The last time you picked up your phone…
Did you intend to look at your phone at that specific time?
What prompted you to look at your phone?
How long did you end up looking at your phone?
Did you stick to the original purpose, or open up another app?
Did you get value out of the time you spent on your phone?
Did your decision to look at your phone cost you other opportunities?
Having observed what many others have observed, regarding excessive smart phone use, and its potential link to poor mental health outcomes, I recently decided I needed to build a periodic mini digital detox into my life. One year ago, I decided to go without my phone the first Sunday of every month.
I figured that periodically going a day without my phone would help me become more mindful of how I use my phone, and reconnect me with how I would go about doing certain things in the pre-smart phone era. Maybe it would even give me some clues as to how smart phone use is actually impacting our society as a whole.
Since then, awareness of the impact smart phones are having on our lives has only increased. Apple added a feature to the iPhone that tracks and gives users the ability to limit their smart phone use.
By the way, here is proof that I actually did shut my phone off for the day on Sunday.
Others have even resorted to creative ways to encourage less phone use. One hotel in Sweden began charging guests by how much time they spend on social media. Rooms at Hotel Bellora are being offered to guests for free if they can refrain from using their phones!
After experiencing twelve of these phone free First Sundays, I have concluded that…
1. It is not realistic, nor does it seem beneficial, for us to completely ditch smart phones.
There are some conveniences, such as using Google Maps to look at traffic, that are a significant benefit.
2. All smart phone use can’t be painted in one light.
Picking up a phone has different utility when used for different purposes. I am actually not too ashamed that I spend a significant amount of time on YouTube. Much of the content is either informational or provides entertainment value, which is value.
3. The setting needs to also be considered.
What had originally prompted me to become concerned about smart phones is observing them having a negative impact on people’s experiences. Watching someone pull out their phone when I am trying to have a conversation with them frustrates me. I also see people miss out on what is going on around them because of their phones. However, what if someone is just sitting at home alone, or on the same bus they take to work every day, exhausted and just needing some entertainment?
4. Smart phone use needs to serve a purpose.
If we intended to look someone up on Wikipedia, reference traffic on Google Maps, or even entertain ourselves with videos or games, that is fine. This is why, even after this experience, I still don’t believe in blanket statements such as “less than two hours per day”. It is more appropriate to say we should pick up our phones for an intended purpose, and put them down when that intended purpose is done, whatever length of time that is.
5. It is hard to stop using our phones as a crutch.
I’m talking about those times when we are waiting in line, or when we arrive at a restaurant ten minutes before our friends. We can either face the fear of boredom and/or awkwardness or bury ourselves in our phones. After each First Sunday, I resolve to stop picking up my phone in these instances. I’m typically able to do so for about five days.
Every time we engage with our phones, we disengage with the world around us.
We may be missing out o some important things; That person that would have started a conversation with us had we not looked needlessly occupied. Observing what is happening around us, in the natural world. Even the ability for us to engage our own thought processes. These are real costs that make it worthwhile for us to be more intentional with the use of our smart phones. Taking a day off from phone use once a month reminds me of the times I typically pull out my phone, and what I could be missing out on when I do.