Monday, February 14, 2022

I followed a "Break Up With Your Phone" challenge and here's how it went (Week 1)

Hi, my name is Elena and I am a phone addict. 

Whew, that felt strangely...normal to say? Here is problem no.1, I've become so desensitized from the fact that being a phone addict is not something out of the ordinary that I feel comfortable admitting it. Just like any addiction, you'd think that there would be some hesitation before acknowledging the fact that, yes, we are in fact addicted, but with phones, at least in my case, it comes as second nature. 

Here's a little (completely honest) brief history of my phone and I's relationship: Got my first smartphone when I was around 13ish, and we've been inseparable since. I got onto the social media bandwagon around that age as well and set up my Instagram account in 2012. Since then it's been hours upon hours spent dwelling on this app, curating the perfect feed, and portraying an image of myself in my best light. Instagram philosophy aside, I use my phone for practically everything: conversations with friends and family, work, downtime, planning, orientation, listening to music and podcasts, watching anything and everything. It's basically the last thing I see when I go to bed and the first thing I see when I wake up. 

I've always known spending so much time on my phone is bad, and one of the most frequent things I write in my journal is "I want to spend less time on my phone". Yet, I still fall into its "trap", or should I say the trap I've spent years meticulously personalizing. 

However, I believe the Universe brings things into our lives for a reason, so when I got a book called "How to break up with your phone" by Catherine Price as a present in December, I knew it was about time I took things seriously. And here is my attempt, honest and transparent, for anyone to see. 

The book itself is divided into two parts: The Wake-Up & The Break-Up. The first part dwells on all the things that happen in the brain when we use our phones, as a sort of "wake-up call", whereas the second part consists of a detailed 30-day challenge aimed to get you to "break up with your phone". These blog posts will be a real-time testament to me trying out this challenge and sharing my thoughts and progress throughout. 

*I was planning on making this post be about the whole 30 days, but when I saw how much I had to say in the first week alone, I knew a post with 30 days worth of thoughts and musings would be the equivalent of my graduation paper, so we're splitting things up, baby!* 

Day 1: Download a tracking app

I have a confession to make. You know that little feature on the iPhone that says "Screen Time"? Yeah, I've never turned that on because I'm too scared of the outcome. So, I guess the day has finally come to push that button to show green and agonize over my potential screentime now that I'm aware it's being tracked. The prompt says not to limit yourself in your phone usage and go about your life like you always do, but it sure makes me a bit more wary about how much I reach for my phone. 

Q: How many times a day do you think you pick up your phone?

A: I can't give a number off the top of my head, but let's just say that it's definitely more than it should be. At this point, picking up my phone to simply look at the lock screen has become a reflex. 

Q: How much time do you estimate you spend on your phone a day?

A: To my embarrassment, if I had to be completely honest and ball-park a number according to my tendencies, I'd guess around 6-ish hours a day spent on my phone scrolling, listening, watching, and typing. 

Day 2: Assess your current relationship 

Today is all about, as Kylie Jenner would say, realizing things. The following prompts are given for me to answer, so here I am, on a Tuesday night, sitting down and answering them:

Q: What do you love about your phone?

A: Hmmm, I love how everything is more convenient when I have my phone with me. I love that I can immediately look up something that piques my interest, that I can easily move around the world with it, and of course, that I can distract myself with things like music and social media when things get boring.

Q: What don't you love about your phone?

A: Going hand in hand with the convenience aspect, I dislike how co-dependent I have become to my phone. I never really realized how much I am attached to it until the day when I physically couldn't use even the simplest things as the Alarm Clock or Google Maps. 

Q: What changes do you notice when you spend a lot of time on your phone?

A: Every time I put down my phone I see that time had become irrelevant when I was on it. I had spent 15 minutes on Instagram just looking at Stories, and now that I'm back in the real world, I realize that those are 15 minutes I am never going to get back. And that makes me sad, not because I torture myself over not doing something "productive", but because I know I could've spent that time doing other things I love that will not leave me with a throbbing headache at the end of the day. 

Day 3: Start paying attention

So, today's prompt is all about practicing mindfulness when using your phone. This includes being aware of the reasons why you feel inclined to reach for your phone and assessing whether this reason is good enough for you to go through with your actions. Another thing that Price wants us to pay attention to is the feelings before and after using our phones. 

So, to give my side of the story, I'd say that today was an interesting day - phone-wise. I had a wonderful phone-free morning and was quite chuffed with myself when I saw that I'd spent only 20-ish minutes on Instagram by 12 PM (truly unheard of!). As the day went on, I had to reach for my phone more and more due to work. Now, I do understand that this is excluded from the whole "breaking up with your phone" challenge because it's something that is influenced by outside factors. But, I still felt this punch in my gut every time I picked it up, knowing that I was using it and that it's very easy to just slip into my old habits of checking up on social media just because. Either way, as the day went on and I was done with work, I continued to catch myself when I felt inclined to fill a boring moment with a bright screen. So, I think today was as successful as it could have been, given the circumstances. 

Day 4: Take stock and take action

Okay, today I get to check the data gathered from my Screen Time. Not really the way I wanted to start my Thursday but let's go I guess. Drum roll, please... Okay, so my daily average currently is 3h 37 minutes, which is not as bad as I thought. But, I know this number would have been way different I was not aware that my phone usage was being tracked. I mean, I guess there are some advantages to it because I did successfully restrain myself from using it unnecessarily (half of the time). 

In general, I'd say that before I reach for my phone I feel a slight tinge of hope as if something potentially exciting is waiting for me in the virtual world. After using it, I feel okay, but I do find it a bit more difficult to focus on the thing I am supposed to be doing. This lasts for a short period, but it still does make me feel as if I'm "lagging" throughout the day. 

With that being said, the prompt says to notice a pattern of phone usage, and mine goes as follows: I reach for it when I either feel like I deserve some sort of "reward" after completing a task or when I'm bored (most commonly when waiting for the bus, while on the bus, waiting for someone, etc). After I pick up my phone, I quickly realize that I'm spending unnecessary time on it, and I put it down and try to readjust to my current reality. But then, I feel bored again, and the circle continues. 

Lastly, as instructed by Price, I will be putting letters WWW as my lock screen (stands for What For, Why Now, What Else) to see if that creates a "mental speed bump" every time I feel the need to check my phone. 

Day 5: Delete all social media apps

Yep, I knew this would eventually be one of the prompts, and I was honestly dreading it. First, let's do a little social media app tour: the app I use most frequently is Instagram. The second would be Youtube, but I don't count it as a social media app since I do not interact with it the way I do with other apps such as Instagram or Facebook. And, honestly, I think that would be it. I have TikTok but I don't really use it, same with VSCO and other random apps. I deleted the Facebook App a long time ago so I guess that's already covered. So, that leaves Instagram, VSCO, and TikTok as my "social media apps". 

Now, I hate to be THAT person, but, I do need Instagram and TikTok for my job so that categorically draws out the option of deleting the apps from my phone. So, I will be creatively intervening in the prompt and customizing it as followed: All apps will be placed in a separate folder meant for work purposes (and a sliver of posting on my personal accounts here and there). I will set a limit time of 30 minutes per day on the apps, and try as hard as I can to stick to it. The original prompt says we can log into our accounts from a web browser, as it is less convenient to open, which is what I will do to check messages, occasional posts, etc. 

According to Price, the main idea is to lower our consumption of social media by creating the above-mentioned "speed bumps" i.e. not being able to simply tap on an app and be sucked into Instagram or any other social media. This does not mean we have to completely shut off from social media as a whole, rather see if we can live without constantly checking them, which I appreciate. 

Day 6: Come back to (real) life

It's the weekend and I feel like the real challenge is just beginning. During the workweek, I have a clear structure to my days: I spend the biggest bulk of the day at work, I come home, eat food, read a book, watch a movie or a TV show and go to bed. So, it's easy to lessen the need of checking your phone when you've got a routine set in place. But, now that it's the weekend and I've got a much larger chunk of time to myself, I feel like it's easier to fall into the trap of spending hours just scrolling.
Today's prompt slightly touches on that and acknowledges the fact that now that we're trying to stay away from our phones, we will have significantly more time to just be present, which for some can be daunting. So, Price has given a few questions to answer such as making lists of things you've always wanted to do and people you want to spend more time with. For these questions, I am going to be answering them in my journal as opposed to here as I feel it can be a very nice and meditative moment. (Plus, it might make this blogpost twice as long, and nobody wants that :D ) 

Day 7: Get Physical 

Today is all about getting movement in, which I like. The point is to do something enjoyable that will bring you back to your body, and Price suggests activities such as going for a walk (sans phone), doing yoga, going to a park, doing standard exercising, etc. 

I've decided to do some yoga and stretching, which is (not as often as I'd like to) one of my go-to activities when I feel stuck inside my head (and body). I think my back and neck are going to thank me for this haha. 

First week wrap up:

I am a person that loves being able to tick things off her to-do list (ask my Notion and physical planner, they'll both agree). So, by making this challenge something that is tick-off-able I feel this strong urge to actually follow the rules as best as I can. With that being said, I'd say that this first week was challenging, but I was surprised at myself by how easily I accepted it. Minimal time on social media? Sure. Mindful reaching for your phone? You got it, boss. Of course, I wasn't perfect all the time. I still spent time on my phone when I was bored, but I am quite chuffed with myself with my new screen time. 

I feel like things are going to get much harder from here, so I guess it's time to see where this week takes me (and my phone). 

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