I have an addiction. I don’t have an addiction to nicotine or alcohol; I have an addiction to something much more common and acceptable. I am addicted to my smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I love smartphones. I love them so much that I spend, on average, over five hours a day on mine. Because of this, I have struggled with a lack of motivation, strain on real (in person, if you will) relationships and a number of other things. While I strongly oppose screens in the hands of children, I somehow have completely let myself off the hook when it comes to technological boundaries. So, I am challenging myself to one month with a dumb phone.
This decision is not one of impulse. About a year ago I deleted all social media apps off of my phone. I was fairly consistent with this for about six months, but I found myself just using a web browser to access the websites as if using a secret passage makes the addiction disappear. I had no one other than my fiancé to hold me accountable, and being away from him for five days a week did nearly nothing to keep me away from my phone. On the two days that we were together, it was a constant battle between anxiety about being “away” from my phone or knowing that I was creating distance in my relationship because of my addiction.
I have been using an iPhone 6s for the past half a year or so because I refuse to buy new hardware that will ultimately go into the environment. Before that, I had an iPhone 7 that had some software malfunction, and I never got it fixed. So I have been using a “loaner” phone for several months. With this amount of background, I think you can tell why I feel so ready to change my habits.
With the onset of such a big challenge, at least for me, I needed to set myself guidelines. “Rules” seem too harsh, so “boundaries” it is. My boundaries go as follows:
- I can use my smartphone to reference phone numbers and banking information.
- I can go on for 30 mins per day to update my video journal of this experience. After 30 days I can use it to edit and upload to YouTube.
- I must go at least a FULL month.
- I can use my laptop for Spotify, but I cannot use it to cover the anxiety from being away from my phone.
With these boundaries, I should be able to stay on track for the better part of a month, and maybe even longer.
Now I’m going to switch gears a little and talk about why I think a break from smartphones could be beneficial for anyone. I realize that my opinion on this is shared by few, but I encourage you to ponder the ideas that I present with an open mind, if for no other reason than hearing a different opinion.
First off, smartphones are built to induce anxiety. Before continuing further with this point, I want to point out another strong opinion that may help you understand me. I am not afraid of being “watched.” I do not buy into the fear of the government or businesses tracking my every move. “The Social Dilemma,” a popular Netflix documentary, displays a line of thinking that I do not agree with. I believe it is up to the user to control their own habits, rather than giving in to the psychological manipulation games that phones are designed to play. So, with that being said, I believe that smartphones induce anxiety, and it is up to each individual user to recognize this and critically think about how they choose to deal with it. For some, the anxiety goes away by literally just seeing the screen of the phone. For me, the anxiety goes away about every two minutes that I pick up my phone “just to check” that no one has tried to contact me. We need to decide individually how to train ourselves out of this anxious cycle. I have decided that cold turkey is the only way for me.
Second, I believe that Gen-Z (that’s me! And maybe you too) is predisposed to these anxiety-provoking encounters because we were never raised without the presence of technology. We have always had the option to text or email, and the knowledge of how to do it. Other generations have not always had that knowledge. I would assume that, for the majority of us, calling to order pizza produces much higher anxiety in ourselves than in our parents. We opt to use the Papa John’s app and avoid all contact with real humans. This causes us to trust our phones more than real people, and that is the problem that we are presented with.
I know for myself that I trust my phone because it nearly always comforts me, gives me the answers I need and distracts me. It is literally the perfect companion. I believe that this is why our parents and grandparents don’t understand the attachment that our generation has to technology. They were raised without the advanced smartphones that we carry every day. They had to rely on other people before they could pick up the phone and make a quick Google search. They had no choice but to trust human beings.
The choice was also made before we could truly decide for ourselves. The choice was made the first time we sat in front of the television, before we could even crawl. The choice was made the first snow day inside that consisted of Disney movies instead of snowmen. The choice was made when we played on our parent’s phones before our ages were in the double-digits. The choice was made when our parents disconnected the landline because it was no longer essential for communication. The choice has always been made for technology, and now we have the chance to actually decide for ourselves.
Along with this burden come some wonderful advantages. We’re a step ahead in the ever-growing technology industry. We know how to tell the difference between real and fake things on the internet. We have a problem-solving skill set that is significantly different from the generation above us, displayed in memes that show a young worker “solving” an extremely simple computer problem for their boss. All of these things work to our advantage in employment and our disadvantage in personal life.
So, with all of this being said, I will be ditching my iPhone 6 for a dumb phone. I hope that out of this experience I will gain mental clarity, less anxiety, more genuine social interaction and more motivation. I know that I have very high expectations, but I think I can find what I want. If nothing else, I will add five hours to my day to take care of myself.