Family / Health / Kids / Opinion / Parenting / Reflection / Technology

30 Days Smartphone Free–Challenge Accepted

Because I don't want to miss out on this...

Because I don’t want to miss out on this…

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 🙂

 

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19 thoughts on “30 Days Smartphone Free–Challenge Accepted

  1. Great post! Mairi and I have just been sat discussing the shocking trends we’re seeing because of the smart phone. My wife is a French Teacher so she sees first hand the dysfunction is the kids that she teaches.

    It’s so counter-cultural, and counter-intuitive that it’s hard to imagine the sway in social trend being curbed.

    But I’d like to think that more folk are going to come to their own conviction about the negative sides of our mobile devices and start their own ‘sitting in the Doctor’s waiting room with your own thoughts’ movement.

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    • Thanks for your comments! The more I think about it, the attention we give our smart phones (and subsequently the lack of attention they cause us to give our kids) is a very subtle but real form of neglect. Kids pick up on the times we may pretend to listen or watch them but don’t really because we’re too distracted on our phones. Or the times we yell at them because they’re interrupting something stupid we’re doing on our phones. Or the times we prioritize our phone time over spending quality, interactive, engaging time with them. I’m guilty of it too, but the awareness of it is the first step toward curbing it. Thanks again!

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  2. Pingback: Caitlin Walsh

    • Agreed! It’s amazing how much more you see/notice/feel when you are actually *present* as you’re living your life (as opposed to being face down in your phone)! Which reminds me, I never posted my follow-up post after the challenge! Thanks!

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  3. Great idea! I’ve been more addicted since my son was born because there was little else to do during the long hours of holding him and nursing him. My real issue is Facebook. It’s absolutely pointless to check it 50 times a day!

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    • Facebook was totally my guilty pleasure, I think it is for a lot of us! It’s only been a few days but I’ve felt so much freedom from not constantly being tempted to read every new post or notification! You should give it a try 🙂

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  4. This is a great post!!! I look forward to hearing how he challenge goes too! I think I may also consider doing this after reading your post. . . I will see what you say in 30 days to make my final decision. 😉

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    • I’ll be sure to keep you updated 🙂 I can already say after day 1, that while there were a few times I wanted to flip the wifi on, I felt an incredible sense of freedom not feeling constantly tempted to check my phone for new emails, facebook updates, and the like! I’m really happy with the decision to checkout so far!

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  5. I agree smartphones and other techs contribute to a multi-tasking, fractured attention way of being. But for me at least, being in the moment can go off the rails even when alone hiking in the mountains. There are always things to challenge that mindfulness, tech or not.

    I also want to pass along a way that my smartphone is actually helping me connect more and be more open. I just started driving for a community ride share program called Lyft. It’s like Uber except that it’s intended to be social. And the pick up arrangement is all handled through the smartphone platform. This actually makes the ‘in the moment’ connection so much easier. I just show up when I get a request to a certain location, give my rider a fist bump and get to know them for at least a few moments while we ride. Very cool so far. I’m not saying that meeting people (talking to strangers) isn’t possible otherwise, but I don’t have the gift of gab in that way. Having it be facilitated through a tech makes that interaction possible for me. It has really changed my perspective on what technology can do for the better.

    So I applaud your need to get back some of your life. To things that I agree really are most important. But I wonder if the struggle will still be there when the 30 days are done. But hey, if this helps you appreciate a more healthy balance, that’s fantastic. And I look forward to reading what you write as a follow up when you return to smart phoning.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff. Thanks.

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    • ChildishMan (love the handle by the way!), thanks so much for posting. I’ve never heard of either of those ride share programs, sounds really cool! I totally agree there are an unending number of useful and awesome possibilities for the technology we have, smartphones included; I love all of the things that I can do with just one device, and I know there are some people who would have a really hard time functioning without it, whether for work or their other activities. For me, however, 90% of the time I spent on my smartphone was incredibly unproductive and was distracting me from what was happening in my life. Like you said, I’m hoping to get to a more healthy balance, something that I’ll need to continually work on if I decide to go back to the smartphone route. By writing about this, I’m hoping to get other people thinking about how they are using their phone, how much time they are devoting to it, and if there’s a better way they too could achieve balance. I still think we have a huge problem in the world today with needing constant distraction, constant entertainment, and constant connection to social media. Thanks again!

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