A few days ago I found out by the power of a judgmental app that in the previous 7 days I had been on my phone for 24 hours, the equivalent of one whole day out of my week. During this time I had – chatted to friends, learnt French, ordered things, did online banking and for the remaining 90% of the time, doom scrolled on Instagram. The app even showed how long I was using my mobile each time I unlocked, ranging from 7 seconds to a full hour.
I have always had a complex relationship with my phone and feel like I am continually trying to work out what works best for me – removing social media completely, letting myself a set amount of time to go on my favourite apps, alarms to tell me I have been on my phone too long or just turning it off completely. When I go cold turkey and put my phone away in a drawer, I feel great but as soon as the time creeps nearer for us to be reunited I literally get a rush of adrenaline, my heart starts beating and I can’t get off it until everything has been seen, responded to and completed which is impossible because as soon as you’re done someone does another bloody Instagram story.
I wrote this blog post where I concluded that a 7 day detox had changed my relationship with my phone for good and I would now be a lot more mindful with how I use this annoyingly intelligent piece of technology but lets be honest, it didn’t stick. I’m not mad at myself for being addicted to my phone because that is literally what they are designed to do. I watched the Social dilemma a few months ago and decided I would never use social media again and then the next day I posted what I was eating for dinner.
I feel my main ties to my phone lie in Whatsapp and Instagram. I have increased the amount of people I follow on Instagram which might sound counterproductive but when I follow less people I feel like I need to be up to date with everyone’s dull antics. Following more people has made it literally impossible to do that so now I can pick and choose the content I engage with. Whatsapp is a bit of a beast, I miss the days of saying ‘ptb’ at the end of a text message and then having to wait 3-5 working days until my mate had saved up their pocket money to get a top-up and then finally got back to me. Messages were long, squeezing in the absolute maximum of characters instead of the constant dialogue that Whatsapp encourages. I tried to use my Whatsapp account like old school sms, spending time before I responded and then sending a full paragraph to engage in more meaningful comms but that isn’t ideal when your gf just wants to know if you want salmon for dinner.
I don’t have the answers but I do know I need to use my phone less. These last 2 days the judgmental app tells me I have used my phone around an hour each day which means my usage has been reduced dramatically since I was presented with the cold hard facts and a graph to rival those on BBC news when a new covid announcement comes (next slide please). I’ve realized that when I have days when I have seen friends in person, I don’t reach for my phone as much. I’ve noticed that I am constantly craving connection and the best way for me to do that is to be present and irl with the people I want to chat to..which isn’t ideal when there is a global pandemic making it illegal to be close enough to have a chat without shouting.
So I’m going to be kind to myself whilst I muddle through this and not put any hard and fast rules about how I use my phone. As soon as I make a rule I want to break it. I can only use my phone for an hour a day? Watch me use it for seven. The thing I want to do is just use it a bit less and that’s something I reckon I can manage. At the end of the day if something is important, they will call you, promise.