How to break up with your phone: Lessons I’ve learned

I am to all intensive purposes addicted to my phone. But I’m not even embarrassed to admit that, because to be quite honest, if I take a look around me at my friends, family, fiancé, people on the tube, workmates and pretty much anyone that surrounds me… we are all addicted to our phones.

It’s a fact that as a society, we practically have the damn little devices glued to our hands and I’ll be the first to admit that yes, I probably could (definitely) spend less time picking it up, scrolling meaninglessly through social media and putting it down again, only to pick it up 10 minutes later and repeat the process.

That’s the main reason that I picked up this book, to be honest. I need a damn intervention. I want to spend less time using this little device in my pocket but at the same time, I don’t want it to be too drastic. I’m also hugely interested in the sociological side of how we as a society actually came to be so dependent on these things.

It’s unrealistic for me to expect I’ll be able to cut it out cold turkey. I work in social media, in enjoy using my phone and it’s how I keep in contact with my family and friends, so here’s what I’ve learned from this book:

Technology is built to be addictive

The first half of this book is “the realisation” if you will, where the author talks about how our phones, app designs and basically everything that developers work on- have been designed with human psychology in mind.

Apps are designed to give you that little boost of likes just as you’re about to sign off, the noise your phone makes when it sends a text is supposed to give you a feeling of control, and our bodies actually release dopamine whenever we have a pleasurable experience using our phones. So um, it’s not my fault I’m this way? Right?

It’s actually changing your mind

When researchers looked at the brains of London cab drivers, they found that their repetitive actions of studying routes around the city had actually changed a physical structure in their brain.

Take a moment, and realise how much time you’re studying your own phone every single day. Imagine what 2/3 hours of that (in my case) could actually be doing to the structure of your brain! It’s kind of terrifying really.

There’s no such thing as multitasking

Your brain is literally one track. When you try and do multiple things at once, it’s like a car trying to quickly change gear and drive in the opposite direction.

Sure, you can do something menial whilst using your phone most likely (sitting on an exercise bike for example) – but you can’t have multiple meaningful actions at once.

This one is fundamental for me because I am constantly trying to do things whilst also using my phone. It’s one of the habits that I’m working really hard to break, and instead, I’m trying to fixate on one thing at a time.

You’ll never have ‘flow’

I mean, I sniggered at that (don’t judge), but what she’s saying is that when you’re constantly attached to your phone, you never really just lose yourself in anything.

Ya know like when you’re at the cinema, or you’re playing sport, or laughing with your friends or really enjoying a book? Yeah, that’s probably because you aren’t interrupting yourself every 10 minutes.

FIND YOUR FLOW LADS!

You need to have a goal in mind

The author suggests that before you start you need to actually evaluate what you want your relationship with your technology to look like once you’ve cut down.

For me, it’s all about finding balance. I want to be able to use my phone to keep in contact with people, I like talking to people through apps and I find the music and photo features the best thing ever… but I don’t want to ever be distracted from a real-life conversation, by looking into a phone instead.

Finding the healthy balance between actually using it and finding it adds to my life, rather than using it for the sake of things is so important.

You need to be more mindful

As part of the ‘breaking up’ process, there’s an element of being mindful of why you are actually picking up your phone and why you’re feeling the need to use it.

In my case, I quite often just use it out of boredom. I scroll through things that I’m really not that interested in and end up feeling that I’ve just wasted my time. I’m going to put some of the lessons into practice here and actually think about the reason that I’m picking up my phone, and if I need to use it, or I’m just doing it out of habit.

Phones make us anxious

There’s a lot of stuff in this book about how you feel after you’ve looked at your phone, and I’ve got to say the more mindful I became of my emotions, the more I’ve realised that’s very true.

It’s mainly social media, but I find that having my work email on my phone literally sends me into a heightened state of anxiety if I dare open it in the evening when I should just be switching off.

Say no to notifications

The author suggests turning off app notifications and actually tidying up the apps that you really want on your phone, to prevent pointless use.

I have to totally agree with this one.

I deleted the Facebook app on my phone a long time ago, I only use Twitter if I’m going to tweet (rather than scrolling endlessly through the feed), I use Instagram more than I should probably… but turning off the little likes and prompts to pick it up has been really damn helpful to me.

It’s about reassessing your relationship, not going cold turkey

Like I said above, I love my phone at times. I enjoy connecting with people, I need it for certain aspects of my life and I work in social media. It would be a damn tough life if I didn’t have my phone constantly (I live on Google maps) and it’s useful. Technology is awesome let’s not lie.

But, there’s always an element of cutting back and actually living in the present moment, rather than all the unnecessary little details you’re looking at on the screen.

So, has this book changed my perception of my phone habits?

In a way, no. I know that I can be quite unhealthily addicted at times, but I definitely came to that realisation myself a year or so ago. I’ve been making small gradual changes since then, such as having ‘phone free evenings’ and making sure that it isn’t on me when I’m out with family or friends… but at the end of the day, it’s pretty difficult to undo all the conditioning and enjoyment that your brain gets from this little device!

I would defo recommend that people give this one a read if you want a broken down step-by-step on ways to reevaluate your use, but for me, I’ve been working on this addiction for a long time now!

Rach

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