Breaking Up with My Cellphone
Why We Aren’t Saying Goodbye, But We Are Seeing Other People.
I can’t say it was love at first sight. In fact, I was fairly intimidated going from my flip phone to this mini-computer that fit in my hand. I was awkward, self-conscious and all the things you normally feel when you’re first getting to know each other. But as soon as I found out everything this magical piece of technology known as a “smart phone” could actually do, I was over the moon. It wasn’t too long though before our healthy love affair became a one-sided obsession.
Now, if I accidentally leave it at home or walk from one room to another without it, it feels as if I’m missing a part of myself. Considering I have a wonderful husband, two sons and a dog who’s only wish in life is to be petted, this in no way shape or form could be classified as a healthy relationship with my cellphone. That’s why, when I saw a segment on Good Morning America with ABC anchor Dan Harris and How To Break Up With Your Phone author Catherine Price about how she helped him to break up with his phone, I knew I had to do the same. I’m a health and wellness writer for heaven’s sake! I know this isn’t healthy, and it’s certainly not good for my overall wellbeing. With the help of GMA’s #phonebreakup Challenge, I’m breaking up with my cellphone. While we’re not saying goodbye, we’re definitely seeing other people – and at least for me, that’s a good thing! After reading this, you may want to evaluate whether you’re in need of a phone breakup as well.
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In the Beginning
Since I work for myself, the idea that I didn’t have to be tied to my desk to get emails and to stay on top of work was completely freeing. As was the idea that I could take my documents with me to my son’s afternoon baseball games so that if a client needed something, I could address it quickly and get back to cheering him on. Yes, there were definitely significant advantages to my new love.
I used to get quietly upset with friends who would text while we were having a conversation – did I not have their undivided attention?! – but when I got my phone, I could not only text, I could surf the web, make tweaks to something for work and have my calendar reminders constantly dinging at me while I carried on a conversation. Just like when you try to juggle spending time with your sweetheart while also not having your friends feel neglected, at some point, it usually doesn’t work out to everyone’s liking.
I received my first warning sign that this might not go too well when I took a trip with my husband to Maine the weekend after I got my phone. I had never been there, and we were driving up the coast. Coming from North Carolina, where our beaches are smooth and sandy, I couldn’t wait to see the rocky coastline. I had plugged in the directions to our hotel and was “navigating” while my husband drove. I was enthralled that my phone – of all things – had a mapping system that meant I would never get lost again. I was following the blue dot intently and finally exclaimed that the blue dot said we should be getting near the ocean soon. My husband gave me one of his amused (snarky) sideways glances, pointed and said, “You mean the ocean that’s right there?” Yes, we had been driving right beside the ocean for at least a couple of minutes, and I hadn’t even noticed. I was looking at the blue dot on my phone! Needless to say, I still hear about that every now and then.
I thought the phone had redeemed itself though when during that same trip, I stole a look at my email while my husband was in the bathroom at a restaurant. There was a note from a client that I hadn’t heard from in a while who had a project for me. If I had waited until we got back home to see and answer the email, I might have lost the project. See! This was going to be a beautiful thing – the multi-tasker in me was head over heels. With the help of my phone, I really could do it all!
We’re Not Courting Anymore
It didn’t take long to realize that we weren’t courting anymore. I was hooked, dependent and obsessed, and my phone was very demanding. It was constantly making noises at me, constantly drawing my attention to it and constantly offering some new way that I never had to be bored or “waste time” again. Instead of being completely present when the entire family was sitting around watching TV after dinner, I could still be in the room, “spending time with my boys” while not truly engaged with them because I was checking email, playing a game, on social media or surfing the web on my phone at the same time. Now that one of those boys is away at college and the other is a full-fledged teenager who usually just wants to be in his room after dinner, what I wouldn’t give to have at least a few of those evenings together back. What’s worse, I wasn’t modeling a healthy way to manage my relationship with my phone for them, and while my older one has come to that on his own, my younger one is still in the newly obsessed phase.
When I saw the segment on GMA, I thought their challenge was an interesting idea and might be a fun thing to try when I had time. I quickly realized though that it was needed more than I thought when I went an entire week with getting sucked into my phone at breakfast instead of talking with my son. Not that he’s an eager conversationalist in the mornings, but still, that’s an opportunity to connect and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I knew something needed to change. My phone and I needed to just be friends.
Setting the Stage for the Breakup
While Catherine Price’s book very gently walks us through a four-week breakup, I knew I needed to just rip the band-aid off. That’s why I went for the seven-day #breakup Challenge that she put together for GMA. She makes it clear from the beginning that the goal is to recognize that we’re not going to get rid of our phones, but we are going to start treating them like the tool they are and not like a member of the family or in my case, an appendage. Once I signed up for the challenge, I received two welcome/prep emails and then an email for each day of the challenge. The prep emails helped me to define my goals for my new relationship with my phone and had me learn to keep my phone out of my bedroom. This was a big step for me because yes, I am one of those… my phone slept on my nightstand. Of course, in my defense, when my oldest was out late, I felt like I needed to have the phone where he could reach me if needed. Now that I have several years before I have to worry about that with my youngest, there’s no need for my phone to share my bedroom. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.
As part of the prep for the challenge, I also learned how to clean up my phone and to get rid of those apps that were just serving as old baggage. I had FOUR screens of apps, half of which I didn’t even know what they were for. I learned how to organize the apps I did keep into folders and how to make my phone as plain as possible by removing the photo of my boys as my screensaver. Now I can spend more time with them in person than getting distracted by looking at them on my phone. I will also say that my phone now looks like how I want my brain to be – organized and uncluttered. Don’t worry though, Catherine isn’t that friend (or mother) that makes you feel bad for letting things get the way they are. She understands where we’re coming from and explains the reason behind every step that we take throughout the breakup.
Next – the Breakup
Now that the stage has been set for my breakup, I’m ready to do it. I know it probably won’t be pleasant, but it’s needed. Be sure and check out my next post for a look at how it went and why you might want to consider jumping on the breakup bandwagon too. Unhealthy relationships, even with our phones, are not good for us mentally or physically. I for one, can’t wait to start the next chapter in my life, where I spend more time interacting with the people who mean the most to me and less time with my phone.
If you want to join me, feel free to leave a comment below, send me an email at [email protected] or connect through social media. Breakups are always more bearable when there’s a friend to offer support!
Ok… I’m jumping in. I need this. Honestly… I can quit anytime I want. Seriously. ANYTIME. Right? Oh God! What am I committing too????
You can do it Cheryl! Let me know if you decide to go with the 7-day challenge or the 4-week breakup.