I love my phone. And I hate my phone so much. Sometimes I just want to throw it across the room. But, my precious, my precious, I would never hurt you, no.
I shared a photo on Facebook. It was really sweet. Ryan and I, with his big toothy mouth. I took the shot, noticed my finger was in it, took another shot, and then took the time to post it to Facebook right then and there.
In that moment, I was connecting and sharing with all sorts of people, friends and family all around the world. Lovely.
In that same moment, I was taking a picture of myself connecting with my son, except that in the act of taking the shot (and re-taking the shot) and sharing the shot I had to disconnect from my son. I had to mentally leave his space.
After I posted it, we re-connected; we laughed and giggled. Did that moment in time when I mentally checked out really matter?
This is my brain when I have my smartphone with me.
Each little noodle is a thread going to some thought. It feels like my brain is a computer with thirty tabs open.
I have the chaos of four little kids in my real-world environment, I have my own scatter-brained tendency to day-dream to contend with, and on top of that I’m getting pings and vibrations across several different apps. Employees and co-workers messaging with questions, clients messaging with needs, family members messaging with random comments (which I love).
It can get pretty hectic.
I tried an experiment. I turned off all notifications except calls, text messages, and notifications regarding my vacation rental. Not only the pings and vibrations, but also the little icon in the top bar of my phone that shows up if I have a message waiting. It’s been about a week now, and I am way less stressed out. If something’s urgent, the messenger will call. If it’s not urgent, well then it can wait until I’m thinking about if someone might need me, and I have the time and space to check my messages.
But there’s more. Just having the phone with me causes me have one foot in two worlds: the physical world that I actually inhabit, and the smartphone world, where I’m literally connected to everyone with internet access. Just having the phone with me, even without the notifications, causes a small, almost imperceptible, snag in my subconscious. Like a part of my brain is on hold….waiting to see what’s going on in the internet.
Imagine you’re playing with your children and you have a brownie in your hand. You’re not eating it. In fact, you can’t eat it. You’re just holding it. Or imagine you’re talking with a friend, or your spouse, or you’re cooking dinner or doing the laundry. Can you imagine how hard it is to be present with those things, while holding a brownie, while willing yourself not to eat it? Then on top of it, imagine that it’s an infinite brownie, so if you do eat it, another one immediately appears. That’s the internet effect…it never ends. You can just keep scrolling and clicking.
That’s me and my smartphone. Maybe you, too.
I’ve been playing with the idea, for a while now, of dumping my smart phone for a dumb phone. It would be something like this one. I could text conveniently with the qwerty keyboard. I could call. But I wouldn’t have the temptation to do all the internet-related things I waste my life on.
The excuse that always comes up when I scheme about this is that my smart phone has a good camera. I need a camera to take pictures at the farm and of course to take pictures of my kids! But what if I got a camera like this? You know, the kind of camera we all had before smart phones took over.
It’s got 20 Megapixels, which blows my smartphone’s camera out of the water. It’s got built-in wifi, so I can send a shot to facebook or my computer if I need to. It’s small, so I can take it with me everywhere.
My smart phone addiction is getting nervous. It’s furiously thinking of a reason, any reason, why I shouldn’t dump it for a phone that’s just a phone and a camera that’s just a camera.
It has one reason left. It asks me, “Why don’t you just have your smart phone and use will power to not check it all the time? Why don’t you just control yourself?”
And I want to say, yes you’re right. This is silly. I shouldn’t let myself be controlled by a device. I’m bigger and better and stronger than that. I’m in charge.
But I shouldn’t give in to this line of reasoning. If I were an alcoholic, would I keep a bottle of tequila in the house, in case company comes? No, I wouldn’t. And if you think I’m exaggerating with this addiction-talk, I recommend you check out this video, where Simon Sinek talks about the Millennial Paradox. He mentions a study that shows that people who use facebook are more depressed, and he outlines the way in which we form addictions to our phones because we get a hit of dopamine every time we get a notification.
I’m looking to be more present. I think dropping the internet in my back pocket couldn’t hurt.