My name is Kelly, and I’m addicted to my smartphone.
I first realized I had a problem when my son was very young. I could tell early on that he recognized when I wasn’t giving him my full, undivided attention; even when he was only a few months old, it was obvious that he knew when I was only pretending to watch what he was doing.
And if ever there was an invention that could cause me to parent half-halfheartedly, it would be the smartphone.
We all know young infants are relatively uninteresting creatures, and that being the primary caretaker of one 24/7 is ofttimes mundane (feed, change diaper, clean spit-up, change diaper, nap, repeat five times). It seemed for those first few months, when I was totally at the whim of his nursing schedule (and therefore spent most of my day glued to a chair), my only escape into the real world was Facebook. I relished the moments when, albeit remotely, I could connect with my friends who were still living my old life. Unfortunately, my son would turn into a raging psycho every time I’d try to sneak peeks at my phone.
This caused me to wonder, if a baby has the wherewithal to feel slighted by my smart phone use, how is it making other people in my life feel?
For the first time, I started to notice just how addicted I was to my phone. Whether checking emails, trolling Facebook, reading blogs, surfing the internet, browsing Instagram, scanning Pinterest, or shopping Amazon, I was CONSTANTLY looking at it.
I became even more disturbed as my son grew older and more active. As we spent more time in parks, play gyms, and children’s museums, I became fully aware of how big of a problem our stinkin’ phones are; on any given day, I would guess well over half of the parents at any of these places are glued to them. Not only do I not want to miss out on my son’s ever shortening childhood, I don’t want him to think that kind of parental behavior is normal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology, but our reliance on electronic devices has changed drastically even in my lifetime. We had a computer when I was a kid, but it was hardly entertaining; our dial-up internet was barely fast enough to use AOL Instant Messenger, one of the few worthwhile computer activities in the eyes of a 1990’s preteen. My brothers and I were so excited to get TracFones one Christmas (I was maybe 13), but aside from the old school Snake game, its only viable use was 59 second phone calls (anything longer wasted too many precious minutes). I got my first real cell phone right before I left for college, and even then, the flip phone could only call and text.
Today, every kid who’s double-digits years old has a nicer phone than I do, as if owning the latest iPhone is a right of passage to graduate from elementary school. For virtually everyone, the smartphone has granted us the ability to have an entire world of information at our fingertips anytime and anywhere, and for most of us, that’s exactly where it is 99% of the time. Long gone are the days of the “computer room;” for most of us, our smartphones go with us EVERYWHERE (yes, even the bathroom).
This constant access to social media, apps, games, and the receptacle for useless and trivial information which is Google, has brought about a state of being in which we are together but not together; we are surrounded by others but are socially isolated. How common is it to go to a restaurant and see every person at a table face-down in their phones? How often are you home with your spouse/significant other/roommate/friend only to realize that an hour has passed in silence because you were both more interested in what’s happening on your iPhone? Are you the parent who doesn’t hear your kid yelling for you at the playground because you’re so preoccupied with your S5? Or even worse, are you the parent who yells at your child for bothering you when you’re busy…yeah, doing absolutely nothing important on your phone? I’ve been guilty of all of the above.
While it’s incredibly convenient, the smartphone is killing our ability to be present in the moment, to foster and maintain important relationships, and to teach youth normal social skills.
We’ve set some limits in our house regarding smartphone use (ie: no phones at the table, no phones on dates, etc.), but I have a compulsive personality that doesn’t do well with boundaries, which is why I need a swift, and complete separation from my smartphone.
I’ve decided to spend the next 30 days smart phone free. More specifically, until June 5th, I’ll be kickin’ it old school with no data connection and no WiFi. Therefore, I can use my phone exactly how Alexander Graham Bell intended, with the inclusion of texting and camera use. Obviously we will still use the internet (yes, the blog will continue…), but we will be forced to use it from the <sigh> computer, from the confinement of the <sigh> office.
What do I hope to gain from this? I hope to get my life back for starters. Maybe I won’t freak out the next time I leave home without my phone. Maybe I’ll be able to just sit in the doctor’s office alone with my thoughts, without needing the safety-net of my Kindle app. Maybe I’ll rediscover my love for maps and atlases. Maybe I’ll be less irritable, I’ll pay more attention to the adorable and fleeting preoccupations of my toddler, and I’ll find I have more time than I thought for productive endeavors. And hopefully, I’ll be able to reconnect with the flesh and blood people that truly matter in my life by, oh I don’t know, having a real conversation. All in all, I hope to break the reliance I have on needing constant access to cyberspace, as well as the desire to know when all of my Facebook friends went to the gym or what they had for an afternoon snack.
What do you think? What could 30 days without your smartphone do for your life? Feel free to join me if you want 🙂