Here’s a somewhat embarrassing fact: I think I have a mild phone addiction. Okay, maybe it’s not so mild. More like medium. I have a medium-strength phone addiction.
Well, doesn’t everyone? I guess… But that doesn’t make it disrupt my life any less or make me happy. In fact, it almost makes it worse. I hate looking around in public, typically on public transportation or worse, a social engagement, and seeing heads down, eyes glazed over, thumbs (probably with the muscles of the hulk at this point) scrolling through some app. I think I have a sort of guilt because I want to be different. I look upon the phone-obsessed, torn as I partly feel like a crotchety old woman who thinks the youths don’t know how to communicate anymore but partly jonesing for an Instagram fix.
Thinking back through my life up to this moment, I can easily relate this to my dad waking me up every weekend or summer morning when I was in high school, saying “sweetly” (and judgingly), “Cindy, it’s 10 am, are you going to do something today?” It’s hammered in me that to sleep in is wrong and lazy and you should make the most of your day. I did grow up in Franklin, Massachusetts after all, so it’s good that one thing Ben Franklin said has stuck with me: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Trying to get me to wake up early is fine and I’m sure my dad’s intentions were pure. Who wouldn’t want to instill motivation and a strong work ethic in their child? (However I’m still weirdly bitter that my chore was never to mow the lawn, because I grew up thinking it was a thing that only your dad could do, and I feel ruined as a feminist.) But can you not see the inkling of shaming others for doing that? I don’t know, maybe I’m trying too hard to connect the two. But when I see people on their phones I think, “you guys, it’s 10 am, we have to get up! I mean, uh, shouldn’t we put down our phones???”
Unfortunately for me and everyone else suffering from this, it’s a bit difficult to totally get rid of my phone, because oh yeah, technology is actually quite helpful. I have a map at my fingertips, google a click away, and music whenever I want it. It’s great! But do I really need it all the time? No, I guess I actually know the drive to the cape at this point. If I HAVE to search something I probably can wait. And I don’t have to constantly be flooding my brain with music but instead perhaps take the earbud out and talk to my coworkers, ponder human existence, or listen more intently to the world around me.
But believe me, I’ve thought about ditching my smart phone for a flip phone. I don’t even know how you could access the internet on that. There was a button on one of my old phones that could connect you to AOL, but I was too afraid to open it and get scolded for using internet because who knows much that cost. Plus, why would I need it?! Oh, sweet past me, you didn’t even realize all the millions of forms of content you would need at all times.
The trouble is, I get a lot out of all the apps. I love Instagram because it’s pretty, but it’s probably the most dangerous, because I can spend so much time on it and then emerge bleary-eyed and wishing my life were cooler. Facebook I would quit but everyone is on it, so even though it’s the worst, it’s the hub. Twitter is too angsty for me, but can be really funny at times and I like to tweet about the Bachelor. I can’t lose Snapchat because my brother sends videos of my nephew on that. UGH, can’t you see the agony?!
Anyway, today I read through some tips to avoid phone addiction. One tip got me thinking. It said to replace the word “can’t” with “don’t”. So when I’m trying to cut down my phone usage, instead of saying “I can’t go on my phone right now” say “I don’t go on my phone after dinner” or “…at work” or “…more than three times per day”. This intrigued me because it is creating a new identity for our ego to have. If I say, oh I don’t go on social media more than once a day, I will eventually cling to that as a point of pride. That point in my ego will develop until it’s who I truly want to be, and my behavior will change to be that way. When I say that I don’t go on social media more than once a day, I’m saying lots of things about myself. I’m saying “I’m engaged with the world around me, and don’t you want to be too? I am too busy (hair toss), I am active and healthy, physically and mentally, I probably read a lot and my room is definitely clean because think of all the stuff you could get done if you actually value your time like I do.”
Clearly I have some already established ideas about what it would be like to not go on my phone as much, and I have some serious qualms with the ego. I’ve never thought of leveraging this aspect of yourself and putting it to good use. It worries me, because what will happen when this identity is rooted and overgrown with other identifying characteristics? Can I even use my ego in this way if I’m constantly trying to separate myself from it? It’s not like I don’t have an ego or that I’m perfectly separate from it by any means. But it seems counterintuitive to work my ego for one purpose but squander its less useful traits. Then again, the ego is not necessarily wrong. It just is. And let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t useful biologically and evolutionarily. Ego makes you protect your land, family, food, shelter more fiercely. But it gets in the way of relationships approximately one million times more.
Luckily for me, there were other tips! Such as putting your phone far away (maybe even locking it in your car!), forgiving yourself when you do go on, and replacing the habit. Just to add my own, I think I might start writing down how I feel after each jaunt through the apps. I think if I note the immediate emotions I will be more motivated to make a change. Additionally, I’m going to look for a club to join or sign up for a weekly yoga or fitness class. I think if I am busier I will be less likely to whittle away my time scrolling. Also, I should load up my library wish list with several books so I always have something to read.
Also, time to congratulate me, because so far, I have succeeded in my goal of posting on my blog twice a month this year! I’m proud of myself for being consistent and following through so far on what I’ve set out to do. Overall I see my writing improving, though I do tend to babble, but I used to just start a topic and then when it got out of hand not really know what to do. Now I try to see it through and keep it simpler. Have you ever noticed how the Simpsons episodes start so far from where they end up? That’s like my blog, except I’m way less funny. Yay for me for following through, and even though using my phone less might be more difficult, it’s reassuring knowing I have the skill set to do it.
Finally, thanks to my dad for making me wake up by 10 am on the weekends or in the summer. It made me value my day and what I can get done in it so much more, and now I love mornings, working on special projects around the house, and exercising while it’s still light out. It’s made me treasure cocktail hour on a summer day, because I know I did lots of awesome stuff that I enjoy that day. Even though the age of smartphones might bring me down at times, I think those wake-ups saved me from thinking that’s ok.