Phone Break-Up | Week One

18 Mar 2018

Phone Break-Up | Week One

~ I am doing a 30-day phone ‘break-up’ challenge from the book ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. Read more about why here and here. ~

So. Time to break-up with my phone. Let’s get cracking eh? Here’s how week one of the month-long challenge went.

Week one is the technology triage; it’s about gathering data about my current relationship with my phone in order to actually pay attention to what’s working, what isn’t and what I’d like to change. The first day is simple enough; download a tracking app to see how long I actually spend on my phone (compared to how long I think I’m spending on my phone). I download Moment (which is free and simple to use) and carry on as normal.

Day two is about assessing my current relationship with my phone. What do I love about it? What don’t I love? What changes do I notice in myself after using my phone? What would I like my relationship with my phone to be after the challenge?

What I love about my phone comes quite easy. I love that it helps me stay in touch with equally-busy friends and family. I love the camera. I love the intelligence of it. How it can send me reminders, allow me to jot things down and store music, podcasts and films. It’s an amazing tool.

Noting what I dislike about my phone, and the changes I notice in myself, forces me to properly think; to go through the small details of my days and really consider the effects of my phone on my life. I decide that I dislike the immediate distraction (i.e. when it flashes at me whilst it sits on the desk when I work), the compulsion I have to constantly check it, the way it’s easy to lose track of time whilst using it and the way it dampens my productivity.

I monitor my behaviour throughout the day (which is weird because you have to keep reminding yourself to acknowledge how you’re feeling) and realise that I can feel happy after using my phone because my friend has texted me something which made me laugh or I come across an interesting article to read.

But I also realise that sometimes the news or social media has the ability to make me anxious or unhappy when my day was going otherwise fine. Sometimes the notifications (even when from friends) popping up stress me out because I’m trying to concentrate or need time alone. I realise that my phone keeps me connected always but that I both like and dislike this in equal measure. I also properly note how distracted and less productive I can be after spending a lot of time on my phone, and other screens.

I jot down a few thoughts about how I would like to be after finishing the break-up challenge. It involves being a lot less tied to my phone. To not pick it up just to mindlessly scroll through when I’m not even bothered. To gain that time back, and not use my phone as a way to procrastinate. I want to be able to enjoy the benefits of my phone, but be more detached to it. To turn it off in evenings or at weekends without a second thought. To not always have it next to me. To use the time to focus on the things I claim I don’t have time for.

Day three is about paying attention to why I use my phone; the situations I use it, how often it grabs my attention as well as how I physically react/feel when using it. Here’s what I pick up on throughout the day:

  • I noticed that my main trigger for picking up my phone is boredom or when I’m waiting for something, usually a train or when my computer has frozen for example. I pick up my phone when I want a ‘break’ or am bored with something I’m doing at work. I pick it up the moment I’m not occupied with something else. A TV program finishes and I pick up my phone before I can even give myself a chance to consider what I might want to do next or acknowledge that I’m tired.
  • I check my phone almost instantly after waking up and just before I go to bed.
  • I often feel bored when using my phone; I’m just scrolling for the sake of it. Boredom encourages me to pick it up but I don’t feel less bored – social media is actually pretty dull most of the time.
  • My posture changes when using my phone, my head is bowed and I’m less observant of my surroundings.
  • I rarely feel better or happier after picking up my phone. I do if I’m talking to loved ones but otherwise, I tend to just feel bored, easily distracted and anxious.
  • After using my phone for a long period of time, I find it much harder to focus. It takes quite a while to regain proper concentration… and whilst I’m doing that, I pick up my phone again!
  • I may pick up my phone with the specific intention of replying to a text or setting a reminder and get easily distracted with something else and forget why I actually picked it up. Sometimes I’ll put it down not having done the thing I intended to do, pick it up again and the cycle continues!

I find it very interesting how much I realise just by paying attention to my own habits!

Day four is reviewing the ‘data’ gathered so far. It’s about noticing what you’ve picked up about your own behaviour (see all of the above) and reviewing the results of the tracking app. The tracking app showed me that on average, I spend about an hour and a half on my phone and check it approximately 42 times a day. That was one hell of a reality check.

Day five means it’s time to delete social media apps off my phone. This is the first actual change I’ve had to make so far and it feels slightly like being thrown into the deep end because they are probably my most-used apps (something I kind of don’t want to admit but this is all about being honest with myself). The book describes social media like junk food; bingeing on it makes us feel bad and yet, once we start consuming on it, it’s hard to stop. This is so true. It also asks you to consider how often you spend on social media per week and then how much you’d be willing to pay weekly to spend on social media. It then asks you to think of a recent experience where you had a lot of fun such as spending time with friends or doing something you love, and how much you’d pay to knowingly miss out on that experience. Valid point huh?

Deleting the apps doesn’t mean you can’t check social media, it’s just about creating a ‘speed bump’. Having to log-in to the browser version of social media (which is also a more clunkier version of the site) gives you plenty of opportunity to decide if you really want to be checking social media.

I delete Instagram, Facebook and Twitter off my phone and actually feel a strange sense of relief.

That was on the Friday and the weekend that follows is very interesting. My tracking app shows that the time spent on my phone halves overnight, I have an incredible productive weekend and I generally feel calmer. It makes me realise how big an effect social media was having on me. Saturday’s task is to jot down a few things that you want to do with the time you’re no longer spending on your phone. My list involves writing and putting together my photo albums (something I say I want to sort at least once a week). I then clean the flat and have a long lunch with my mum and step-dad where my phone remains in my coat pocket the entire time (rather than on the table). Sunday’s task is to ‘get physical’, to take time away from the screen and (if you want) actually use your body. I do 20 minutes on the exercise bike and then spend an afternoon scrapbooking. And you know what? It feels pretty great.