On a bad day however, I’ve noticed that social media (and my phone in general) can have some very negative side-effects: irritability, anxiety, stress, unhealthy comparison, pointless scrolling.
Can you love and hate something in equal measure?
As far as my phone is concerned, I think the answer to that is ‘yes’.
I’ve been doing a bible study with friends over the last few months and a couple of weeks ago, the author of the study – Priscilla Shirer – encouraged us to consider whether we have any ‘idols’ in our life. My first thought? Well I don’t worship a golden calf! But *actually* a modern day idol would be described as ‘anything in the existing, created realm that has a tendency to take the place of God in our lives‘.
I’ve known for a long time that my phone has had too great a role in my life. I haven’t been living in denial about it, more that I’ve not quite known how to do anything about it. If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make the necessary adjustments to my life; the thought scared me a little and managing social media for a job doesn’t help!
When I came across the book ‘How to Break Up with Your Phone‘ by Catherine Price, I knew that I needed to try it.
What makes you reach for your phone?
The book starts off gently, encouraging you to look at your phone habits – how long you spend on it per day and what makes you reach for it.
I think we are probably all unaware as to the amount of minutes (or hours in my case!) we spend on our phone and I had never considered exploring the reasons why I reach for it. I think being unaware is where the danger in anything lies; an unhealthy habit can quickly develop without us even realising it.
When I realised that my phone was ‘active’ for around 4 hours in every 24 (includes looking at and responding to emails, social media, photographs, listening to music, watching Youtube, Google maps etc) it felt like something needed to be done! This quote in the book kind of sealed it for me:
“If you spend two hours a day doing anything, you’re going to get pretty good at it. If I spent two hours a day practising the piano, I’d be able to accomplish my long-standing goal of learning to sight-read music within a couple of months. If I spent two hours a day studying Spanish, it wouldn’t be long before I’d be able to have a basic conversation”
I have spent around 6 weeks challenging myself on some of the questions that have been posed in the book and I’ve pin-pointed two reasons why I pick up my phone:
As far as boredom goes, I know that I have become increasingly accustomed to grabbing my phone when I’m waiting in line for a coffee or sitting in the dentist’s waiting room.
If I have 5 minutes to spare then my phone is always the first thing I turn to. The problem I guess, is that what starts off being a source of amusement, can quickly become 20 minutes lost down a ‘rabbit hole’ of scrolling through strangers’ photographs. Sound familiar?
2) Emotional Distraction
When my children were much younger I would often reach from my phone when they were playing up and I was trying to ignore said ‘unhelpful’ behaviour. More recently, my phone became a great distraction when I wanted to avoid thinking or facing certain difficult emotions. The book indicated that this is very common and many people are unaware they are using it for this reason.
What changes have I made?
After a few weeks of exploring habits and easing you in gently, the book suggests you have a whole 24 hours where your phone is switched off. Duh, duh, duhhhhh!
The idea is that you can break the hold it might have over you and hopefully realise that being released is actually a good thing.
I would encourage you to read the book to work out what are the best tools for you but as my work life requires me to be online the majority of the day, I’ve had to adjust some of it to suit me (I was quietly relieved about not being able to partake in the 24 hour ban!). What I have done over the last 6 weeks, as a result of reading the book, is the following:
- Acquired an alarm clock. I’ve started charging my phone downstairs at night and won’t allow myself to pick it up again until I’ve eaten breakfast and read my bible. This has meant me getting hold of an alarm clock – always my reason for charging it by my bed before.
- Changed my screensaver. Early on in the book, you are encouraged to change your screensaver to say something along the lines of ‘What For? Why Now? What Else?‘. I’ve found this really useful to alert me when I’m about to grab my phone: What do I want it for? Why have I reached for it? What else could I do instead?
- Moved my apps around. I’ve made it harder to find my social media apps; I now have to scroll through a few pages before I find them. The only social media app left on my home screen is Facebook Page as I need it for work.
- Turned notifications off. I no longer get any notifications at all on my phone, only texts. I am someone who cannot read a message and reply later. I have an in-built need to reply immediately, mainly because I know I’ll forget if I leave it! I now only look at emails and What’s App messages when I know that I have time to reply.
What difference has it made to my life?
Above all, it has made me think more about the control that my phone has over me. I believe that I’ve managed to get back to a place where I am in charge of it rather than the other way round.
“We must act, individually and collectively, to make our attention our own again, and so reclaim ownership of the very experience of living.” Tim Wu, The Attention Merchants
My biggest drive was wanting to be more ‘present’ generally in life and I think I’ve achieved that. I am no longer constantly distracted by what I might be missing out on on social media (which sounds ridiculous when you write it down) or what image I’m going to post next on Instagram. Instead I am enjoying the moment and not feeling the need to always share it with the world.
Of course ‘once an addict, always an addict’ so I am well aware that I need to constantly keep all of this in check and be willing to make adjustments to my daily habits.
Have you read ‘How to Break Up With Your Phone’? What did you think of it?
Have you ever considered that you might be addicted to your phone?