I always tell my friends that leaving is a process. When you are ending a significant relationship or making a big change, it’s rarely a single decision. Most of the time, there are a thousand little decisions and awarenesses that move you away from the current state to the new state. And it usually involves a lot of back and forth, too.
Price’s book How to Break Up With Your Phone is not just a “put down your phone” sort of plan. There is a 30-day calendar that walks you through a process of discovering how you use your phone, experimenting with some boundaries and finally encouraging a trial separation for a weekend. My trial separation is going to fall when I’m on a camping trip somewhere in the Appalachians.
My first thought was, “Oh no. That wouldn’t be safe to be without my phone out hiking. What if I need my GPS? Perhaps I could change the weekend.” After my initial resistance, I talked myself down. Did people hike and camp before phones? Maybe I could pull out a map for heaven’s sake, and navigate the old-fashioned way. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea!
So, I’m all in. Day 1 – which is on a Monday – asks me to download a time-tracking app. I’ve already downloaded Moments which tracks how many times I pick up my phone during the day and how much time I use it. I have to admit that I didn’t use it as much yesterday. Even thinking about this has made me aware of times I really don’t need it. I went for a walk and coffee with my friend Abby yesterday, and I just tossed my phone in the car. And I used my computer yesterday afternoon at home instead of my phone. That’s one way to get around that damn app!
My screen time yesterday was 3 hours 58 min. Granted, an hour of that was when I was running and using my Runkeeper app. So, I really had 3 hours of screen time where I was engaging with my phone. I picked it up 26 times. 26 TIMES!!! And that’s on a Saturday when I took a 2-hour nap, ran for an hour and walked for an hour and a half without my phone. This is definitely an eye-opener. I’m not supposed to make any changes yet, so today I’ll use it to my heart’s content.
The goal of the next few days is to decide where I really want to place my attention. She encouraged me to answer the question “What do you want to pay attention to?” and save it as my lock screen.
Yesterday, I was driving, and the Benton Harbor bridge went up. I instinctively reached for my phone. I saw that lock screen, and I put it down. I watched a sailboat glide beneath the bridge and some Canadian Geese peck at the ground for food. I noticed that the Whirlpool building on the river had a trail and some picnic tables near the water. “That’s nice,” I thought. And the interesting this is, I felt better. My mood lifted.
All day I noticed how I felt when I had the urge to pick up my phone. Sometimes I was bored. Other times I was anxious. All of the time I wanted to distract myself with something. A phone was what hung on the wall in my parents’ house. It had one purpose. It never solved any of my problems. This is entirely something else. My smartphone soothes me. It relieves my boredom. It assuages my loneliness. At one time alcohol did it for me. Sugar and food serves that purpose, too. It can be an addiction, but it’s most definitely a pacifier.
Instead of reaching for my phone yesterday, I visited with a friend. I read two issues of Runner’s World magazine. I haven’t been able to read through a single copy of Runner’s World for years. Pre-smartphone, my favorite day of the month was when Runner’s World arrived. I’d grab a cup of coffee and devour every word. As I was reading through the May issue last night, a question popped into my mind. I instinctively reached for my phone to google the answer. I hesitated. “I don’t need the answer right now,” I told myself. “This is not an emergency.”