On A Break.... With My Phone (Sorta)

I’ll say it loud and proud: I love my iPhone, and have since the first iteration. It plays my music, records my steps, takes my pictures, connects me to my friends, and provides me with information. It prevents boredom, excessive rumination, and the forgetting of passwords, birthdates, and random tidbits of thoughts that I constantly add to my notes. It’s my assistant, confidant, personal shopper, photographer, and meteorologist. And I don’t even use Siri.

I try hard to not use my phone in excess around Sawyer. I definitely use it, but I try to not sit on it for long periods of time when we are hanging out at home or out and about. He does see me use it plenty, though, mostly in quick bursts of 2-3 minutes, which I fully admit add up over the course of a day. I never, ever give it to him, for fear of his four-year-old self breaking it, but also because I don’t want him to be dependent on it.

When Apple released the Screen Time function last year I was embarrassed to see how much I was on my phone each day- it was far more than I thought. I know the culprits- the walks around the large campus where I teach, while on the treadmill, during my prep period between tasks, waiting in line at the store, on the occasion I watch TV, at night before bed, in the morning while drinking coffee, etc… I rarely get on my phone for more than 5 or so minutes at time, but still, everything adds up.

Because I try to live as efficiently as possible, I knew that my phone time was a slight problem. Even if I wasn’t on my phone a lot at once, the simple distractor of a few minutes here and there were negative. I remembered hearing about Catherine Price’s book How to Break Up With Your Phone somewhere, so I picked it up last week. It was an incredibly quick read and nothing in it was groundbreaking or magical, but DAMN was it a good reminder of things we should all be doing. It also forced me to really think about why I pick up my phone so often, something we all need to face the music about.

When talking to her phone, “At first it seemed strange that you wanted to come with me to the bathroom – but today it’s just another formerly private moment for us to share” (3) [snicker, hang head in embarrassment]

Phones as an addiction- “many of the same feel-good brain chemicals and reward loops that drive addiction are also released and activated when we check our phones” (23)

Social media can be a huge issue, in terms of time-sucks but also as sources of poor self-esteem and anxiety, as Price quotes Adam Alter, “’A post with zero likes wasn’t just privately painful, but also a kind of public condemnation.’” Price continues to write, “What’s particularly weird is that we don’t just care about other people’s judgements; we ask for them. We post photos and comments to show others we’re lovable, that we’re popular, and, on a more existential level, that we matter, and then we check our phones obsessively to see if other people – or at least their online profiles – agree” (34) [here’s  my question- would we keep posting if there was no response from others? I’ve asked myself that question about my blog, and the answer is yes, I would blog even if no one read. But what about Instagram stories or posts? Food for thought]

As a reason for jumping on our phones, “We fear our own minds” (37) [all kinds of yes here; I am an over-thinker and I often turn to my phone to prevent myself from thinking]

Something to think about for ourselves and kids, “… the more we read online, the more we teach our brains to skim… and the harder it is for us to focus on just one thing” (58) [I know personally I comprehend so much more when reading a physical copy of something as opposed to an online article; this is one of the reasons why I don’t use a Kindle]

The goal of taking steps to reduce your phone usage “isn’t abstinence; it’s consciousness” (81) [our phones generally make us so much less present]

Price suggests “regular short phone fasts- what I call ‘phasts’—are essential for our emotional and intellectual health” (146) [yes! I have been doing this so much more often; I use The Forest App to plant a tree and leave my phone on the counter or in a drawer]

So much of these concepts depend on your level of dependency, your job, your hobbies, your living situation, etc… Some of her suggestions made no sense for me, while others were right on the money. If you are even slightly bothered by your phone use and need some good tips, motivation, or a nice kick in the pants I highly suggest this book.

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