I truly made a concerted effort to stay away from my phone this past week. It’s easier said than done in the way that we communicate. I don’t usually talk to my friends on the phone; we text. And while I don’t have sounds on my phone, I am disturbingly programmed to respond to the buzz-buzz of a new, incoming message.
While I know I’m addicted, I do want to make conscious decisions about my phone usage and break some of my bad habits. Generally, other people’s phone usage doesn’t tend to bother me (Mike’s fantasy baseball enthusiasm notwithstanding), but I hate the thought that someone else might feel that I’m not engaged with them due to my own phone use. Especially my kids.
Here’s the guide that I followed for my detox experiment:
Unfollow people who aren’t your real friends, unsubscribe from unwanted email lists and delete apps you don’t use.
Step 1: This was a biggie. Unfollow anything you don’t need, basically. I started by unfollowing about 70 accounts on Instagram, including all celebrities. If there’s anything worth knowing, it’ll be shared on People magazine’s account, which I still follow, so that’s plenty.
It took awhile, but I unsubscribed to about 30 email accounts, most of which I imagine will save me money because I won’t be tempted by the latest deal at Old Navy or Victoria’s Secret. I also don’t need email notifications for things like Fitbit or LinkedIn, which I access in app form anyway.
I deleted a few people from Facebook, but not too many. I have my Facebook more or less paired down to the essential people anyway. My policy has always been that if I were to see you in the grocery store from afar and would make the choice to turn in the opposite direction rather than talk to you, that’s a pretty solid sign that we shouldn’t be friends on Facebook. I did, however, do an Instagram-style purge there, too, and unliked any page that wasn’t relevant to me directly and unfollowed the ones that I don’t need streaming into my feed. Do you know how many cooking videos I used to catch myself watching in the run of a day?
Turn off push notifications.
Step 2: I had actually already done for every app besides phone, iMessage and Facetime. It was my emails, both work and personal, that prompted me to do this a long time ago. I still check, but I don’t feel compelled to read every single email the second it arrives.
Resist the urge to look at your phone first thing in the morning.
Step 3: This was surprisingly tough. I just need to remind myself that if something urgent happens, someone will call, so unless the phone is ringing, the things happening on my phone can wait. The morning, especially Monday to Friday, represents a small sliver of time that I’m always with my family and I want to treat that opportunity with the respect that it deserves.
Set up a charging station outside of your bedroom,
and don’t look at your phone an hour before bed.
Step 4: This might be my favourite. While I have very few notifications on my phone, it’s not uncommon that a text might come in around 10 p.m., and sometimes I’m already dozing off at that point. And if it happens to be on a thread with my four closest girlfriends, odds are good that several replies will follow. Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. I often resist the urge to pick it up and read or weigh in, but it can be jarring enough. I circle back to the expectation that if anything urgent were to happen, someone would call me, so I added ringing sounds only for my phone and started charging my phone at night in the kitchen.
Step 4.5: Getting Mike to do the same has proven to be tricky. He uses his phone as our alarm clock, so it needs to be in the room. Thinking this weekend I’ll invest in an actual alarm clock to help encourage him to ditch his device at nighttime, too. He hasn’t been sleeping super well lately and it certainly doesn’t help when he’s checking baseball scores on his phone and stimulating his brain before he falls asleep or during the night if he wakes up.
Go out to dinner and leave your phone at home.
Step 5: This would never happen. If I’m away from my kids, I’m going to have my phone close by. Plus, I’d never go out without my phone for fear that the car would break down or another emergency might happen and I’d need to contact someone. That’s just the world we live in. That said, keeping our phones away from the kitchen when we’re eating family meals is also a must. They’re damn distracting. Plus, when the kids are old enough to have phones, I won’t be allowing them at the table, so why wouldn’t I uphold that rule myself?
Spend the day not looking at or posting to social media.
Step 6: I had deleted my apps before, but got them again when I had a photo I wanted to post. A friend suggested keeping the apps, but signing out between uses to help curb random scrolling, so that’s what I did. No posts read or made on Saturday until … Gah, the kids were snuggling and I had to take a picture and post it! But in my defence, they were asleep, so it didn’t impact my time with them. However, it did mean that I was on my phone very close to my own bedtime, which means I broke step 4. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better!
Turn off your smartphone for the entire day.
Step 7: This goes back to step 5. I’m just not willing to turn my phone off for fear that an emergency would happen. We don’t have a home phone, so my iPhone is my only external link. But Sunday to Thursday are screen-free days in our home (more on that later), so there’s no reason why I can’t attempt to adhere to the same rule when it comes to my phone, namely designating the majority of the week to being detached from my phone.
My phone is a blessing and a curse. I love being in constant contact with the people I love, but I hate being tethered to social media. I definitely suffer from FOMO, but I am learning to let that go. This week was a great experiment and only reaffirmed my feelings. And as an added bonus, I think my appetite is curbed now that I’m not watching 85 cooking videos daily.