I know I know, who has a relationship with their phone? Sounds ridiculous right? But in reality, anyone who lives in the modern age has a phone, and smartphones, or their apps, were designed to keep us on them as long as possible. So it’s safe to say that if we have a phone we have a relationship with it, given the increasing amount of time we all spend on them.
I remember the first cell phone I ever got. I was 21. It was a brick type Nokia that you basically used to make calls or send texts. In fact, I shared the phone with my ex and we used it like a land-line, passing the phone over and taking messages when the other wasn’t around. I could go days without looking at it and only responding when it vibrated, which wasn’t that often. I only needed to charge it once a week and I turned it off when I wasn’t using it. It was a great tool that allowed me to communicate and that’s that.
Well, fast forward to 2020 and my phone is a mini-computer that lives in my pocket. I like to think that I use it but sometimes I wonder if it uses me. I use it to help me find places and also to video call my sister in the UK. I have several social media apps on it that I use to make personal and business posts. I do my banking on it, I book clients on it, I play music on it. I have mindfulness apps on it that sometimes put me to sleep, and then my phone wakes me up again in the morning. It is there when I close my eyes, and when I open them again. If I don’t charge it overnight I generally have a more stressful day.
So for better or worse, we have a relationship with our phones. And like the frog being slowly boiled to death in increasingly warmer water, we’ve hardly noticed the gradual increase of our screentime. My phone tells me that yesterday I spent 7 hours and 32 minutes on it.
Pardon me? How have I allowed my phone to take over my life?
Anyone who has watched the Social Dilemma can tell you exactly how and why social media companies have managed to lure us in like they have. It is alarming. I struggle with social media for these reasons, yet I continue to use it to share my vision of wellbeing and te reo Māori revitalisation.
It is a tool, like any other tool. A hammer can be used to build a whare to house a whānau, and it can also be used as a weapon. Let’s not throw away the hammer, or the smartphone, let’s learn how to use them safely.
So, given my screentime confession, know that I am writing to myself as well here!
5 tips that can improve our relationship with our phone:
Turn off almost all notifications except calls so that your friends and whānau can contact you in an emergency. This is a way to turn your modern smartphone back into an old school phone and be in the here and now.
Put your phone on airplane mode when you have serious work to accomplish, or when you are sleeping.
Get an actual alarm clock, so that you won’t be tempted to check messages or apps as soon as you wake up. (I’m personally taking this on!)
Remove social media apps from your phone so that if you want to check them you have to be on your computer.
Have a phone free morning/afternoon/day where you ‘hide’ it and forget about it. The holidays are a great time to try this. Life goes on, everything won’t collapse, you will be just fine!
My partner and I have a rule: no phones at the dinner table, on date night or at home, and it really helps us to stay present and connect with each other.
There are many other ways to detach from our phones and regain control of our present moment awareness. Perhaps the starting point is to notice how much time we are spending on it, and to find ways to reign it in so we can really be here now with ourselves, and the people we love. Cause that's the good stuff in life.
“Wherever you are, be there totally.” Eckhart Tolle