If we used our phones more like a hammer, would our life be a lot better? At least, according to the musical genius himself,
Look at your phone as a tool, not an obligation. Would you walk around with a hammer in your pocket? You would pick up a hammer when you needed it. You would never be addicted or obligated to it. Use your phone like a hammer only pick it up when you need it. — Kanye West
It is a bit of very good advice.
I still use the iPhone 5SE I purchased almost three years ago that has been begging to be put out of its misery for quite some time now. I chuckle a bit inside whenever I drop it and everyone around me gasps in terror. It is so old that I couldn’t care less. It is almost ridiculous how often I drop it from various heights and angels, and it, somehow, has refused to break and end its own misery.
My dad has joked that Apple might have a trophy for me for managing to still use such an old iPhone model, and for how beat up it is while still managing to work. If they do, please contact me here.
. . .
A smartphone is an amazing tool.
It is seriously one of the greatest inventions of our time, to have made such an astounding and innovate instrument available for mass consumption. Your average person now has access to almost all the world knowledge and information at their fingertips. However, corporates have managed to engineer smartphones to exploit our attention, and many of us have fallen victims to the attention economy.
According to a recent report, we spend 2.5 hours on our phones, every single day. Why anyone would need to use their phone 17.5 hours a week unless they work part-time at a call center? It is very unlikely that the majority of that time is spent looking up, let us say, the historical significance of residential schools, or how to manage our emotional health through exercise.
Every time I glance over at someone scrolling through their phone, because I’m a very nosey individual, they are almost always scrolling through Instagram or Snapchat.
People pay ~$1,200 for the newest iPhone model, ~$70 for a monthly unlimited data plan, and use their phone for taking pictures, and scrolling through social media and memes 90% of the time.
Basically, we have managed to make a great tool available for the average person and then decided to use it to waste time on unproductive activities.
Again, the smartphone is, by design, meant to exploit our attention.
It takes a very conscious effort, sustained long term, to be able to overcome the inherently attention-grabbing model of the smartphone. Although I have deleted all my social media accounts, I still spend WAY too much time on useless websites that simply waste my time without contributing much to my day to do life, and even hindering it at times. Is browsing memes and gossip websites an inherently human condition that I should abandon trying to overcome? Perhaps.
Even so, not all hope is lost.
Even my crappy old iPhone has been proven itself to be useful in so many ways. Below are some of the ideas for how I have managed to make my phone as USEFUL and PRACTICAL as possible.
How I use my phone as a tool, and not an obligation
Keeping my old crappy iPhone is a political decision.
My home screen has 11 apps that are practical and/or help increase my productivity: my Calendar app, my Clock, Focus Keeper, Hoopla (a digital library), Messages, Photos, Podcasts, Settings, iTunes, Phone, and Safari.
Seeing those (productivity) apps when you first turn on your phone will encourage you to use them more frequently and keep them at the top of your mind.
On a second page, I have a folder titled Lifestyle, and that has my Banking app, Evernote, Notes, Sudoku, Whatsapp, WordPress, and the Uber app. The Sudoku app is the only entertainment based app I have installed, and I find is a great way to pass time while still allowing my brain to think and process stuff.
I absolutely adore my Hoopla app, which gives me free access to an enormous selection of music, audiobooks, and ebooks to enjoy on the go. The Maps app is evidently very convenient to get around places. I have talked about the Focus Keeper app here. Podcasts are just awesome. Some of my current favorite podcasts are the Simple Sophisticate, the Secret Room, Freakonomics, and Gastropod. I plan things, make lists, jot down ideas and even journal in my Notes and Evernote apps.
In other words, I have managed quite well to make my phone as useless as possible to be used for instant gratification activities. Its minimal apps and set up forces me to listen to a podcast, read an ebook, or just write down some ideas in my Notes app, instead of scrolling through pointless crap.
. . .
The biggest change I have made, of course, has been cultivating a mind shift regarding my relationship with my phone. I try to be conscious and mindful of what I’m using my phone for by asking myself questions like ‘why do I care about this celebrity gossip?‘ or ‘Do I really need to read another article telling me how to have the BEST productive morning?‘, then I feel so ashamed that I throw my phone across the Atlantic ocean.
Jokes aside, it has been very empowering to make changes to help me utilize my phone as a tool, and not a distraction device. I am a weak being that is easily manipulated by attention-grabbing apps, online platforms, and memes. However, by making a conscious effort to be mindful of my phone use and make intentional changes to adopt a more positive relationship with my phone, I have found the results to be extremely rewarding.