Kicking the Smartphone Habit

by Gail Jankovski on November 26

smartphone -2

It was gradual and insidious, so I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way my smartphone has become a much too pervasive and seemingly “important” part of my life.

Unlike some of you probably reading this, I am actually old enough to have once been a fully functioning adult without the benefit of the additional appendage of a cell phone. (That’s right, not even a smartphone—a regular old cell phone!)

I remember when my husband bought me my first cell phone as a birthday gift back in 1999—a Motorola flip phone, in case anyone remembers those. Even then I was a little late to the party; I was actually one of the last holdouts. I even recall making snide remarks about those self-important folks who felt the need to carry a phone with them everywhere. Little did I know! So I wasn’t too impressed with the gift—but I kept it and got with the program.

Fast forward to 2015—it’s a Saturday morning, and my house is quiet. I have been up for about 30 minutes and have already scrolled through Facebook, checked in a group chat, played two scrabble turns, and yes, I am drafting this article on my phone.

I have decided that I am way too attached to my phone. So I am committing now to stepping away from the smartphone, and, hopefully, towards a more engaged life with renewed connection, presence, creativity, productivity and freedom.

Connection

While I have certainly made some amazing connections with online friends over the years, I have to admit that being constantly and instantly connected through my phone sometimes has me neglecting my real life flesh-and-blood connections.

I have more than once been hanging on the couch with my sweetie, even just watching a movie together or chatting, only to become distracted by the “ping” of a message received. Or listening to my daughter tell me about something that happened at work that day, and not catching some of the detail because I was surreptitiously scrolling through a chat on my phone.

But is a chat, or tweet, or game play, or Instagram post, really more of a priority than the person who is right in front of us at any given moment? There is really nothing urgent about the ping of a new chat message. When we are interacting with a real live human, they deserve to have our full attention.

Presence

My phone has a pretty good camera, which of course is connected to my Instagram account. Somewhere along the line that led me to the belief that I have to take a picture to document pretty much everything in my life.

One morning I got up at my cottage. It had rained over night, and I was looking outside in the early morning at a beautiful lush, green, fresh forest that took my breath away. So I picked up my phone to try to capture it—but was disappointed and frustrated because no matter how many pictures or angles I tried, I just couldn’t capture the beauty of what I was seeing. But my frustration was ridiculous, really, and I realized that a picture can never capture the full scope of any experience. And my irritation with not being able to do so had robbed me of the beauty of the present moment.

There is no need to capture and share everything that goes on in our lives, and in trying to do so we often short change ourselves of the simple enjoyment of an experience. Life is meant to be experienced in the here and now, and to do that we must fully immerse ourselves in the experience of the present moment.

Creativity

Besides blogging, I also do some creative writing—or I did some creative writing. Lately there hasn’t been much creativity flowing. For me, the creative process includes letting go, daydreaming, and getting lost in my thoughts. I haven’t really experienced much of that lately, as it seems that almost all “down time” I have has me picking up my phone to mindlessly scroll through.

Waiting in a lineup, sitting in my car waiting to pick up the kids, home alone after working before anyone else is around, even sitting out on my deck at the cottage, are perfect times for self reflection and quiet self inquiry. They are the moments when I used to people watch, enjoy nature, meditate, or even just close my eyes and notice my own thoughts—not scroll through my phone looking at memes.

I have come to realize that the distraction and constant (somewhat mindless) stimulation that my phone provides is not at all conducive to the creative process—it keeps me in the shallow end, and I need to get back into the depths.

Productivity

Productivity for me, in this instance, doesn’t necessarily mean “work” in a paid context. It just means generally getting the things done that I would like to do every day, be it singing or playing the piano, cleaning up the kitchen, walking my dogs, doing some writing, or even just reading an actual printed book.

My phone, and all the distractions that come with it, are so conveniently within reach that it can be a real productivity killer for me. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I have picked up my phone to scroll through Facebook and maybe play a few Words with Friends turns, only to find myself still sitting there 30-60 minutes later.

Spending less time with phone in hand, gives us more time for other things, and our productivity can only go up.

Freedom

I remember, way back in the day, when my husband and I were dating and he would call me at night on our house phone. We would often miss each others’ calls, have to leave messages, and have to actually wait a few hours, even a day, for a return call!

How the world of instant communications has changed all that. Some of that is for the better. For instance, as a parent I can’t imagine the frustration my parents must have felt at their inability to reach us—it was so easy for me to just have my kids text me to check in. But the price for that instant communication, I have found, is the expectation of instant communication in return.

I have to admit that I can rarely leave the house without someone texting me to find out where I am, what I am doing, or can I do this or that for them.

Sometimes we just want the freedom to relax without feeling pressured to respond immediately to any message that we receive, or to be free to be “out of touch” if we so desire. Perhaps it is time to opt out of that particular dynamic, and start taking some communication “time outs” for ourselves.

smartphone - 3

So what now?

Well, I don’t think we need to ditch our smartphones altogether. I think that although our relationships with them may be troubled, they can still be saved by setting a few boundaries. So I have come up with a few rules to help with that:

  • Put the phone away while spending time with our family and/or partner—even if we are just hanging around and watching TV.
  • Leave the phone in a purse (or maybe in the car) when out with friends for a meal—so the people we are with get our full attention. If anyone needs us urgently, they will just have to leave a message. (I suspect that for me this may result in my kids taking the bus on occasion – they will probably survive—and maybe even learn to make plans in advance.)
  • Leave the phone downstairs in the kitchen at night to charge – not on the bedside table. It doesn’t have to be the first thing we look at! Personally, morning is my most creative time, so I need to capitalize on that.
  • Turn off data sometimes and become more comfortable being “out of touch”. For me it will be weekends away at the cottage, as I endeavour to cultivate more presence. We actually survived many years without Facebook, Google, Instagram and Words with Friends—I am quite sure we can get through a weekend.

So that is my plan and I’m sticking to it—I am determined to have technology enhance my life instead of detract from it. What about you? Do you have a love/hate relationship with your smartphone? And are you ready to deal with it?

The following two tabs change content below.

Gail Jankovski

Gail is a certified hypnotist, life coach, and aspiring writer and poet. Her approach to personal development is pragmatic: baby steps are OK—and small changes can add up to big rewards. She also keeps busy as an admin assistant, wife, and mom to three grown children.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniela Uslan November 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Gail, I loved this post. I totally resonate with your struggles with smart phones. Especially when I started blogging seriously, I constantly had my phone in my hand to check my stats, Facebook comments, etc. But when I let go and realized that life is beautiful when you are conscious and focused on the moment, I was much happier. Thanks for sharing this!

Reply

Gail November 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for reading and for your feedback Daniela! I am glad it resonated with you. It’s working well for me too … so far! 🙂

Reply

Brandon November 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I think it’s awesome you’re finding what you need to do for yourself to feel connected.

For me, I don’t really resonate with limiting how much I use my phone. I think it is because I’m blind, so I need to use my phone quite a lot for apps that help me interact with the world. I have an app for identifying money, one for reading labels, one for identifying whatever is in the camera’s view, one for helping me to navigate, and several to just be able to have fun. Most games aren’t blind-accessible, so the several I’ve been able to find on my iPhone have been really great for being able to unwind sometimes.

I’m admittedly quite the technophile. I am on my computer for most of my waking hours. I live in a small little town where it’s hard to find people with similar interests, so I feel like my computer and phone are my portal to the world at large, allowing me to find and connect with people with whom I can relate and have commonality.

So, I suppose I’m just giving voice to the other side of this issue. Everyone should definitely do what feels right for them at all times, but for me, technology has changed my life in countless ways, so I don’t foresee myself limiting it any time soon. 🙂

Reply

Gail November 27, 2015 at 6:20 am

Hi Brandon. That’s awesome that you have found it helpful for connection. For me it is more like 10% connection/productivity and 90% distraction! 🙂

Reply

Annalize November 26, 2015 at 11:33 pm

This is a thought provoking article. You address some of the issues I have been thinking about. I am keeping my phone very close, I always have it with me, feel lost without it, even take it to bed with me! I will apply some of your advice, think it’s time to get a bit of distance there with my phone. A phone is actually intrusive element in our lives.

Reply

Gail November 27, 2015 at 6:24 am

Yup – when I started ‘panicking’ when I forgot my phone for the day it was a wake up call for me. Now I am enjoying my ‘time outs’! Thanks for reading.

Reply

Bryce Rae November 27, 2015 at 11:28 am

Yes, I recently wrote a post very similar to this. It’s shocking how much technology is in our life’s. Yes, we are blessed, but it does kill things socially. What recently broke my heart was an afternoon with extended family. It was a sunny day, but the kids spent most of the time on ipads and ipods.

Thanks 🙂

Reply

Noel Rosos November 27, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Great article Gail! Sometimes we do need a break from our smart phones and social media altogether to appreciate the little things that we unintentionally ignore because we’re too busy playing with our phones.

You gave some good tips there. I usually leave my phone upstairs or set it to silent when I want to spend real, quality time with the family. it’s nice to go back to the basics from time to time when we make real connections instead of doing it through social media.

Reply

Akex December 7, 2015 at 10:06 am

Love the plan Gail! I know I find myself on devices wayy tooo much (not just phone). I’m definitely going to take up some of these ideas for less phone time 🙂

Reply

Stephanie D'Laroy February 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm

Great post Gail, I only started using a smartphone last year and I know how addictive it can be. I’m made an effort when I’m around people to put my phone on silent so my attention is on them rather than the phone. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: