This post on breaking phone reliance was kindly written by Max of Weirdly Interesting. For full details of their blogs and other ways to connect with them please check below!
“It’s so cruel, what your mind can do for no reason” laments Arlo Parks in Black Dog. She’s accurate. When your head’s spent years building its own chains, escaping them is a tall order. For me the culprit was my phone. This is the story of how I broke out.
It meant attempting the unthinkable: freeing myself from my phone. It’s a long, bumpy and – crucially – ongoing journey. But to get there, I must first take you back to the very start of 2020, when I woke up one morning and made a decision.
And it was not, “I will not use my phone”. Why? Well, what does a chocolate addict crave, on a guaranteed per-minute basis, if they quit chocolate? Chocolate. Instead, I decided to focus on doing more productive stuff. Reading. Writing. Cooking. Meditation. Astronomy. Coding. Drone design. Right now, I’m learning Hebrew. As I did more, I noticed a clear change in how I saw myself. It wasn’t as simple as overwhelming happiness; it was more subtle. A quiet fading of an overwhelming cloud of guilt.
Escaping Phone Validation
The reason was simple: I no longer needed validation on social media. My time on my phone was almost entirely taken up by jumping between Facebook and Instagram; posting whatever I could to win approval. Even when playing games, I was defining myself by my score. Likes and points had become my very oxygen, and my guilty gut knew it. Validation had devoured my sense of who I was.
But now, I was doing things that were achievements in themselves. I didn’t need anyone to like or rate them. If I did post the fruits of my labour (adding to Facebook’s gargantuan pile of cake photos, for example), it was rare – and on my terms.
Social media now fitted around me, rather than the other way round. How could I have time for fake achievements when I was busy with the real thing? And each accomplishment was a resounding smash against my mind’s prison walls.
A Bump in the Road
Things were going well, but the journey was approaching a huge bump. As anyone who has hill started a 60s camper van knows, getting going is challenging but keeping going is harder. This called for a drastic step.
I had to fundamentally change my self-image.
Each day, I wrote down my achievements, plus something positive about myself. Getting out of bed earlier than usual. Walking any significant distance. Setting up some new piece of hobby equipment. Heck, even breaking said equipment. Why? Because understanding why it broke teaches you far more than a watching a zillion clips of animated tomatoes.
I set myself goals for the day. ‘Write this blog post’. ‘Finish that bonkers DIY project’. ‘Make this cake’. ‘Clean up cakey mess from kitchen (after smoke clears)’. Each time I set a goal, I went back through my log and looked at what I’d achieved.
Within a couple of months, I had a fair list:
- I’d read Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy
- I could set up a telescope and get good picture of Saturn’s Rings
- My man cave was habitable – for the 1st time in 3 years
- I could write a computer program automating form filling for clerical work
- I could bake macaroons (Okay, the wife helped. A lot.)
- I could build a drone that flew itself to the next village and back
My self-image was beyond recognition.
Now, if you aren’t keen on these things, then that’s absolutely cool.
I don’t want your goal to necessarily be building a flying robot, becoming the local computer nerd or staring at the night through a tube at crazy o’clock.
My point is that killing smartphone addiction gives you an incredible amount of time to do what you want. Taking up the bassoon. Starting an interior design business. Learning Spanish. Spending more time with the kids.
Once you get busy on the stuff you really care about, you’ll have neither time nor need for idle phone use.
Phone Freedom at Last
I’ve been at it for over seven months now, and the effects have been transformative. My short term memory has skyrocketed. My wife can tell me about her day without wanting to clonk me on the head with the bluntest available kitchen utensil. Rather than a curse, the UK’s harshest COVID lockdown period became a goldmine of productivity for me.
And, for the first time in a decade, I feel good about myself.
So there’s my story. I do lapse from time to time, and have to remind myself that using my phone to flick through World’s Dumbest Jet Pilots on YouTube is not ‘essential browsing’. But the more I stay with my goals, the more they stay with me.
But remember, everyone’s different. We all have slightly different prison walls that form our addiction, and different passions that can overcome it.
All you have to do is find yours, and embrace them.
For more ideas on making new habits stick read here
Are you trying to kick an unwanted habit at the moment? Let us know your thoughts below.
Max is a writer, programmer, amateur actor, very amateur drone builder and a blogger of just about anything he fancies. No stranger to wellbeing, he practices daily meditation to prevent life’s pressures from driving him sane. If there’s wackiness in the world, he’ll find it. And as long as Max is here, there will always be wackiness in the world. Read more of Max’s posts on their blog Weirdly Interesting and their Drone Racing blog QuadPunk as well as Twitter