I was late to the iPhone party. I had a flip phone until my second child was born in 2010. My phone was just a phone (although there might have been a Brickles-type game on there that involved crushing bricks with a tiny dot).
Things certainly changed when I got my first iPhone. It was a whole new world.
It seems that in these last six years as I’ve gotten more used to having a phone that’s not just a phone, and as I’ve upgraded my devices, I have become increasingly dependent on their technology. As a mom of two, a full-time teacher, and a grad student, I’m busy. Like, really busy. Like, every-minute-of-my-life-feels-scheduled busy. And I rely on my phone to help me remember where I need to be and when I need to be there (calendar), order things I need because I don’t have time to shop (Amazon), take photos of the moments I love (camera), listen to music to keep me sane (Pandora), pay bills, and basically juggle life.
In short, my phone feels more like a necessity than a luxury.
This week we were challenged to challenge ourselves to unplug. I kind of wondered if that would even be possible. Thankfully, this was a two-day work week for me, so it made this challenge a little more do-able. But, I couldn’t just lock my phone away entirely. So, I decided that I would Facebook and other distracting apps, and then plug in my phone an hour before bedtime to read a real book (nothing digital). My challenge would last me from Monday-Friday during the week of Thanksgiving.
I didn’t think this would be difficult. I tend to worry more about my kids’ screen time than I do my own, mainly because my own isn’t such an issue. Or so I thought.
Time to face the harsh reality. Here’s what I learned:
- I’m addicted. I use my phone for everything. Everything. It’s a little scary how dependent I am on it. And how distracted I get by it. Wednesday morning I sat down during a quiet minute to grade a stack of quizzes. I wanted to check something off of my always-lengthy to-do list. But, in an hour I managed to grade 10. (Did I mention there are only five questions on the quiz?) During that hour, my phone kept luring me in while I:
- Ordered Christmas Cards (on the Snapfish app, with photos from my photo cloud)
- IMDB searched The Karate Kid for movie trivia (after my kids and I watched it together. Fun Fact: It’s 32 years old!)
- Ordered lunch
- Checked my email
- Googled cranberry sauce recipes
- Checked the bank account and scheduled two bills
- Searched movie showtimes
- Started Pandora (80s Throwback, 90s Comeback)
My stack of quizzes is still not graded.
- I don’t need social media. I was kind of over it after the Election anyway. But now that I’ve put Facebook back on my phone, I’ve literally checked it once. I kind of forget about it. Same thing with Pinterest. Twitter is still deleted. I’ll have to download that one again to finish out my last two weeks of class, but after that, it’s history. And, let’s face it, Snapchat is silly (though I do love a good filter!)
- It’s possible to lose the “itch.” My desire to pick up my phone went away after I made a conscious decision to leave it alone for awhile. I plugged it in and let it sit on my kitchen counter for the rest of Wednesday, most of Thursday, and all day Friday. I even printed out my Thanksgiving recipes so that I didn’t have to have the phone with me. Out of sight, out of mind.
- I don’t use my phone for phone calls. It’s more for distractions instead.
- I miss reading. I’m a pretty avid reader even with my phone, but I admit that often my phone lures me in before bedtime instead of a good book. It was nice to renew the pleasure of getting lost in a good book for a few hours without digital diversions. I even went up to bed early a couple of nights just so I could read.
- And being “in the moment.” I really strive to be present when I’m with my kids. But I need to work more at this. It was nice to put my phone aside and just enjoy some time with them. The highlight came Wednesday morning when the three of us (and the dog) curled up under a blanket on the sofa and watched The Karate Kid. We repeated Thursday night with some NFL football, and last night with some classic James Bond. We’ve also had an ongoing foosball tournament in the playroom, and we roasted marshmallows over the fire pit. As tempting as it has been to reach for a phone to take pictures, I’ll keep these memories in my head instead. I like them better there, anyway.
- Still, it would be tough to get rid of my phone. I always think it would be nice to ditch it altogether. After all, I lived 30-something years without one, so I don’t really need it. Except that so much is tied to it, it would be a lifestyle change to get rid of it.
- But, I need to try. Because, should I really be that dependent on it? To the point where it pulls me away from life? It’s a little too Fahrenheit 451 for me.
Now that all is said and done, I’ll be keeping some parts of this challenge for good. Like putting my phone up an hour before bed. I’ve been keeping it on my nightstand since it doubles as my alarm, but that doesn’t mean I have to engage with it before bedtime. I also will keep most of those pesky social media apps deleted. And I can engage with the ones I do keep less often.
I won’t deny its usefulness, or, at least at this point, its necessity. But, if consciously unplugging more often keeps me more present in the moment and allows me to engage in more of what I love, I’ll keep doing it.