It’s black, shiny, brand new, and it’s a relic. It’s modern technology as far as the year 2005 is concerned.
It’s my new flip phone.
I never took an online quiz to see if I had a phone addiction. Dan never said he thought I loved my phone more than I loved him. I never got in an accident because I was texting and driving, though that’s not to say I never drove while distracted.
I was living distracted and I hated it.
I hated the feeling that there was always to do, more to know, more messages to reply to. I hated how I felt after I’d brushing my teeth and set my alarm for the next morning, standing in the bathroom with my phone plugged into the wall, idly scrolling through Instagram, absorbing the details of other people’s lives while I disengaged from my own life.
Dan would call from the bedroom, “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” I’d call back, too ashamed to tell him the truth: Nothing I’m proud of, nothing that deserves my attention, nothing that’s more relaxing than reading my book or cuddling in bed next to you… Then I’d put my phone on airplane mode and crawl into bed, wishing I’d put my phone down earlier.
When my phone is around I can barely be still enough to think my own thoughts, feel my feelings, or appreciate what’s around me. I hate it.
I find myself Googling every question the second it pops into my mind. One minute I’m ordering the double A batteries I need on Amazon, and 15 minutes later I’m poring over product reviews of a coconut shampoo that could be a cheaper alternative to my pricey Deva Curl products, even though I know I’ll stick with the tried and true expensive brand. I’m searching for the recipe for a flax egg and next thing I know I’m pinning a Paleo brownie recipe I’ll never bake and the dishes still aren’t done, the laundry is still waiting to be folded, and my daughters are still reminding me they need a snack.
Before I can even feel crappy for a minute or two, maybe even let the feeling pass, I’m texting my sister or my best friend every single “WTF”, “I can’t even,” and “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS CRAP!?”
In front of me is a sunset, a delicious meal, the morning sun casting a pink glow on the Flatirons and I’m wondering how to capture it for an Instagram post, thinking of hashtags.
My kids want to show me their art, their forts, their dances, and I give them a cursory look and a distracted “Uh huh” while I scroll through photos of other people’s kids on social media. When I let myself imagine how this scene would look from the outside I am disgusted. I didn’t let myself go there too much.
I didn’t need a Buzzfeed quiz to tell me I’m not happy with the way I used my phone, so I started a new ritual this spring: a digital sabbath. I’ll never stop eating bacon or lobster but I love my version of Shabbat. From Friday night to Saturday night my phone is off. It’s not that I don’t want to be connected to my friends and family. It’s just that I have not found a way to use my phone for the things it was originally designed for—texting and talking—while avoiding the Pandora’s Box my sexy little rectangle holds inside its hard, smooth exterior.
The objective of my most recent Toastmasters speech was to persuade my audience. I decided I’d try to persuade them to shut their phones off—for a day, for a night, or for an hour. I told them stories about my own digital sabbath and how I feel after 24 hours of being phoneless.
I described the feeling of just being wherever I was, enjoying things like a novel or a movie instead of battling the nagging urge to check my phone. I described the discomfort of being stuck in a crappy situation with no way of texting my husband and begging him to bail me out, only to be pleasantly surprised when he showed up and saved me of his own accord. I described the peace I found in starting my day without the distractions of everyone else’s agendas the second I looked at my email.
I described the clarity, the connection, and the gratitude I felt when my phone was off.
I cited research on the addictive nature of phones, including this staggering statistic: The average American checks their phone 150 times a day. That’s once every six waking minutes.
While I practiced my speech, it hit me like an Amber alert in the middle of the night. I could feel as good as I feel on Saturdays every single day… if gave up the convenience of having access to the entire world in my pocket. In return, I’d have my attention back. Sure, I might still be distracted—life’s messy and I’m no Buddha— but at least I wouldn’t have to fight an ocean of information I held in my hand to stay focused.
Two weeks ago I went to the Verizon store. The manager could not move my contacts from my iPhone to my flip phone.
“We’ve never seen anyone go backward before,” he said.
Today I’m fumbling over the keys of my new phone, composing clumsy, time-consuming two-sentence text messages devoid of smiley faces, thumbs ups, or heart emojis. I’m not checking my email constantly, mindlessly looking at Instagram when I have a minute here or a minute there. I’m keeping a notebook and a pen in my bag so I can write down ideas, to-do’s, and questions. I’m looking at my kids when they talk to me instead of my phone.
It has been less than a month since I activated my flip phone but I feel like I’m moving forward.