I just went through a tough breakup. We were together day and night for years. I could count on him for anything I needed–helping me find my way when I felt lost, keeping me connected, answering my questions no matter how small.
I just went through a tough breakup. With my phone.
Smart phones are great. They are an endless source of information (I’ve nicknamed mine “The Oracle.”) and they help us to stay in touch with all the great people in our world. But, let’s be real. They can also take us away from the “right now.”
In this way, I think our super powerful phones have failed us. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself not being fully present in meetings, in conversations or even while in line at the coffee shop because the larger distraction of The Phone is always there, always calling (no pun intended), always trying to convince you that there is something more important than what is happening right in front of you.
The other way I believe our phones have failed us is by all but eliminating the line that delineates work life balance. Our society has trained us to expect immediate responses and therefore we feel pressure to provide immediate responses. We are less and less encouraged to shut down and the barriers between work life and personal life are becoming less and less rigid. The latter has its advantages; being treated like a human being with a life while at work is absolutely priceless. But, sometimes work flowing into our time outside of work–or even the constant ping of The Phone when it has nothing to do with work at all–can be detrimental to our stress levels and our sense of well-being.
How to kick-start a digital detox
Breaking up with my phone has been eye opening. I started by going through the 7 Day Phone Breakup Challenge by Catherine Price, author or How to Break Up with Your Phone, and touted as the “Marie Kondo of brains” by the New York Times. Now before the shock hits, know that the point of this challenge is not to get rid of your phone completely. It’s to take back control and create a new kind of relationship with your phone that actually feels good.
Among other things, I was encouraged in this digital detox challenge to find a way to shut down my phone at the end of the day. I’m just going to be honest and say that sometimes my self-control with my phone was lacking. I would say I was going to put it away, but I would still find myself reaching for it, turning off the DND or airplane setting to check my email and social media apps one more time. I find my idle phone time happens most frequently during moments of pause or boredom – gargling the mouthwash, standing in line at the store, waiting for my husband to oil his beard. (He has a great beard.)
Set healthy boundaries
Is it necessary for me to check email and notifications in those moments? No. Did much change since the last time I checked my notifications? No. Would the world stop spinning if I didn’t know who liked my latest post or what meeting was getting rescheduled at work or what email popped into the top of my inbox? Absolutely not.
I saw a quote online recently that has really stuck with me: “She (or he!) believed she could, but she was tired… So she rested and you know what? The world went on and it was okay. She knew she could try again tomorrow.”
The thing is, I think we’ve forgotten how to exist in the moment and find peace. We’ve forgotten how to be bored. And I fear we’ve forgotten how to stay entirely present with our partners, our friends, our children and even our pets.
Our phones are always on, so we are too. Ultimately, we’ve forgotten how to rest.
So, naturally, I bought a sleeping bag. For my phone. Yes, you read that correctly. I bought a sleeping bag for my phone and for my husband’s, and then I took it a step further and bought some analog alarm clocks. (Shout out to the startup company Bagby for having functional and stylish options for these items, and for encouraging me–and so many others–to embrace digital wellness with a human soul.) Can I get a “woohoo!” for embracing a phone free bedroom as an added bonus? (Trust me. It’s way better!)
At first though, I was afraid. I was afraid I would miss out on something big. I was afraid my new but old-style alarm clock would fail me and that I’d sleep through something important.
Ultimately, it was all about FOMO–I was afraid of missing out.
I’m several weeks into my digital detox now, and I realize I’m actually not missing out at all. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m more present in all ways and am more there for the people I care about. I am less apt to check my phone first thing in the morning and I never check it at night anymore once I’ve tucked it into its cute little sleeping bag, which I try to do not long after I get home from work, or at the very least a couple of hours before heading to bed.
The only thing I’ve been missing out on is the anxiety of worrying about things I just don’t need to worry about in the moment that they come through. Anything that eliminates anxiety gets an A+ in my book.
God willing, there will always be a tomorrow, and your phone will still be there for you when you need it. But right now, in this moment, think about where you really want your attention to go–and to whom. And maybe take a moment to truly listen in that meeting or at home, stay present while playing with your pets or children, stop and smell the coffee while on line at the coffee shop, or take in the beauty that surrounds you everywhere, distraction free.
There’s a whole world that awaits you outside of the rectangular box that is your phone. Don’t miss it. See it, experience it, and truly live it. It’s ready when you are.