It started innocently enough. I watched people interact with their smartphones. They were so happy together. They enjoyed each other’s company. And the apps … all the apps. These tiny pocket pals were helpful, came in a variety of styles, and could be tailored to meet the needs and desires of their owner.
I knew I was missing out. I wanted one, too.
As a cautious person on a budget, I started with an older model, but it wasn’t long before my phone failed to support the apps to which I had grown accustomed. Dissatisfaction set in and I started daydreaming about a newer device.
I knew I was missing out. I upgraded.
Oh, the bliss. So slick. So fancy. And the apps … all the apps. My new phone and I were happy at first. The excitement of discovery was consuming. I became an expert on its useful features. I took comfort in the accessibility of favorite websites. I found amusement in games involving cute animals, funny sounds, and brightly colored bubbles. We were constant companions. Then, something shifted.
I knew I was missing out. I tried to put it down.
The gadget of my dreams had become a tyrant in my life. I found myself consistently drawn to it. First moment, last moment, and many of the moments in between. It was difficult to stay focused on a given project without looking at my phone. The kicker? My arm was sore after a particularly long session of Angry Birds Pop. Ridiculous.
I was tired of missing out. I made a plan to break up with my phone.
- The phone is for communication and organization, not recreation – my new motto. I am 55 years old. This means I have lived 50 years using the telephone solely as a communication device. I survived 91% of my life without constant access to email, Facebook, and electronic bubble games. The hard truth is my email and friends’ Facebook statuses are not that important.
- Remove all entertainment apps from the phone. ‘Bye-bye birds and bubbles. I remember a day when I carried a book or magazine with me if I anticipated having to wait somewhere. Or embroidery. Or nothing at all if I anticipated being able to talk to people.
- Turn off notifications. The apps … all the apps have a maddening number of notifications that ding, knock, and chirp. All. The. Time. Make it stop. As much as I love you, my dear Facebook friends, I don’t need to know what you’re doing right now. My phone still sings sweetly when you text me, but I will probably ignore it until a more convenient time for me. If you have an emergency, please call.
- Set the phone down in a designated place in the house. Does anyone else remember the days when there was one phone in the house? It hung in the kitchen on the wall. When it rang you walked from whatever room you were in to pick up the handset. You talked while standing tethered to the kitchen wall by the cord attached to the phone. If you were outside, in the basement, or not at home you didn’t even know you missed a call. Wha-a-a-at? Missed a call? Yes. And we lived. Henceforth I will leave my phone on the table. I will not run when it rings.
- Create healthy boundaries for digital interaction. For me this means, I don’t need to check my phone for anything when I am at home. If someone calls or texts, it will make a noise. Social media can wait until I’m ready to sit at my computer. When out and about I will use my phone for information or direction if it can’t wait. I like to use an organization app for shopping lists and to save important thoughts. However, sometimes I write these down with pencil and paper to avoid using the phone.
Please know this is a personal manifesto for device management. There is no judgement intended if you enjoy playing on your phone. The relationship with my smartphone became a problem. I want to be more engaged with the tangible, not the digital. The actual people, not the images.
I’m interested in what you think. How have you dealt with the demanding nature of your phone? Add your comments below.
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