A monarch butterfly sailed on the wind as I sat waiting for my latte at an open-air coffee shop in San Diego. I watched it glide, dip and twirl around the men and women busily setting up tables and canopies for a weekly farmers’ market. Suddenly, I realized that I wouldn’t have noticed this spectacular solo performance just a week ago. Nose-down, scrolling through any number of messages, alerts and notifications on my phone, I would have missed this simple dance on the wind.
The Phone Fast
My husband and I recently took a one week vacation without kids to California to remember each other and ourselves after four years of having babies and before number three’s arrival in a few months. Before leaving for our trip, I tentatively decided that I would bring my phone, but leave it off in my suitcase and just let my husband check my texts and calls every evening. I did have a laptop with me, so I checked email and other social media once or twice a day, but I didn’t have access to the Internet when we were out and about since the laptop stayed back at the cottage.
I was nervous about unplugging. What if I missed something important? How would I be able to post pictures on Facebook immediately? How would I check the weather? What would I do if I needed to wait somewhere with nothing to do?
But after the first morning of my detox, instead of withdrawal, I felt…free. I’ve known for a while now that my phone makes me feel shackled and that it has become an addiction, but I haven’t been sure how to conquer the blessing-turned-curse. After a week of doing without, here are a few changes I’ve made to ensure that I am the boss of my Smartphone instead of my technology lording over me.
3 Ways to Overcome Smartphone Addiction:
1. Sleep with your spouse, not with your phone.
A few weeks ago, I spent my first precious thirty minutes before my children woke up just lying in bed checking Facebook. The night before, I had been on social media in bed long after my husband had fallen asleep. It was then that I knew I needed help. So I started charging my phone at night downstairs in the kitchen instead in our room. I bought a cheap travel alarm clock to replace my phone’s one true reason to even earn a spot in our bedroom. It has been a simple, yet liberating change that is helping me to sleep better at night.
2. Declutter the apps on your phone.
The day we got back from San Diego, I did a bit of “life-changing magic” and tidied up the apps on my phone. Though they “sparked joy,” they were unnecessary if I could just as easily check them on the computer, where I could be in better control of the time I spent on them. I nervously deleted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and even the weather app.
How many times a day do you “quickly” check the weather on your phone and ten minutes later you forget why you even turned on your phone in the first place? That was me. I can check the weather just as easily on my computer in the morning just the way I always did in pre-Smartphone days.
So now, my phone is for texting, taking pictures, reading books, making calls, checking the internet, GPS and listening to music or podcasts.
(A less drastic solution would also be to turn off all notifications for social media or hiding the icons–but I’m sneaky, so that never worked for me.)
3. Start wearing a watch again.
Since my phone has become a permanent fixture on my body, I haven’t needed to wear a wristwatch anymore. But just as the weather app can be a seductive Siren, innocently “checking the time” can steal your precious attention away when you feel you suddenly must find out what those social media notifications could be. And again, twenty minutes later, you return to reality and try and remember why you were looking at your phone in the first place (“Oh yeah—what time is it?”).
Two Weeks Later
It’s been two weeks since I stripped my phone of its many roles, but so far the change has been glorious. I am so much less tempted to use it to fill any downtime in my day because there isn’t much on there to lure me away anyway. There have been a few times when I’ve craved Facebook and when I open up my phone, I end up clicking on the Kindle app that is now in its place and reading a book instead.
Think of it like ridding your home of junk food and filling it with fruit instead so that when you crave a snack, you’re forced to eat an apple. Kindle for Facebook. It’s rough at first, but then your body starts appreciating the fact that you’re feeding it with substance instead of empty calories and you start to LIKE those apples. I am certainly spending more time reading now that I don’t fall down the Twitter or Facebook rabbit hole.
But more than anything, the greatest aspect of having more limits in place is that I’m forced to pay attention to the world around me again.
On the fourth day of our vacation, I plopped my 27-week-preg-body down on a bench outside of a small museum in a historic town we were exploring, letting my husband continue reading every word of every informational sign as he likes to do. The only place to sit was next to an elderly lady who was people-watching. I joined her and we noticed the huge, gorgeous tree stretching across the lawn.
We made small talk and admired the gaggle of middle-aged Chinese ladies dressed in eclectic and brightly colored clothing, each posing elaborately in front of an old courthouse before replacing their oversized straw hats and continuing on, their high heels clicking on the sidewalk. And once again, I reflected on the fact that I normally would have missed all of this. Before the phone fast, my first instinct would have been to pull out my phone while I waited for my husband to return.
Absorbed in the lives of others on social media, perhaps I would have even forgotten to live my own life. I would have missed the chance to delight in the wonder all around me: watching a butterfly ballet, marveling with the elderly and admiring the hilarity in the scope of humanity.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this addiction. I don’t think we need to be radical and throw away our phones or be overly idealistic about the days of before we had all “this technology.” Technology is not the devil, but we don’t need to allow it to be our god, either. Are you ruling your phone or is your phone ruling you? What practical steps can you take to ensure that your phone is a tool of freedom and not a chain of bondage in your life?
Do you have any other ideas on how to break free from Smartphone addictions? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
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