I have an addiction.
It’s an addiction that I know I’m not alone in having. It’s an addiction that is clear to see at family gatherings, on public transport, even in cinemas and on nights out. It’s an addiction that can affect anyone of any age. It’s an addiction that can cause sleepless nights, headaches, broken hearts.
I’m talking about smartphone addiction.
I’m in my twenties, which means I’m living right in the midst of an information-crazy generation. I grew up with MSN and MySpace through my teenage years, migrated to Bebo and then Facebook when those fads died out. I’ve tweeted, Instagrammed, Pinned. And I’ve been a part of the app boom.
Part of me loves the advances in technology over the last few years. I’m a tech nerd, so the idea of having infinite access to the entire internet in my pocket was mouthwatering when I first got an iPhone. And apps, too–all those fantastic, time-killing apps that fit in a screen under five inches. Perfect. Just what I needed.
Except I don’t want to kill time anymore.
A few days ago, I read an article over at Medium.com. It’s about a guy who went “distraction-free” with his iPhone for a year, and saw a whole host of benefits. As someone who has lost many, many hours to the oblivion of portable internet, or Instagram feeds, or Twitter feeds, or probably all three, I was inspired to try something similar.
I often find myself getting into bed at night, relatively early, only to need to click around on my phone. “It helps me sleep!” my mind tells itself.
2 a.m. comes around and I’m still reading about conspiracy theories and the mysteries of space.
And then the following morning, I wake up a little tired, and I spend a few minutes checking the morning news.
And the morning Facebook updates.
And the morning tweets.
Yeah. All that time, eaten away.
So I decided to make a change. I decided to take hold of my life, even if just for a few days, or weeks, or whatever.
I loaded up my phone, entered Restrictions, and disabled Safari.
After I’d got over that, I delinked my Mail account.
And then I deleted Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Games, news apps, all kinds of pointless apps that I don’t use. Now, I’m left with my messaging apps, a few productivity apps, and the built-in apps.
How do I feel? Weirdly, a lot better. I used to turn to my phone, like many, as a source of comfort in situations where not much is going on. Now, I find myself just enjoying the moment more. I find myself making the most of time rather than wasting it searching for something that isn’t going to change my life in any way.
Granted, I work from home, so my situation is a little different to others. I have a tablet, so I can always browse the web on there. Same with my computer. But a tablet isn’t a phone. An iPad doesn’t fit in my pocket. So usually, if I want to search for something non-essential while I’m in the middle of working, now, I just let it go. In the past, the temptation of my phone was always close.
Sure, I know there’s a case for, “Well what’s the point in even owning a smartphone if you aren’t going to use it to its full potential?!” Well, that’s not entirely true. To one person, having a browser and nothing else might be full potential. To others, it might mean pages and pages of apps. For me, I need my Notes app to sync with my computer and tablet. I need Spotify for music. I need messaging apps to keep in touch with people, Focus Time and White Noise to keep me down in my work. I need data-based applications.
But really, I’m just learning to cut out those little distractions that actually eat up a lot of time over the course of a day. I’m trying to train myself not to reach for my phone. Sure–I might, and probably will, enable all those mentioned features again some time. But only when I’m confident I’m not going to start letting it eat into my sleep, or use it as an easy time-passer.
Smartphones are fantastic. But I do feel our addictions, our obsessions, can benefit from being curbed from time to time. Even if just a brief awakener of just how much of our lives they actually consume.
I’m going to give this a shot for another week or so. But so far, I don’t feel any cravings for the same old Facebook posts. I don’t miss posting an Instagram photo of my dog (sorry Pebbles). I don’t long for Google search constantly being at my fingertips.
I feel kind of free.
Give it a shot, perhaps?