Hi, my name is _______, and I'm addicted to my Smartphone
It was a sweltering Cape Town night when a giant mosquito, at least the size of a child's fist, decided it was dinner time. Bzzzzzzz, it buzzed in my ear like a vacuum cleaner on the highest setting. Ugh. I sat up. I swatted the air. I rolled over.
Bzzzzzzzzzz; it started again, louder this time. I will find you and I will kill you I told it, as I lay in the dark. I reached to turn on my bedside light and commit murder. As I did this, in one deadly move, I swiped (the irony…) my sleeping iPhone off its bed of books. My phone cartwheeled through the air and landed face down, like a fat boy in a belly flop competition, on my parkade floor. Smash.
It was the end.
The following morning I gingerly picked up my iPhone. “Please, please work,” I begged it. “Pl-eease.” I tried to open an app; access denied. A grey bar flickered across the screen which reminded me of the ultimately fatal combination of my parent’s box TV set and a thunderstorm. I tried to make a phone call- no success and no response. Mayday, Smartphone down.
I swore at my phone. I prayed over it. I give it a 20 minute time out. And yet, still, nothing. What could I do? I was an amputee. The situation called for drastic measures and I emailed my friend at iBerry Repairs- he fixed my screen the last time it broke. (My best friend and I were playing a violent game of Nose Poke and the iPhone leapt out of my hand and shattered on the floor. Yes, there is a pattern here).
“Yo, it’s me. Again. My phone isn’t working. Think you can fix it?”
“Fran (insert smiley face emoji). I’ll look into it but you will have to go without a phone for 4 days.”
“4 days?! 4…Wait…did you just say 4 days.”
I took a breath so deep a yoga instructor on the foothills of the Himalaya’s would be proud. Fran, I said to myself, “you can do this.”
Hi, my name is Fran and I’m addicted to my Smartphone.
They say Smartphones are the new smoking. They, whoever that is, may be right.
I work in a digital agency. Everyone I work with raves about technical advances. I can’t eat a sandwich without hearing about something Mark Zuckerberg has created. I get it, 4D is cool and everything, it’s just… there is a negative spin off to all these "advances" which we selectively ignore. I love my Smartphone, but there things about it which I don’t like. Here are some:
It’s a HUGE distraction
When I get into "the zone" I'm a goner. Until a thousand notifications flood my inbox. Then, it's so hard to get back there. It doesn't have to be notifications, it can be… the plague, aka Whatsapp groups, which ping with memes every 2 minutes, or the call centre in India which calls me to tell me I’ve "won" an iPad. Leave me be. A girl gotta focus.
I like to do my job well. I don’t like a piece of metal making that difficult.
Quality vs low-quality conversations
One of my favourite things in the world is conversation (why didn’t Maria sing about that in Sound of Music, I ask you?). I like people. I like opinions. I like to make the person sitting across from me feel like a million Rand (that's not much, let's make it Dollars). One genuine and intriguing conversation and my day is #made.
Texting can break beautiful moments of reflection and connection and ruin quality conversations.
I’m losing the ability to think
I won times table and spelling competitions at school. Now I can barely minus 63 from 93 on a bill.
With Smartphones, so many things are automated. I find my first instinct is to reach for my phone, instead of using my brain. Need to remember important dates- there’s an app for that. Need to get to a destination- there’s an app for that. Need to eat- there's an app for that.
My Smartphone may be getting smarter, but am i?
I barely read
I used to think my life goals was to read every (good) book on the planet. Now, if I read a whole blog post I’m proud of myself.
Reading random shared articles online is not a substitute for rich and complex material worn smooth by hours of editing. Random shared articles are easy to flit through. A novel, no, a novel requires time, patience and depth.
When I was young we drove 4 hours over dirt roads, once a year, to go shopping for new clothes. The care I took when I selected outfits was excruciating (especially for anyone shopping with me).
Now, I order things online. If I don’t like them, I send them back and order something new. Smartphones have made everything so easy, we no longer take the care or appreciate the end item as we used to.
People have stopped being awkward. We have this strange idea that “if I am alone, but with my phone, I am not alone”.
Some of the best things in life come from alone moments because they force you to meet someone new, think about things in life and to talk to someone different. I think some awkward is good for us, don't you?
If something happens to MY phone, life ends
Without my phone, I draw Google maps on pieces of paper and get lost for 30 minutes trying to find my destination.
Without my phone, I don’t know anyone’s numbers. Without my phone, I have no social life. I have no alarm clock. I don’t know what to wear in the morning and I have no music to jam to in traffic. Without my phone, I don’t know about bombings in Paris or what our President has done with tax payer’s money. Life without my phone is a catastrophe.
Yes, I admit it sounds like an addiction.
In an attempt to curb my Smartphone addiction and it’s side effects, I Fran Thring, have created a personalised Digital Detox. It looks like this (and it starts on Monday):
- Turn off Social Media post notifications.
- Do not look at phone after 10pm (after 10pm all reading must be in the form of a book).
- Don’t check phone when waiting for friends. Take book in bag and read book when waiting for friends.
- Keep phone in bag when hanging with friends. Do not take phone out until going home or waiting for friend to use the bathroom.
- Bookmark quality websites. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of endless click bait.
- Unsubscribe from emails I don’t want. Exit all groups I don’t gain value from.
- Don’t text and drive.
- Don’t Insta story and make dinner.
- Don’t Insta story as you plank at the gym (ok, maybe this one is fine…)
iBerry Repairs fixed my phone- hallelujah. Did I die from my 4-day purge? Nope. I felt a little lonely- as if my access card to the world had been revoked, but mostly, I was fine.
I never want to trade the quality things in life for an instant, and often mediocre, alternative. And I don’t want to rationalise negative habits because they are socially acceptable. At the end of my life I will be held accountable for what I have done with it. If I've spent countless wasted hours looking at a device when there is so much pain and suffering in the world, how can I explain that?
I love my phone, but I don’t want to be ruled by my phone. I love technology, but I don't want it to distract me from what really matters. If it takes a giant mosquito and a smashed iPhone to remind me of all this- so be it.
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