In my frustration with my smart phone use, I have often considered switching mine for a “dumb” phone that doesn’t have the internet or games (as the post title suggests). But in my calmer moments, I concluded that modifying my use of my existing phone would be a more practical and enriching exercise. So the great and humorous trial and error process began.
Trial 1: Keeping the phone close but not in my pocket
Instead I left it on any nearby surface, like the coffee table or kitchen counter, or in my purse. Theoretically, this would make reaching for the phone a more conscious choice.
-Rowan got ahold of my phone often and became skilled at emailing, deleting apps, and placing calls
-When I put it out of Rowan’s reach, I lost my phone constantly. I used the “Find my phone” iCloud app every other day, and half of those times I found it sitting on a kitchen counter, camouflaged by the black granite.
-Having the phone an arm’s length away wasn’t much of a deterrent, especially when I often had to rescue it from my son before it ended up in the toilet anyway.
Trial 2: Adding a password to my phone
This was supposed to Rowan-proof the phone so I could leave it on any convenient surface without fear of my phone content being toddlerized. The delay in access also made me rethink my choice to use it.
-It is not fully Rowan-proof. The phone will still take calls, pictures, play music, and activate Siri while password-locked. And I learned that trying to communicate with a McDonald’s drive-through speaker while Mackelmore’s Thrift Shop is blaring out of my reach from the backseat only becomes funny about three weeks after the incident and onward.
-Again, user error. I would pick up my phone for a quick task, like logging Rowan’s nap start time, and end up cruising the Internet aimlessly.
Trial 3 (in progress): Planning on not using the phone, more often than not
The problems with trial 2 both stemmed from easy access to the phone for both Rowan and me. I decided to make alternative plans for the more legitimate reasons I wanted to use my phone (weather, traffic, calls, nap app), and then plan to keep it docked in a designated spot so I wouldn’t “lose” it so often. It’s been working really well so far!
-I use my PC for almost all Internet use. As I noted in the last post, I’m really enjoying this. I give my full attention to these tasks when I do them, and the PC is not such a black hole for my free time and attention as my ever-present phone was.
-I keep my phone ringer on so I know when I get a text or call. At first it felt odd to stray from the silent/vibrate settings that have dominated the phone-attached-to-hip era, as though I was suddenly at high risk for walking into a movie theater or a church unknowingly. No problems so far though.
-I usually know the location of my phone, since I try to use designated spots. But I’ve found that the number of times I seek out my phone is decreasing sharply. I usually only want/need it when I plan to venture out of the house, and sometimes not even then (GASP!). I actually opted to leave it at home instead of worrying about someone stealing it from my bag or car at the pool recently.
-I do sometimes miss out on spontaneous photo ops, like when my son stuck his face in the dog’s water bowl to slurp a drink. But then he did it again later when I had a camera, so….win…win?
-I keep my “real” camera handy, and still take plenty of pics of better quality than my phone offers. I also don’t mind using my phone for a pic if I have time to grab it. Overall I’ve found that the increased enjoyment of those funny spontaneous moments is worth possibly foregoing the digital ‘proof’ that it happened.
-Missing my handy “Notes” app has strangely made me more efficient. Items only get added to my precious lists if they are substantial enough to warrant a walk across the room. And in some cases, since I would have to get up to add “mail water bill” to my to-do list anyway, I go ahead and mail the bill instead.
-I’m reading books more often, both paper and e-books, which I find is a much more enjoyable means of diversion than surfing the web.
Preliminary Conclusion: Mental uncluttering
So far, I *have* enjoyed some of the benefits I anticipated from unplugging a little. I am more relaxed and seem to have undergone digital detox- I don’t feel the need for frequent data binges. I am less distracted and more able to focus. My mind automatically began reflecting thoughtfully *and productively* on daily life during my unplugged downtime. I remember doing this naturally when I was younger, and it’s altogether different than the anxious pondering stuffed into commercial breaks or before bed that I’ve done in recent years. This thoughtful process seems like the natural way to “digest” the day, and I’m surprised now that I never noticed its absence before; I wonder which of my prior stresses and ills could be attributed to mental “indigestion?”
Overall, I am enjoying the honeymoon phase of behavior change. But I acknowledge that it’s exactly that. The long-term plan and its effects are yet to be seen. It’s worth mentioning this relevant article, shared with me by a fellow blogger, about a writer who engaged in a more radical, year-long experiment of this kind. He enjoyed the same burst of enthusiasm and success at the beginning, but the year did not end as happily as he hoped. However, I think a major take-away from his experience is that online or offline, people are responsible for cultivating and maintaining many aspects of their quality of life; merely removing technology doesn’t guarantee sustained improvement. I do agree with his conclusion that perhaps moderation has a greater chance of success than complete avoidance in our modern world. I’ll see……maybe I’ll post an update on my progress in a year.