I’m in a terrible relationship. My partner is constantly demanding my attention, interrupting me when I am busy with my kids, offering promises of rewards, and keeping me from getting enough sleep. My iPhone, my love, my addiction, is turning me into a master Apparator. I can’t stay in the here and now, because it is always trying to take me somewhere else.
The whoosh and slam of landing somewhere else happens over and over, and it leaves me feeling agitated and disoriented. I’m in control here, so I should just take control. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I love my phone, even though it makes me a worse person.
If I’m playing a game with my kids, I feel the pull of my phone, asking me to come see what new messages are waiting. What the what??? As if there could be anything more important than playing Spot It with the kids! Yet the promise of a new message actually tugs at me and distracts me from the moment at hand. Why? So I can learn that my publisher wants to know if I am free a certain day in September? Can’t it wait?
I came to the realization that I have a problem with my phone when:
- I left the house without it the other day, and when I realized it wasn’t with me, I went into the same level of panic that I fear if I think my plane is going to crash when I hit turbulence.
- My husband texted me to stop working, come upstairs and get some sleep.
- I was pushing Annie Rose’s wheelchair (full leg cast) with one hand while trying to open a link on the phone with my other hand, and I tripped on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful day, and instead of breathing in the surprisingly cool August air, I was trying to make sure I was up to date.
My oldest daughter is soon to be nine, and I want to be a better role model for her. How can I urge her to stay connected with the real world if I am checking my own phone throughout the day? Oh, how I understand the pull of technology, but I need to be a better teacher.
As hard as it is to walk away from the phone when you are looking for fun or useful messages, I have learned from my research into cyberbullying that it is ten times harder for people to avoid looking at negative messages. What if one of my kids becomes the target of cyberbullying one day? My girls need to know how to walk away from the computer or phone, especially if it is giving them negative feedback. The kids need to know that real life goes on while other people are sitting at the computer.
My best memories of this summer have nothing to do with my phone. They revolve around trips to the pool and the beach, bike rides, visits to the library, walks into town, watching the garden grow, and hanging out with my family. The phone doesn’t give me love and snuggles. It doesn’t crawl into my lap and read a book with me. So why do I often reach for it when I am in the presence of my loved ones? It makes no sense.
I’m launching on a four-step program to take back my life. Steps:
- The phone is going to bed at 9 pm. It will be turned off and silenced and left downstairs to charge. I can’t remember the last time I read a book before bed, instead of scanning the news. It’s time to bring back the novel.
- The phone is not welcome at meals. It may not sit at the table, not even in my pocket, not even in the room where I am dining. We have never allowed the phone at dinner, but I often find that I scan it at breakfast or lunch.
- 3). I will check the phone no more than once an hour. That gives me a very reasonable time window to attend to pressing matters while still living my life.
- One day per month, I am going phone free. Andrew and I have picked Labor Day as our first phone-free challenge day. We will be with our kids, firmly rooted in the here and now. Wherever we go, whatever we are doing, we will not be reachable. But I can bet we will be happy.
Carrie is the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear