Earlier this year I started a new endeavor: breaking up with my smartphone.
Essentially, I’ve come to notice that I spent entirely too much time looking at my phone screen, sometimes for no reason at all. A quiet habit that snuck up on me, I caught myself one day just picking up my nearby phone to wake it up and flip through the screens. Wait, what, why? Realizing I had done this for no reason at all, I began to suspect this was going on more than I realized. So, after paying more attention to this, come to find that I actually had to stop myself from habitually grabbing the phone for this empty ritual. Instead of getting information I needed, information was getting me.
When I announced this finding to my husband, he remembered listening to a podcast series on this very topic. Upon some further reading, I came across plenty or articles and books on the subject of smartphones and information overload in general.
Now being fascinating with this finding, and undertaking a new observation of those around me, it became readily apparent just how engrossed so many people are in their phones – no matter what else they are doing. People driving and texting. People traveling the world seemingly on autopilot routines of taking selfies at every view spot and posting to their social sites instead of even looking at what they’re visiting. On a recent airport trip, we were seated facing two families. Family One had four people who were each staring and swiping away at their phones – silent and not a single smile. Family Two had five phoneless people, all laughing and talking and lighting up the area with their happiness. I am very introverted and using my phone or pad for reading and listening to books when flying or when waiting at airports is very comfortable for me. Although now I think I’d like to look up from reading and at least say hello to the people near me, and to mindfully enjoy my surroundings more.
So, I’ve very purposefully removed almost all of the notifications, news headlines, bells and whistles from my phone, and am treating it once again more like a phone. I rarely use any social sites, so those were not already installed anyway. Turns out I really like email, so it’s still undecided if it will stay on the phone. Having email at the computer seems truly enough in my case, based on my situation. Also, my phone is getting left behind a lot more these days. It’s no longer in my hand or back pocket most everywhere I go now.
If you’re interested in any of the above:
- the podcast series is Bored & Brilliant from Note to Self,
- a very popular book on the subject is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle; and
- here’s a great article on information overload by Clayton d’Arnault at Digital Culturist, Drowning in a Sea of Information.
Accepting that these marvels of technology provide numerous useful tools, getting a handle on the habits and the apps that aren’t actually helping me has been a big eye-opener. I’ve used a smartphone since they first became available although right now it’s fair to say it’s being used far less. : )
Update: There’s a new series on this blog focused on this subject – Hanging Up. You can choose the Hanging Up category to see those posts.