My Constant Companion: is it time to break up with my phone?
It’s not you, it’s me. For the record I have never said this to a human.
My name is Jenna and I am a digital oversharer. They say that acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery.
Admission, albeit in the digital realm, feels surreal given my technophobe tendencies. My IT support skills are limited to turning the monitor (how old am I?) off and on, or simply shutting the laptop screen, making a brew and praying for a small miracle.
Prior to university, I made do without a feature phone, my device serving its primary communication purpose depending on available credit and fluctuating memory, topped off by a camera which produced a series of pixelated images that would be considered woke by modern standards. Simpler times.
But first, let me take a selfie
A few weeks ago as I went to upload another uninspiring Instagram story, it dawned on me, I had become my own worst nightmare; a slave to social media. Taking a good hard look at myself in the mirror, and I mean this literally, I had just taken a selfie, I was honestly appalled at my own hypocrisy, not to mention my misguided hoops/headband combo. Remember: less is more.
“Phubbing,” the act of snubbing those around you in favour of your phone, is something that in the past I have used as ammunition to rally against friends who have seemingly been more invested in their digital reality than the person sat opposite them. But the chink in my armor is that I too have succumbed to the allure of the rabbit hole.
It wasn’t a sudden or unexpected fall from grace (self-imposed discipline - the stick I choose to beat myself with), it was a gradual descent, marked by trepidation, intrigue and self-indulgence. The hard cold facts of my digression soon confronted me thanks to the latest iPhone feature logging my screen time and usage analytics.
The results were rather stark, though I should add a small caveat; I work in digital marketing. Nonetheless, the attachment to my phone was all too clear and led me to ponder why it is that I spend so much time trawling through Instagram and updating my stories with what is essentially, utter dross. Worse, I have begun to enter “basic” or “vanilla” territory with some of my most recent updates, think rose pink bathroom tile inspo posts, live updates and coffee-fix flatlays - God I hate myself.
While I recently conducted a mass purge of accounts that no longer serve me (Marie Kondo would be proud, the Kardashian Klan less so), my own sharing was still problematic, on one hand I regard the medium as a 21st century iteration of the much-loved family photo album, a way to document the good, the bad and the ugly moments of life. On the other, I have been somewhat peacocking, seeking to show orbiters and acquaintances that I was was doing fine, no wait, I was doing great, in the wake of a breakup. The truth of course is that life is never that neat and linear in the realm of human emotion and I am guilty of curating a, ‘this is your life,’ esque showreel, while succumbing to the inevitable lows in a more private and offline fashion. As treasured as our phones may be, I truly believe that they pale in comparison to genuine human connection and compassion.
Surely, the sweetest moments of life do not require digital documentation or legacy? Some of the most impactful, life-affirming conversations I have been privy to in the last year have taken place off the grid, without technology or hard photographic evidence. Recent studies suggest that up to 79% of us check apps in the hour before we go to sleep and 38% believe that they are using their devices too much. While the word “addiction” is shrouded in stigma and feels almost too clinical to describe such a new phenomenon, there is little utility in downgrading the seriousness of the problem and perhaps we shouldn’t seek to soften the labels associated with dependency.
My 9-5 prevents me from throwing my devices out of the window, I am also a tight arse and there is absolutely no way I would ever discard such an expensive gadget in such a frivolous and reckless fashion. Rather ironically, as we look to claw back the last few remnants of self-respect and privacy online, the boom in ‘digital wellness’ aids, as seen in the growth of apps that monitor and regulate our use of social media, prove not only the appetite for such tools, but the scale of the problem.
Mute for example, tracks screen-time while celebrating long stints sans mobile, meanwhile, the app, Moment, sets daily limits on your usage and like a naggy ex bombards you with notifications in the hope of making you flee the country, sorry no, get you off your device. However, as I seek to unpick my desire to overshare, I am quite drawn to an app called Space, which kicks off with a quiz to attain what kind of phone-user you are, I like that I fall into the Rabbit Hole Wanderer category (it’s almost endearing) and I think under watchful guidance, a gradual withdrawal from my constant companion is more achievable.
Do not disturb
I guess that in the quest to curb social media dependency, what it boils down to my desire to control and compartmentalize. What parts of my life do I want people to see and why do I deem it necessary to share in the first place? As I toy with the idea of purchasing a disposable camera as a means by which to satisfy my penchant for taking photos while also forcing me to be more selective, I’ll leave you with an invention that I came across recently. Ernst Koning, an Amsterdam based product designer has created a portable heaxagon-shaped Faraday cage with the aim of helping consumers switch off from our smartphones. The aluminium case is built with a electromagnetic-proof-shield and can store up to seven phones and block all electric connections generated from telephone signals and wifi. So, to all the smartphones out there consider yourself blocked, at least for now anyway.
How to consciously uncouple from your phone
Avocado on toast - ask yourself this: can it be eaten? If the answer is yes - fantastic, eat it, don’t gram it.
Change the narrative - repeat after me, offline is the new luxury.
Litmus test- consider the value of what you’re sharing, test it out on a colleague, a friend, your dog, no laughs = no shares.