Triage
Day 1- download a tracking app
So, my first day is fairly easy. I just had to download an app that monitors how much you use your phone every day and how many times you pick it up. I used the Moments app. I had to write down what I predicted these numbers would be. I predicted that I used my phone for 2hrs every day and picked it up around 30 times a day. I have a feeling though these predictions might be waaaaaaay out. Time will tell.
Day 2- Asses your current relationship
Today I just had to answer four questions.
- What do you love about your phone? I love it! I hate it! I love it! I hate it! Ok, so I love the convenience of it. I love being able to research things quickly and buy things swiftly. I love how easy it makes keeping in contact with friends (though I also worry that social media and phones make me less sociable. We don’t keep in contact with friends in the same way as before. We don’t call people up to see how they are as we know or rather think we know how they are via their social media).
- What don’t you love about your phone? I hate how it is a gigantic rabbit hole. I pick up my phone to do something quickly and than BAM two hours later I’m still faffing about doing nothing in particular. It is the biggest waste of time and stops me from being productive. I also hate how my phone use sometimes results in me ignoring people rather engaging. There is also the added pressure I feel from my phone to reply to emails/texts/messages/comments. It sometimes feels never-ending and not because I’m so wonderfully popular, but because phones and social media have been designed this way. Then there’s the RSI…
- What changes do you notice in yourself -positive or negative- when you spend a lot of time on your phone? It actually makes me less sociable with the people that I’m with. Ironically, as I’ll be using social media most of the time I’m on my phone. I also feel slightly twitchy and that there’s always something else that I should be checking or doing on my phone (oh my god I AM addicted). I can also get irritable with people around me, if I get engrossed with something on my phone and they have the gall to demand my attention (I’m the actual worst). Since having a smartphone, my concentration span has definitely deteriorated. I find I start doing one thing, then within moments I start thinking about doing another and have to break off to start doing that and so on. I’m far too easily distracted and I never used to be like this. I also find that I don’t make my brain think for itself. Need to remember where I’ve seen that actor before? No need to try and think of the answer myself. I just need to quickly look it up on my phone. My short term memory is now pretty awful. That could be age of course, but I do think my phone use has something to do with it.
- Imagine yourself a month from now, at the end of your break-up. What would you like your new relationship with your phone to look like? What would you like to have done or accomplished with your extra time? I would just like to be freer from it, not chained to it. I want to stop wasting time on it doing useless things (I agree that doing this from time to time is perfectly fine). I want to be more in the moment and not engrossed in a screen all the time. I’d like to stop and observe things around me. I want to stop reaching for it all the time and for it to be the first thing I do whenever I get a chance. With my extra time, I would like to read and write more. My daughter has noticed that I use my phone a lot and I would like her to notice that this has changed and that I use my phone a lot less. I would like to be more engaged with her in the mornings and after school too. If I faff less on my phone, then I’ll have more time to do any essential internet tasks. I would like to do these essential things that I need to do on the internet when I’m not with my daughter, so by the time that she sees me on my phone is minimal. Easy peasy, yes?
Day 3- start paying attention
Today, things got slightly more…mindful. I had to observe my phone use over 24hrs. I had to change my lock screen to something that would prompt me to think about how I was using my phone. Catherine suggested I changed it do note saying “Why did you pick me up?”, but then I found that passive aggressive, like my phone was trying to start an argument, so I changed it to “Notice”. These are the things I had to think about:
- Situations that you nearly always find yourself using your phone: in queues, when my daughter is watching TV, when my husband is doing the bedtime routine, when I’m waiting for something, after I’ve watched my evening TV programmes before bed, when I first get out of bed, when my daughter is eating her breakfast, during the day when I’m working from home- I am constantly picking it up and putting it back down again, as soon as I get out of the shower. Quite a lot then.
- How your posture changes when I use my phone: very slumped. Neck bent over. It’s a very insular pose.
- Your emotional state right before you reach your phone: bored, sometimes anxious, restless.
- Your emotional state right after you use your phone: bored, sometimes anxious, restless and frustrated with myself.
- How and how often my phone grabs my attention (i.e. notifications etc): actually not that often. I’m wise enough to turn ALL notifications off and I rarely get texts. I have to go in to apps to see if I have any messages or comments.
- How you feel while you are using your phone as well as how you feel when you don’t have your phone: while I use it I feel frustrated and annoyed quite often (WHY THE FUDGE DO I USE IT SO OFTEN THEN?!). I occasionally feel relaxed if I’m having a funny conversation with a friend. When I don’t have my phone, I feel one of two things. If I’ve recently posted something and I don’t have my phone nearby, I feel twitchy and unable to concentrate. If I haven’t posted anything recently, without my phone I feel chilled.
- Moments (either on or off my phone) when I feel engaged, energised, joyful, effective and purposeful- what was I doing and who was I with? I felt energised and purposeful after finishing a piece of work. I was not on my phone and by myself. I felt engaged and joyful when chatting and laughing with my family.
- How and when other people use their phones and how does it make you feel? Oh this is when I actually feel dreadful. My husband came home from work and I start telling him about my day and he just gets his phone out and starts reading a text. It made me feel so annoyed. He had put this person that texted him before the person right in front of him that had started talking to him before he received the text. The worst thing is, I do this to him ALL THE TIME. So I must make him feel this annoyed. I told you that I’m the worst. I also really hate seeing people on their phones when out for meals or at bars. What’s the point in making the effort and spending money to go out and socialise with the people you’re with if you’re just going to ignore each other? I am glad to say that this is not something I do. At least, I hope I don’t. Shoot me if I do.
Day 4- take stock and take action
Oh God and today we analyse the data I’ve been collecting since day 1.
The results from the tracking app: Okaaaaay, so bearing in mind I happened to be tracking my usage during the two days I work in an office, where I never use my phone and also it happens to be the Easter holidays, so I’m out and about with my little darling and not using my phone as much as I normally would, my results are….3.5hrs a day usage and I picked my phone up on average at least 60 times a day. So what would my data results have been if it was a normal day working from home with my chid at school?! I dread to think. Needless to say my predictions were way out.
So, after this I tracked my usage when my daughter went back to school and I wasn’t working and I used my phone for 5hrs and picked it up 81 times in one day. FFS.
Notice what you’ve noticed: reflecting on what I noticed when I was using my phone, what patterns did I notice and what surprised me? That using my phone didn’t alleviate boredom. That I used it most when sitting on my couch. That it was a reflex that most of the time I wasn’t even aware of. That it caused more frustration than pleasure.
Day 5- delete social media apps
So, today is the day that I delete all social media apps. Wtf? Seriously? Ok, so this isn’t an irreversible action, I can still check social media via a browser and Catherine does explain that later on in the programme I will be “reintroduced” to these apps, but for now- they’ve got to go. Okaaaaaay.
Also, Catherine introduces me to the WWW speed bump. Every time I go to use my phone or the internet, I have to ask myself:
- What for? (why am I using it?)
- Why now? (why am I using it right at this moment and not later?)
- What else? (what could I be doing right now instead of using my phone?)
The idea is that if I ask myself these questions every time I reach for my phone, the delay creates an obstacle that slows down the action of reaching for my phone. This gives us the opportunity to change course i.e. decide to do something else. It’s a pause between our impulse and our actions.
So, now I’ve deleted all my social media apps (I deleted Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Whilst I did find myself just logging in on a browser and checking those platforms, I did fid that there were plenty of times that I reached for my phone and couldn’t be bothered to check social media as it wasn’t quite going to be as quick and simple as normal, so I *gasp* just put my phone back down again. I have to say, jut doing this alone was already making a difference.
Day 6- come back to (real) life
So, now without my social media apps, I need to start thinking about how I’m going to spend this reclaimed time. Catherine suggested some prompts to help me think about this.
I’ve always loved to: walk, write, sing, socialise
I’ve always wanted to: write a book or play
When I was a kid I was fascinated by: music, books and animals (and Shakin’ Stevens, but I don’t think that’s relevant right now)
If I had more time, I would like to: play with my daughter, go for walks, bake, read and write more
Some activities that I know put me into flow are: socialising and getting fresh air.
People I would like to spend more time with: more quality time with daughter, my husband and my friends (and my family, but they love 200 miles, so more difficult to see them frequently).
Next, I need to make a list of several specific fun off-phone things to do over the next few days/rest of the programme: go for a walk, read, play a game with my daughter
Day 7- get physical
Today, unsurprisingly, Catherine asks that we do something physical. Her point being that she wants us to remember we’re not just a brain sitting on top of a body. So, I went for a long walk with my daughter. It was kind of like killing two birds with one stone [NB: no birds were killed whilst completing this programme]. I had some quality time with my daughter and I got some fresh air and exercise. I do have an issue with doing physical things as I suffer from chronic pain, but luckily today my body allowed me to go for a walk and it was lovely. My daughter was also in her element.
So, that’s the end of week 1. Tune in next Monday to see how I get on with week 2. And if you feel like joining in too, comment below on how you’re getting on.
I strongly recommend you read this book. Now.
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