I have a serious problem, you guys.
I’m kind of, like…seriously addicted to my phone.
I wasn’t always this way. While everyone else had the fancy iPhone 4S, I was rockin’ an iPhone 3 (not even a 3GS) that moved as slow as a dinosaur (spoiler alert: dinosaurs don’t move anymore because they’re dead.). It’d take forever to load up apps, and so finally I’d just give up altogether. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
But then, the iPhone 5 came out. And it changed my world.
At first, I was able to manage my use pretty well. You know, set my phone aside for a while and not be on it all the time. But it was so pretty and so fast, and I could be on the Instagrams like all the cool kids. It promised to keep me entertained whenever I was bored, and it promised to keep me connected with others all the time. Neato! Technology!! And so slowly, I started being on my phone more, killing time with online shopping and games, checking social media more frequently.
Now, let me tell you, social media can be a horrible nightmare for someone as OCD as I am. And not in an, “OMG I’m so OCD about things being in the right place!” but like a legit, clinically diagnosable OCD, with rituals, and eating things in odd numbers (but NEVER 13, exceptions made for multiples of 10), and compulsive checking, and counting when walking, and so on. Social media feeds are endless loops of continuous information, and for someone with a compulsion to constantly go from start to finish, this is a disaster because it NEVER. FREAKING. ENDS.
I’ve known for a while that I struggle with the compulsion to constantly check and re-check my phone, but lately, I’ve noticed that it’s been a little worse. I could cycle through my Facebook feed, then move onto my Instagram feed, then check out my blog feed, then Pinterest, and then five minutes after putting my phone down, I’m reflexively and mindlessly reaching for my phone again, to loop through the same cycle of “catching up” in the same order: Facebook, Instagram, blog, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, blog, Pinterest. It’s like I’m stuck in this loop, and I could be stuck for hours at a time.
The more alarming thing that I’ve been noticing lately, however, is how I use my phone as a coping skill, to distract me from some pretty yucky emotions.
Like when I’m sad, all I need to do is go on my phone to distract me from my feelings of sadness.
Or if I’m stressed, I just de-stress by numbing my mind with my phone.
Or if I’m anxious about something, I just go on my phone and Google whether the painful lump in my jaw might be submandibular cancer or who that Asian kid from Maze Runner is.
Or when I’m pissed, I can drown out my anger by scrolling through my feeds, and suddenly I’m not so angry anymore.
Or when I’m waiting in line by myself at Starbucks and I start feeling insecure and afraid of the judgment of all the popular white people, I whip out my phone and act like I’m very important, with very important people to text, and very important and interesting things to like on Facebook, BECAUSE I AM VERY IMPORTANT AND POPULAR AND NOT AN AWKWARD WEIRDO.
Or when my phone dies and then I need to use RJ’s phone because my mind doesn’t know how to chill out without it.
Or when I can’t sleep, and my mind has grown to be unable to rest without the constant chatter and noise, and I need to be streaming a show or scrolling through Pinterest in order to fall asleep.
Hello. My name is Alice, and I’m addicted to my phone. (“Hi Alice!”)
I’d already been giving a lot of thought to this leading up to this year, but come Fat Tuesday, and what do you know, my phone is dead and I’m at Porto’s by myself for thirty minutes, waiting for RJ and a friend with absolutely nothing to do. And later, I’m waiting in line by myself for 20 minutes to purchase some delicious guava cheese rolls after RJ and said friend leave. And yet again as I waited for another 15 minutes for these delicious guava cheese rolls to come fresh out of the oven. And then I had to drive home an hour fifteen minutes by myself with nothing to keep me entertained (I mean…not like I go on my phone ever when driving…because I don’t…but maybe sometimes…but just kidding, of course, I never do!!).
At first, I waited very patiently like a good girl. “Look at me! See? I can live without my phone! I’m not an addict after all!” But soon after, panic began to well up within me. “What is this unfamiliar feeling inside me?? Boredom?? I’m bored!! I haven’t been bored for forever! I don’t like being bored and having nothing to keep my mind occupied! And what…what’s this other feeling? Insecurity?? I HATE insecurity, it’s the worst! People are going to think I’m an awkward weirdo with no friends! I have friends!! If only I had my phone to look down and smile at from time to time to prove to others that I have friends! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH ALL THIS TIME ANYWAYS??”
And then my eyes fell on a young man with a cross drawn in ash on his forehead, and I knew: God wants me to claim back my life from the mindless chatter and the noise, not just for prayer and meditation in preparation for Easter Sunday, but for my life.
You see, in filling every empty space of my life up with noise and chatter, I’ve failed to make room for God to speak in the stillness and quietness, where my heart is most ready to receive His words of life. I’ve failed to make room for them to take root and to flourish. I’ve squandered these spaces and wasted mental energy for my mind to brainstorm and to create (which partially accounts for my 5 month hiatus from blogging). I’ve numbed myself from fully experiencing and processing through some pretty difficult emotions, and in doing so, I’ve prolonged the sweet healing of inviting Jesus to speak into my deepest hurts. I’ve failed to allow my mind to rest. I’ve skated mindlessly, without intentionality or purpose, through the past few months of my life. I’ve cheapened the quality of my life, and given it over to that which can never bring life or healing.
It all comes back to living the best and most fulfilling and free life I can live for God. YOLO. Forreal. Amirite?? (Maybe YOLO is my word for 2015…)
There are some practical ways I’m choosing to take my life back from the power of my phone, with the freedom to tweak it as I go along (I’ve never been one to be legalistic). Before I share them, I’d also like to mention that I’ve never done anything for Lent. Nothing against it, just was never convicted to. While this post somewhat coincides with Lent, I still don’t consider the following as a Lenten fast, but hopefully a lifestyle change. Anyways…
First, I’m putting my phone away during the day when it is not in use. As long as it is in my line of vision, I will reach for it.
Second, related to the first, I’m not bringing my phone into meetings (even if I know they will be boring or that there will be downtime) or taking it out when with friends unless to answer a call or take a picture.
Third, I’m giving myself a couple of 15-30 minute phone breaks during the day. BUT…
Fourth, to keep myself from looping in my never ending cycle, once I’m done with an app I’M DONE. Especially after I post on social media. I find myself a little more loopy than usual then.
Fifth, after 10PM, the phone is away. No more mindless scrolling until I fall asleep.
Now, I want to be clear, I’m sharing for accountability’s sake, not to toot my own horn or to come off as super pious or because I think you should join me. Most people can manage their phone use without any problems. Obviously, I cannot and obviously, I have a problem. But if you want to join me, I’d sure enjoy the company. The more, the merrier!
In the few days that I’ve made these changes, I’ve already noticed a few things. First, I’ve noticed just now many times each day I reflexively reach for my phone, which is no longer on my desk. It’s a little bit unnerving. I am seriously an addict, searching frantically for my next fix.
Related to that, I’ve noticed that I get super anxious about the things I’m missing out on when I don’t get to check my phone. Call it OCD, call it FOMO. I’m anxious, and the only cure is cowbell. I mean, my phone. Or…not my phone and to suck it up and deal with it?
However, while I am more anxious, at the same time, I feel more rested. I know, it sounds contradictory, but it’s like a fog is slowly lifting and my brain finally has room to breathe. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m becoming less of a zombie and more alive.
Also, holy moly, I have a lot more free time! What do I do with myself? What do I do with my brain? I mean, do I actually do stuff, like read books and write and meditate and pray now??
I’ll let you all know further down the line how things progress. Thanks for listening and for not judging me. Or maybe judging me but just keeping it to yourself. Or maybe judging me and not keeping it to yourself?
Anyways, if you want in, let’s do this! Let’s move forward with purpose and intentionality in our lives.
Let’s live life to the full.
Have you ever found yourself attached to your phone in an unhealthy way? What has helped you in detaching yourself from technology?