I wrote a few weeks ago about disconnecting a bit from social media and my phone – since I’ve been on maternity leave I’ve been finding myself going from app to app more often than usual and mindlessly passing time scrolling through pages and pages of content without really being aware that I’m doing it.
I initially bought the book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ for my mum as I think she’s as prevalent as I am online, posting things, commenting and getting drawn into the dopamine high of online life (sorry mum!). But when I had a sneaky pre-read of it, I could see that it would be really useful for me so I decided to keep the book and offer it to her (if she wanted to look at it) after breaking up the relationship I have with my own phone.
There’s a 30 day programme you can follow which involves a lot of reflection about my online habits and I thought I would do them here since, reading this, chances are you spend a lot of time online too, dear friend. And if you want to, you can also follow the headers I will use to assess your own relationship with your phone.
Our lives are what we pay attention to…so what do I want to pay more attention to as I disconnect from my phone?
I want to be fully present moment-to-moment – with my family, with friends, when I’m walking out and about. I want to spend more time actively choosing what I do – playing the ukulele, watching my favourite TV shows, seeing people, reading books, getting out into nature – instead of passively passing so much time online.
What do I love about my phone?
I love that my phone connects me to people all over the world. Some of my closest friends don’t live near me (in fact, they live about as far away as they could be!) and I love that my phone allows me to connect with them and stay in touch. I also love how I can record audio messages to these friends so I can still keep in touch even if we’re not able to talk. I love that I have a camera close by most times to capture lovely moments I’m having. I love that I have helpful apps (google translate, a calculator, internet browser, wordpress – the site which hosts my website) at my fingers all of the time. Oh, I also love podcasts on my phone, I listen to loads of them as I’m walking out and about and when I’m feeding Jenson at night or can’t sleep.
What don’t I love about my phone?
I don’t like how often I’m drawn away from the present because of my phone. I find myself reaching for it compulsively to check whether anything has happened online. I’ve disabled all notifications apart from for text messages, so my attention isn’t pulled away when I get a new whatsapp messages or e-mail but quite often I’ll find myself logging onto my phone just to check whether I’ve received a message. I don’t like how instant everything is – I feel like there’s a pressure to respond to things as soon as I’m contacted and, as someone who can feel anxious, it puts another pressure on my mental to-do list. I also don’t love how much time I spend on my phone. It feels like such a waste of life – all the hours I spend just mindlessly looking online. I also don’t like how pushy some apps are set up to be – I’ve disabled facebook messenger notifications and every time I go on there, I’m asked to enable notifications. It’s annoying and quite intrusive.
What changes do I notice in myself – positive or negative – when I spend a lot of time on my phone?
Positive: When I receive a personal audio message from someone, filling me in on a friend’s life, it makes me feel connected. When I see happy news from a friend on Facebook, I light up. When I witness something wonderful or interesting or funny, I’ll really like being connected online. I also love all the inspiration I get from vegan recipe pages I see on Facebook or Instagram.
Negative – I can feel a bit twitchy when I’ve been on my phone for a while – especially if I’ve been switching from app to app to app. I feel a response, negative or positive, depending on how much real connection with people I’ve had online. My head also feels very full with all the interactions I’ll have had. I’ll also feel bad if I’ve spent loads of time on my phone as it makes me feel like I’m wasting so much time doing something which adds so little to my life. It’s also a bit like sweets for me – the more I have sweets (at dinner, at lunch, a mid-afternoon snack), the more I want to eat them. So the more I spend time online, the more I crave going online. I don’t like this behaviour in myself as it starts to spill over to when I’m with friends, when I’m walking along the street, at work…
Imagine myself a month from now. What do I want my new relationship with my phone to look like? What would I like to have done or accomplished with my extra time? What would I like someone to say if I asked them how I’ve changed?
A month from now, I’d like to be spending less time passively looking online. I’d love to regularly have time when I don’t take my phone out with me, or have it in another room of the house. With the time I’d get back, I’d like to choose something I’d like to do…I think I’d like to read a book that is relevant to my work or go over my coaching notes. More than anything, I think I’d like to be more present with whatever I’m doing. So with friends, I’d have my phone stored away in my bag – not on the table. At meals, I’d not have my phone out. When watching TV, I wouldn’t also be scrolling online. When feeding my son, I’d be either engaging with him or doing something I actively wanted to do. And people would notice that – my increased presence.
So that’s my day 2 activity for breaking up with my phone (day 1, FYI, was installing an app to track my phone usage – I’ve got an iPhone and downloaded ‘moment’. This app which showed me that on a day of low phone usage I spent 7% of my waking time on my phone, which really scared me).
I’m actually on day 3 – which is all about noticing how I feel about my phone:
- Why I reach for my phone – nearly always to fill space – when I’m in a queue, waiting for someone, when Jenson is quietly feeding – or when I’m doing something I’m only semi-engaged it like watching TV
- Changes before and after I reach my phone – excitement, curiosity, a bit of a rush which doesn’t really last or leaves me feeling a bit lower if there’s no interesting new message. Also a feeling of anxiety if I’m pulled away from my phone but haven’t finished responding to people online.
I hope this has been of interest or has maybe prompted you to think about your phone habits. I’d love to hear your thoughts about your relationship with your phone.