What am I actually looking at?

Last week my friend Phil pulled out his phone and it made me gasp. Gasp I tell you! Where had he purchased this beast from? How was he managing to use it? Was I jealous or was I impressed? The phone in question was a Nokia 3310. ‘But the most recent one’ He later informed me. Looking at this ugly old brick I was immediately transported back to my Uni days. Wonky teeth and hair akin to Posh Spice circa ’99 included.

Phil’s reason for his technological back step was ‘To stop my phone taking over my life’. It’s a statement that deeply resonated with me.

In September 2018 Apple introduced their Screen time feature showing {Or should I say shaming?} us all just how much time we spend on our phones.

 

With Screen time you are given a detailed account of your phone usage. It shows you where exactly you’re spending your hours and at what times of the day. Worst of all it monitors how many pickups you partake in. I mean I was hooked! It was appalling to see how many hours a day I was spending on my phone. I began to challenge myself to get my user percentage down each day. The irony was I kept picking up my phone to check how well I was doing.

Stepping away from my smart phone is an idea I’ve been toying with for a while now. It’s been in my head since I shared a room with a 19 year old boy who owned a flip phone. Alex was aware that he was wasting a large portion of his day bent over a tiny screen endlessly scrolling. He had decided to actively do something about it and I was envious. I was envious of the freedom he had. Firstly he read. A lot. But he was also completely engaged in whatever he was doing making himself that ever present buzz word of fully present.

According to a 2018 Ofcom report the average person spends more than a day a week online. A statistic that has obviously risen over the last decade since the introduction of the smartphone. Which, by the way, 78% of the population now own. Baring that in mind I’m not here to discuss the fact that we have a smartphone, or even condemn our phone usage, I don’t believe I have. The majority of people I speak to these days are ashamed of  just how much we rely on our phones.

What I do want to know is what is it we’re actually looking at on our phones? What is it that’s sucking us into a worm hole that we emerge from, blinking into the daylight, 20 minutes later?

 

Is it our emails? Well, we could just go back to checking our computers a couple of times a day, right? Remember those crazy times….Ummm when was it? 2010? How about Social Media? Now that’s a given that we’re all looking at some form of it far too many times a day. Having gone cold turkey on Instagram {Reinstalling it whenever I post} I can assure you life just continues. Also, according to Zadie Smith, who owns a flip phone, you’d be surprised at how much you can actually catch up on simply by logging into your Twitter/Instagram/ Facebook for 15 minutes at the end of each day.

What about Citymapper? Now, for me this is one of the biggest apps I rely on and believe I would be lost without. Literally & metaphorically. However, when I travel abroad I don’t have the internet on my phone and manage to travel from A to B via C just fine so there’s a major flaw in my piss poor excuse. I could simply preplan a route or…I don’t know…ask someone?

The reality that we don’t want to admit is we’re wasting time on our phones. We’re mindlessly scrolling through pages unnecessarily so that we can do what? Occupy our minds? Our hands?

 

For me, I’m watching Youtube clips for an insanely large part of my day. Drag Queens putting on make up {It’s my ASMR}, Saturday Night Live clips, Movie trailers. I’m also re looking at messages, photos, emails. I’m checking back, multiple times a day, on connections I’ve already seen and read.

I do understand that I’m addicted to my phone but also that it’s easy to have everything at my fingertips. It ceratinly makes life more efficient. But are easy and efficient always better?  They’re certainly not always more enjoyable. In the words of Marie Kondo, the tidyup queen of the world, Is my phone usage bringing me joy?

Checking in on my Iphone screen time usage I roughly come in at 3 hours plus on a good day and 5 hours plus on a mind numbing, zombified day. Bear in mind that’s just my phone usage. That’s not time spent, doing God knows what?!, on my laptop or watching TV. Five hours! I mean I could go to Paris and back in that amount of time. I could make a dress, intensively get better at French. Write a short film. Why am I not writing a short film every single day?

Phil asked me yesterday whether I was going to discard my beautiful, sleek, comforting Iphone and join him in the cool gang.

Well, Phil, I’m on the fence about what to do here, I’m afraid. I’m painfully perched and I have been for sometime now. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Anyone else thinking the same thing?

 

I do know people who are reinstalling landlines. They’re consciously making an effort to communicate differently with others as opposed to lazily throwing out an emoji {Something I would miss greatly if I did head back to the brick phone!} I lived without Whatsapp for a year and a half. It was through a phone default, I might add, and not through choice but guess what? I survived. I’ve already started to delete apps I know are time wasters, I’m leaving my phone in different rooms for extended periods of time. I’m not sure whether I’m ready to let go of the possibility of googling Jennifer Lawerence’s height at the drop of a hat though.

Hey! Here’s a thought. What if I cut out all the crap I unnecessarily look at on my phone. What if I simply kept the bare minimum so that I could still have my smartphone but just learn how to use it differently? And by differently I mean less.

Anyone want to give it a go with me?

Zadie Smith said the reason she got a flip phone was because the most important things in life for her are reading and writing. She didn’t want anything to take away from these pastimes that she loves. Now there’s a thought that brings me so much joy….

 

Ps. Check out this boost to help us make the change ~ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/31/nokia-3310-t9-phone-smartphone-iphone-reclaim-life

 

3 Comments
  • Laura
    Posted at 11:59h, 22 May Reply

    True words, Ms Donovan. It is frightening how easy it is to lose an hour through inane searches. I can no longer watch a TV show without giving it a goog to see who that actor is, where I know them from and then somehow I am looking at info on their co-star’s sisters husband. Good luck with your tech detox.

    • Ms Donovan
      Posted at 12:11h, 22 May Reply

      Yes! And why do we need to know all those personal details about actors? Sometimes I feel we’ve lost the excitement about performers and movie stars doing their jobs well because we’re clouded by the useless knowledge of their relationships and their upbringing!

  • Olivia G
    Posted at 11:08h, 24 May Reply

    I completely resonate with this article ! I even turned off that stalking, shaming, iPhone usage checker! I don’t need to feel judged for looking at my phone or even have the timings calculated for me for ?

    I’m on the fence too, part of me loves leaving my phone in other rooms of my home, forgetting it for hours on end and the other half loves watching food videos, or messaging friends or even reading articles like this one! I use it for so much and I love my iPhone for helping me with maps, recipes, seeing who Antonio Banderas is now going out with … ! I think it’s all about balance, iPhones / smartphones have hugely helped so many people, myself included, but they also are a mighty distraction! It’s about being able to notice when you’re not doing enough of the things you love outside your iPhone, for me I want to be more present without the my phone, she says while writing this on her phone…

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