In today’s society the phone has become, to many of us, the electronic device that is the most important. It’s our window to the internet, the way we communicate with others. It provides us with entertainment and joy, allows us to document our surroundings and express ourselves. The phone is an extension of us and our second brain.
It’s also extremely addictive, at least to me.
During a normal day I carry my phone with me all the time. I unlock it, open some app, flick around, and generally find no joy in any of it. Despite myself I keep doing it as a vicious cycle. For a long time I deluded myself that it was me being addicted to something like Instagram, which may also be true, but I think I have realised it’s more that I am addicted to the phone itself. I am addicted to the access to something new. To notifications.
I have, since years ago, uninstalled Instagram from my phone. I no longer access Reddit, because Apollo was shut down. So these days what do I actually do on my phone? Why does it need to be on my person? Why is it lying on my chest as I lie down in the couch writing this on my laptop? I just moved it to the sofa table, but it’s still there within my peripheral vision.
What do I do on the phone
When I open up my phone I usually do some of these things
- To check for new notifications, messages, or email. I have in general declared war on getting these live, so I check the phone instead for them.
- I open up Discord or Tildes to check what else is new.
- Sometimes, even during evenings, if I have nothing new I open up Slack just in search of something. This despite knowing that I will stress myself out.
- I watch a Youtube clip.
- Swipe around looking for an app that might be interesting.
Thinking about it I find all of these to be very toxic behaviours. I shouldn’t do them, but I can’t help myself. The dopamine kick of something new is too intoxicating. The feeling of someone contacting me, wanting to talk, is superb food for my feelings of loneliness.
I wish it was different. I look at my wife and how she treats the phone. She’ll happily leave it on a shelf when she gets home and let it sit there for hours, not bothering to check it. I envy my friend Johan who says he does the same thing. Reasonably I should be able to do the same; so the question I am going to ask myself is not why, but how can I do the same?
Like any addiction or habit it can be broken and I have some ideas, that are maybe somewhat related, that I am going to attempt in the coming weeks to see
The first attempt is going to be just using the tools that I have. I am going to start by setting up another profile in iOS for myself that I will call “Detox”. This mode will let through calls but silence any other notifications. Already I only really receive notifications from my wife when my phone is set to “Personal” but now she’ll be blocked as well (sorry).
With this in mind I am going to start putting my phone away from me for one hour in the morning, afternoon, and evening. For now it will just reside on my nightstand and charging, but in the future I am looking at designing a little box that I can symbolically put it in. I find that such symbolic actions carry a lot of psychological weight and do help me work through problems.
I am going to give it a month and hopefully see if it can change my habits for the better.