In one word: Transformative
I was a late adopter of the smartphone, someone who said that they didn’t need or want “all of that” on their phone. In 2010 I started a new job and at the end of my first meeting at my new gig, everyone pulled out their phones to plan the next meeting and I realized I was the only person who was going to have to go back to my office to consult a calendar. I saw then that I “needed” an upgraded phone and with that, my life was forever changed.
Flash forward to many rotations around the sun and now I’m dependent on this device for so much and paranoid about being without it. “I really need to use my phone less,” we say to ourselves and to each other, and then when left with time to kill or something to avoid, we pick them back up, drawn into an endless shame spiral of mindless scrolling. While looking at a friend’s Goodreads page I saw this book in their Currently Reading queue and my interest was piqued. I roped another friend into a duo book club and we embarked on this journey together. So, what was the result? Did I break up for good, or am I still letting the phone whisper sweet sweet notifications into my ear?
This book has changed my life. It helped me to understand, in a judgment-free way, that I can tiptoe around it all I want and rationalize it as I’d like, but I am addicted to my phone. In the first half of this book, Price is at her journalistic best as she establishes both the why (money) and the how (deliberate design) smart devices and their accompanying apps have such a stronghold over our time and attention. I now understand it’s not just a simple matter of willpower because it’s not just my will. It’s my will, battling against the wills of all of the teams of engineers who have worked to instigate me to keep me using this dang phone. Her research also explains what these devices are doing to our brains, and our ability to focus (non-spoiler, it ain’t good). Understanding the damage and underpinnings of the smartphone revolution was a surprisingly freeing experience. I’m not special because I can’t put down my phone, welcome to the club. (It’s a lame club where everyone has eye strain and bad posture. Two stars). And if I’m not special, then there’s nothing about me that makes it impossible for me to learn a new way of being.
The second half of this book is the real meal, a 30-day plan to help you understand, investigate, and redo your relationship with your phone. It’s a breezy read, but easier said than done. I found the prompts helpful and the exercises doable, but I redid the last week because she breezed through some beefy things about mindfulness and reframing focus that for me felt a bit rushed. And now, after completing this thirty-day plan, am I a brand new person? Well, no, I’m just a person that recently read a book and feels proud of that, but is facing the same trouble. Like any breakup, there are hard times as you try to define yourself outside of the relationship. What I’m trying to remember about this process is that my goal with the phone is to be diligent and intentional and above all else, give myself grace and know that it’s a process.
What I do differently now:
- Use a Tracker app – gives a 10-minute notification, plus notifications for the number of pick-ups as well as time on the phone over the course of the day.
- Deleted media apps. Instagram works like trash in a browser (by design of course) so I’ll download it when I need to for posting things and then delete it again.
- When with people, am trying to be more diligent about my phubbing aka phone snubbing, aka picking up your phone in the presence of others.
Is my phone next to me while I finish this review, oh if I could only say no, but in honesty YUP it is, and I spent more time on it today then I’d intended but I’ve got new tools to utilize and know that I have taken important steps to forge a new path.