Three weeks ago, I wanted to grow up.
A while back, I turned my iPhone into a dumb phone. I had no access to Internet browsing or app downloading. I have been using this method over the years to wean myself off of smartphone addiction. It works. Out of sight, out of mind. It feels better too.
But a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to grow up and get my smart smartphone back. Everyone else is doing just fine with a fully functioning smartphone, so why not me, I thought. Just put the phone down, right?
What I noticed when I went back to a smart iPhone.
When my phone is in its dumb state, I spend less time physically holding it. Hours can go by before I remember to check my phone. I often check it only because I stumble upon it; on the counter, by the couch, in my pocket while looking for my wallet. There is a healthy amount of physical and mental space between it and I, crossing paths when I need it to text, make a call, or look up what time a store closes. (Maps has this information, who needs Safari?)
In its dumb state, it becomes a tool.
But, once Safari became available, my phone and I became inseparable again. I was back on mindless Internet consumption— due to boredom, escapism, avoidance, and my phone dutifully stayed close by. I had it on me or very close by at all times. I would carry it with me room to room, up and down the stairs, to the bathroom, shower, bed. Why am struggling to carry the laundry basket and my phone at the same time when I didn’t need my phone right then? I couldn’t put it down.
I turned to my phone whenever I felt bored, sad, happy, anxious, restless. My phone became the perfect escape, and it had to stay on me at all times. It was a great companion. It was irresistible.
It ceased being just a tool.
My phone and I became so inseparable that I fell asleep to it and I woke up to it. I fell asleep to the digital noise, and woke up to the same noise day after day. No matter what I told myself the day before, I would find myself fighting sleep to scroll through one more article. And before I even fully gained consciousness, I was aware of what was happening across the globe. It felt automatic.
So, it was time to go back to the only way I know how to take my time and attention back from the online noise: A dumb smartphone.
I wanted to grow up, but maybe next time.
The Internet is addictive by design.
For over a decade now, I have been fighting against the attention economy. I deleted Facebook in 2011. The digital noise is not how I want to start, spend, and end my days. I want to spend more of my time and attention offline, in the real world. It’s more enjoyable.
The reality is that life without portable Internet isn’t that inconvenient or difficult. You just have to be more cautious about getting the information you may need when you have access to Google at home or else where. Sure, it can be frustrating at times to not have access to Google, but not as frustrating as staying up all night on your phone despite your best efforts to not bring it to to bed with you. It’s worth the tradeoff.
The lesson: You can always go back, either way.
I thought I was ready to go back to a smart smartphone without falling back to old digital habits. I thought wrong. The good news is that I can always go back to a dumb smartphone. I quit social media for three years, went back to Instagram, and quit again upon realizing I like it better that way.
You only know for sure by trying it out.
Social media will be there. Apple will release another smartphone. The Internet is definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future. You can unplug and plug back in, until you find what works best for you. You can even know what works best for you and still end up on the wrong side of things. That’s just life. You win some. You lose some. You learn some. But if only you try.
Until next time,
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