I look like I’m twelve years old, so I’m sure the AT&T salesman assumed I would be an easy sell. Wearing a polo shirt and new Nike shoes, he bounced towards the door with an iPad in hand. He smiled wide. He was ready to sell me something expensive! I smiled and added a disclaimer to my request, “You’re going to think I’m crazy…” I said. “I want to trade in my iPhone 5S, for this,” I said, pulling a flip phone out of my jacket pocket. He confirmed that I was indeed crazy and asked what prompted this decision, which he assured me I would soon regret. Citing a lack of self-control despite valiant efforts, I acknowledged my failings and powerlessness over a device the size of my hand. He asked how I would keep abreast on Trump destroying our nation or take pictures of cute babies and expensive meals. I smiled and gave him the flip phone. “Right. This shouldn’t take long,” he said. One phone call and fifteen minutes later, the clock was wound back and I was set. I walked out into the mall and sat down in the food court to manually add my contacts to the new phone. This was a tedious process. I felt a sense of pride sitting in a public space with my antiquated piece of technology. A few people gawked at me, as you do when you see an Amish buggy on a highway or a policeman riding a horse. While adding my boyfriend and family members to speed dial (and simultaneously missing Siri), I was struck by the sheer volume of contacts relative to the number of people I actually communicate with regularly. It was time for a contact cleanse! Sitting in the food court, with people flowing around me, I began to feel hot and sweaty. The wool collar on my sweater made my neck itchy. There was growing tension in my stomach. My cheeks felt flush. This was a familiar feeling. I was feeling anxious. The impending disconnection had me feeling all kinds of loneliness and panic. I began to spiral out.
// Hello, my name is Stephanie and I’m addicted to my smartphone. //
Most of us are aware that smartphones are proven to have a negative impact on our attention span, memory and sleep. They are also to blame for failing relationships and poor performances at school and on the job. We have come to feel dependent on our devices to keep us functioning and feeling connected. Leaving the house without your phone feels like walking out of your front door without pants on. Most device devotees are constantly checking social media or streaming something, whether it be NPR News as you brush your teeth in the morning, or a YogaGlo vinyasa flow class after work, or an episode of Two Dope Queens while chopping veggies for dinner. We perpetually bombard our brains with information, and wonder why we are tired, overwhelmed, scattered and anxious. We need disconnection, and we need it bad.
Prior to my drastic decision, I had tried removing Instagram and Facebook applications from my iPhone. Aimless scrolling during idle moments was a major contributor to my overuse. I scrolled while in line at a coffee shop. I scrolled while my dentist anesthetized my mouth. I even scrolled while peeing at work. I had zero control. A few days passed before I found myself re-downloading the applications again. Step One: Admit that you are powerless over your device. I even entertained the idea of a digital sunset. This involves turning off your devices (computer and phone) a few hours before bed each night to assist with shutting down the mind and reducing exposure to blue light, which suppresses melatonin production. This wasn’t going to work. I had come to rely on scrolling Instagram while drooling as a sort of bedtime Lullaby and decided I needed this to wind down. When out with friends, I even tried to be conscious of not having my phone visible. I tried, really I did. The straw that broke the camel’s hump came when I downloaded the Moment app. This free app tells you how many times you pick up your phone each day and how many total hours you spend on your phone in a day. The first day I had the app, I spent 8.5 hours/day on my phone and the second day I spend 12 hours on my phone. I was horrified, but more importantly, I was motivated. That day, I decided to start a revolution. A flip phone revolution.
For many of us, I believe our devices have become our primary relationship, and to quote Al Gore, this is a most “inconvenient truth.”
Here are the reasons why I decided to make the flip:
- I was experiencing low level anxiety and depression everyday from the subtle pressure to stay informed and connected at all times. My nervous system was fried.
- I was waking up tired every morning despite 8+ hours of sleep. I believe my melatonin was being suppressed due to blue light exposure up until the moment I closed my eyes.
- I am a curious person and noticed a new pattern of struggling to finish an article or a book. My attention span had been conditioned to respond best to 7 second sound bites or 1-second image flashes.
- I noticed that it took longer for me to get into a creative state. I had to intentionally disconnect by going for a run or doing yoga before I could access my creative flow.
- I found myself being less present in conversations with others. After a few seconds my mind might wander, and occasionally, I felt irritable when I experienced people speaking slowly. What had I become?!
- I commonly complained of not having enough time for things. I blamed this on working full time and being in a loving relationship. The Moment app helped me realize that 8-12 hours of my day were devoted to my iPhone. There was my answer.
- I texted while I drove. I cried when I watched a Youtube clip of a girl who was hit by a car as the driver was texting on the phone. I cried, and yet I couldn’t quit this bad habit. Feel free to hate me.
- I found myself in a perpetual state of compare and despair. I began to focus more on material possessions and the successes of others. I felt a sense of lack and jealousy. We are being advertised to constantly through social media. And we are consenting to this. It’s madness!
I love extreme experiments. I like going without to learn what can come in and open up. I am three days into not having my smartphone, and I am already experiencing benefits. In my next few posts, I will explore theses benefits and the daily reality of going without a smartphone. I will also dive into what it’s like to be a blogger + podcast launcher without one. I believe that you can be a creative, social force in the world while embracing the flip phone lifestyle. In fact, I think you’ll be a better one!
I would love to know your thoughts and tech-addiction struggles.
Yours from the North, land of the flip phone revolution-