Putting your phone down can confuse you when you are addicted. Admit it, you’ve gained weight from the hours spent sitting on the couch looking at your phone since the onset of covid-19. We’ve shopped for things that we don’t need and read way too many political posts that have messed with our mental wellbeing. We have been enraged by content, obsessed with games, and repeatedly check the like count on our posts for personal validation. Raise your hand if you’ve become that person. I know I have.
Recently I sent a note to all my contacts asking them to change the way they communicate with me, and it said, “In an effort not to look at my phone, please CALL ME to connect. I won’t be answering my text; however, there will be exceptions for use that are essential, such as taking photos, writing my blog, paying bills, tracking my exercise, talking to my children overseas, and GPS. I hope you understand. #addicted.” The number of people who texted me back after I said I wouldn’t be looking at my phone was alarming. Friends and family ignored the personal boundary I had set regarding my preferred communication method. It seems that even if we want to put our phones down, societal habits won’t let us.
I discovered that putting my phone down disrupted simple tasks. I was in the bathroom having my first morning sit-down in forever without my device, and OMG, my head was spinning. I was somewhat lost thinking, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHILE I’M SITTING HERE?” So I read anything I could get my hands on (within reach)—the toothpaste tube, shampoo bottle, anything. Really? Come on, I can surely make it through a pit stop without a phone in my hand.
After that, I decided to distance myself from my phone. I moved my charger out of the bedroom to the kitchen. I turned the phone ringer on and decided to use it the way we did in the old days. Phones used to hang on the wall in the kitchen, and when it rang, everyone raced to see who could get it first while tripping over furniture and each other. Moving the phone while it charged was a little experiment, and I’m not sure what result you’ll get if you try this, but my phone didn’t ring all day. I ignored the constant notifications I received and I gained some peace. As the day wore on, our slightly nosy child kept checking my phone on the kitchen counter, saying, “You have 20 texts… Mom, you have 32 texts… Mom, you have 54 texts!” I refused to look. I set my boundary with everyone, and my message was unmistakable; if you want to reach me, give me a CALL. So after seriously asking my contacts to call, I got texts anyway. It seems we should consider that others may not respect a request for verbal conversation, and not texting could lead to being shut out. Why doesn’t anyone want to talk? Maybe, like me, they have developed anxiety over the thought of having to speak to someone on the other end of the line. If we put down our phone, are we risking total isolation? Or Is there an upside to tuning out the chatter?
Here’s what I experienced. I got stuff done as a result of putting down my mind-sucking tile of radioactivity. I practiced singing and playing the piano, took a walk, cooked, read a book (one made of paper), and cleaned (I mean, cleaned right down to scrubbing my baseboards). I quickly found I had gained more energy and my creativity reared its beautiful head. I made music and entertained myself and my child while she read (because she too put down her phone), and the house smelled nice. As a result of this resurgence of energy, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day (good exhausted). You may also experience renewed energy, but beware of the wee small hours of the morning.
Just because I put my phone down, the habits I had developed at night didn’t instantly disappear. Remember, our tendency to constantly have our device in our hand turns into an addiction, and you may experience withdrawals. As I said previously, I went to bed exhausted and still woke up five times restless with an overwhelming desire to get up to look at my phone. If you’ve experienced this, I’m betting you too now have insomnia. I had developed this terrible habit of looking at my screen with its ambient blue light, which tricks our minds into thinking it’s daytime, after which point my mind would race, and I had conditioned myself to this. I also woke up in the morning and couldn’t wait to grab my phone! But why? Well, I’ll tell you why, because everything and everyone we want to know is in there—random thoughts, stored memories, career possibilities, tragic news, good news, standard gossip, cute dog and grumpy cat memes, legit cries for help, validation, and more. Talk about information overload! Did you know, according to worldwidewebsize.com, “the indexed World Wide Web contained 4.15 billion pages as of Monday, June 14, 2021”? Let’s break that down a bit.
Imagine attempting to consume all of the information in The US Library of Congress alone—“the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts” in its collections. As far back as 2009, the US Library of Congress Blog wrote, “We can say that we have about 15.3 million digital items online.” You could spend your entire lifetime attempting to plow through all of that information. Now, look at the 4.15 billion pages available online today on top of the emails, texts, and social media we constantly check. We are consumed by written, recorded, and live information. It’s taking over the time we spend looking at our loved ones, conversing with our children, snuggling our pets, and being mindful of our bodies, for its mass of information at times still leaves us feeling empty.
Put your phone down for a day at least once a week. Living primarily on your device is an empty and lonely existence; no one wants that for anyone. And what about our children? How can our children learn to put their devices down if we’re talking to them while holding ours? According to a Huffpost article about Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University, he said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Yes, he wanted to sell his products, but does that sound like an invitation to jump down a rabbit hole of digital information and electronic devices and lose who you are? Do you think he intended us to abandon our individuality, creativity, and energy living in the matrix of cell phones or tablets?
We need to take control and not let our digital lives control us. We must be mindful and turn off the texts, social media, and constant ding of alerts when it is not vital to pay attention. Don’t lose yourself in billions of digital pages and the voices of others; silence your mind and listen to your voice, because that is the one that matters the most.