You are outside. In an MRT perhaps. Look at your front. Look at your right and left. Count the many people who are looking down on their phone. I guarantee there is a bigger percentage of people on their phone than the people who are not. These days, people has been so attached with their phone that it is almost pathologically. Me included. Our phones became extension of our hands and never allowing it to leave our sight. Our intimacy with our phone is deeper than our relationship with our spouses. Our affection & attentiveness to our phone looks more abundant than with our kids and friends even if we deny it. It is evident but we hate to admit it ourselves. We justify that we are doing our work on the phone. We need a little break from our tired dreary lives. We have to catch up with our friends. We need an update from what is going on so we stay current.
We all have reasons for being obsessed with our phones. It could be that addictive scrolling of feeds in our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It could be that constant connection with our friends on different messaging platform that we forget to talk and be attentive to the person in front of us. It could be the constant addiction of validation by posting selfies & updates in social media. It could be the hours wasted in our favorite mobile game. It could be the forever searching of what is new in social media or search engine because we are afraid we would miss out on the latest news or trends. Whatever our reasons maybe, we know we got a problem. I acknowledge that smart phone and our dependency to it can be and will eventually be a source of ruin in our relationships with our loved-ones, our physical & mental health, our productivity, our peace, our sense of concentration and several other aspects of our lives.
My History with Mobile Phones
I am one of those late adopters to trends and anything techie. I had my 1st Nokia phone in my last year in college while most of classmates had one years before me and had their celphone model changed several times already. I had my first smart phone: the Iphone when I was doing my Family Medicine Residency, gifted by my generous parents. I never asked for one because I always said I am never that techie and I never care for such things. But after a few days with my Iphone, it felt like a found my one true match. It became my daily companion, my entertainment, my alarm clock, my planner and many more. It became a very co-dependent relationship and I was deeply attached to my phone. So much to my heartache and dismay when I had my Iphone (as well as my new camera & wallet) stolen by a very smart (no pun intended) thief who stole it in my own room. (He went into the back of the house & managed to grab it from my windows). The forced break-up with my Iphone was hard to bear. I was crying for a few nights of its loss. Knowing my unbearable heartache, my parents once again got me a new Iphone for the following Christmas. It felt like an awkward first date initially and still dreaming of my old Iphone. Eventually, I fell in love with it just like the first. And here I am in my 5th Iphone relationship. (An Iphone 7s, in case you are wondering)
I want to break up with my phone but I am blogger/influencer!
I realized the epidemic of pathological attachment with smart phones. It affected a big percentage of human population that can afford a smart phone. If you have one, there is a great possibility you may be addicted to it (even if you deny it.) I realised I may have a problem when I noted my compulsion of constantly checking my phone every 15 minutes, when I have a sense of panic when there is no internet connection and when my phone has to be by my side 24/7. Smart phone pushes us to multitasked even if it is not necessary. And yes, one of the worst effect of the phone that I see is that we replacement face-to-face connection to digital connection. We stop having conversations with our spouses and put aside bonding time with our kids to cuddle intimately with our phones.
I acknowledged its problem and I decided not to allow the phone to have control over me. It seems like it has its evil robotic voice telling all of us: “Pick Me Up Now!” “Attend To Me Now!” So before I do that I need to know what comprises of my usual celphone activities.
I realised I do spend lots of time scrolling over Facebook and having hundred of chat conversations to my family & friends over various messaging platforms. Over the weekend, I tend to turn on the YouTube videos in my feed and on train rides, I would watch downloaded Netflix movies or finishing up a blog article on my WordPress mobile app. Those activities may sound harmless and even necessary, I still believe that spending too much time on the phone when I can be present in the moment, enjoying the “real” life and being attentive & fully engaged with my family & friends who are in front of me is essential.
However in my case, I do have the need to be constantly engaged online because I am a blogger. Previously I would blog in my laptop, publish the post and that is it. When I started taking blogging seriously and eventually monetizing it, I realised one of the key things you need to do is market it online. I may not earn a lot as a blogger and instagrammer to leave my full-time job but I do receive a substantial renumeration to encourage me to go on. Plus I am accountable to the brands and companies that collaborated with me to provide them the deliverables.
One of my deficiency as an instagrammer is that I tend to just post and go. I don’t hang around much scrolling in instagram except in my Ig stories. I am not consistent in my like-for-like exchange. I do not have a constant engagement or commenting on others’ photo which is what the Instagram algorithm designed to increase visibility in the platform to result in increase in followers. So here I am trying to get spend less time on my phone but my part-time job requires me to be constantly engaged with people, always liking, always commenting. Then I realised I will create a solution for this. I am still adamant to break the celphone habit. In hindsight, I am blogging & sharing photos in Instagram not for popularity but because I just love doing it. I decided not be fixated in beating the Instagram algorithm and just like & comment on other posts as I deem fit. Since I got that in a way, I need to formulate plans in how to break up with my phone.
How to break up with my phone
The break up I mean is not a complete severance of using a smart phone. We admit that smart phones provide us great assistance in these day in age. But we shouldn’t allow our phones to be the replacement for real relationships with our loved-ones and to control our activities like we are a slave to it.
So here are a few ways to break off our phone addiction:
1. Turn off your notifications.
I only get notifications from messaging platforms and my emails because I am waiting for a very important update that can be life-changing. I don’t get notifications from my social media platforms at all unless I open them up.
2. Put your phone in silent mode.
You can only set it to ring when it is a phone call.
3. Monitor your celphone usage.
Iphones currently have this feature that tells you your weekly usage. There are also apps that monitor these as well as what are the apps that you often use and the duration of usage.
4. Put away your phone. Put it in your bag if at work.
This would allow you to concentrate at work and you wouldn’t jump when your boss come over & see you scrolling over Nick Jonas Instagram feed. (By the way, he and Priyanka Chopra just got married.)
5. Buy an alarm clock.
No need to bring with your phone in bed.
6. Limit the use your phone when your at home.
To provide my kids undivided attention once I reach home, I would charge my phone and check on it only 2x for any messages from my husband who would be coming home soon.
7. When talking to someone or on a date night with loved-ones and friends, resist the urge to check your phone.
8. Set a once a week phone fast.
Mine is a Sunday and I would try to keep it in airplane mode or I would off the data & wifi setting.
9. Set phone break schedule and stick to it. Use a timer if needed.
I would schedule mornings on my travel to work to check my phone for my daily biblical readings and prayer only. 10:30 AM, I would have my tea break and have 15 minutes scrolling of Facebook. Lunch time would be the time for me to answer my messages and email. At 3:00 PM, I get to scroll, comment and like the Instagram posts I see in my feed.
10. Have rules in using your phone to avoid addiction.
I would just scroll 5 Instagram photos or 7 Facebook dates and stop. Make your own rules to curb your mindless usage of your phone.
11. Declutter your apps.
If the addiction is too strong, delete the apps. If you really need it, you have to access it through the url route.
12. Find other means of entertainment.
I am sure there are other ways of ways of entertaining yourself. How about a good old book? Or enjoy the peace & quiet just being present in the moment.
I know these tips may not be perfect formula to the growing epidemic of phone addiction. You may have other more wonderful tips to add. Please share with me too! You and I are still a work in progress in this relentless phone dependency but I know we can do this by being consistent and determined. Good luck breaking up with your phones!