There’s a picture from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding that I’m totally obsessed with.
It’s not of Meghan’s dress or the couple’s first kiss. It’s not even the famous Prince Harry lip bite (although, let’s be real, that’s definitely a close second).
It’s a picture of an older lady as she catches a glimpse of the happy couple. She’s outside leaning against a metal divider, presumably watching the carriage ride. The people around her are all on their phones, trying desperately to get a picture of Harry and Meghan.
Not this lady.
She’s leaning forward: present, engaged, taking it all in with a serene smile on her face. She looks truly, truly happy. She is simply soaking up the moment without feeling the need to document it or share it with strangers on the internet.
I can’t help but look at that picture and think, I want more of that. More of that simple joy and contentment. More of the ability to be present and engaged with what’s happening right in front of me. I want to get off my phone and truly enjoy my life with the same peace and happiness that this lady seems to have.
To do this, I decided to get serious about changing my phone habits. If I wanted to be more present in my daily life, I needed to set some boundaries when it comes to my phone usage.
But I also knew that getting rid of my phone or deleting social media entirely wasn’t going to be something I could do- or even wanted to do- long term. My goal isn’t to become a person who doesn’t use technology. It’s to become a person who uses it mindfully, who intentionally engages with social media instead of just doing it on autopilot. I want my phone to enhance my life, not distract me from it.
I found that changing my phone habits was surprisingly easy once I got clear on why I wanted to do it. Here’s some simple steps I took to developing a more intentional relationship with my phone:
1. Delete things you don’t truly enjoy: The first thing I decided to do was get crystal clear on what I actually liked doing on my phone, and what I was just doing on autopilot. Instagram is my favorite form of social media. I like to use it as a space to micro-blog and document my life. Twitter, on the other hand, stresses me out. I’m not sure why exactly, but I always feel panicky and overwhelmed whenever I’m using it. And even though I know that, I still check the app on a regular basis simply because it’s there. As a result, I made the intentional choice to delete Twitter and keep Instagram. I did this with every single app on my phone. I really evaluated how it made me feel and if it was worth keeping. This cut down on the sheer amount of time I was on my phone, and also made the experience much more pleasant.
2. Actively engage in content: After I deleted all the things that I didn’t particularly love, I made the decision to lean into the social media platforms that I did enjoy. I don’t want to mindlessly scroll; I want to purposefully digest what I’m consuming and form opinions about it. And I wanted to interact! That’s the point of social media after all. Now, I try very hard to like or comment on posts that interest me, even if I don’t know the person. I stop and really think about a thought-provoking caption instead of immediately moving on to the next post. I intentionally share things that I think others will resonate with. I engage instead of witness.
3.Log out of social media and email: This has been the ultimate game changer. Despite wanting to be more intentional with my phone, I still found myself opening up Instagram on autopilot when I didn’t mean to- like at line in the grocery store, or during slow parts of a show, or right after I woke up in the morning. I wasn’t even thinking about it, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it, it was just something I did out of habit. An easy fix? Log out. You don’t have to delete the account entirely, just log out when you’re done using it. The intermediate screen that asks me to log in is enough to remind me that I don’t need to be on my phone every time I have a spare second. I can engage in the world around me instead.
4. Set times for social media usage: I allow myself to check social media twice a day. I make a big deal out of it. I make a cup of coffee and really give myself permission to dive in. This makes it fun and special. It’s something I actually look forward to. But honestly? Since restricting myself to twice a day, I’ve noticed that nothing actually happens on social media that’s all that interesting. I could go weeks without checking it and be fine. This has definitely cured my FOMO and made me realize that social media just isn’t all that interesting.
5. Leave my phone in another area: If my phone is next to me, I am tempted to look at it. It’s so much easier to keep my phone in my purse if I’m out to dinner with someone. I also leave it in a different room at home so that I’m not distracted by it. It’s crazy how much I find myself on my phone when I’m watching TV or eating dinner with my husband. I don’t want to do these things, and the easy solution is to just remove the phone entirely
Since utilizing these habits, I’ve found myself enjoying my life more. I’m less addicted to the screen, and I feel much more present and engaged in what’s going on around me. I feel like I’m one step closer to becoming the person I want to be in the world, and that’s a great feeling.