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3 Steps to Put Your Phone Down and Pick Your Life Up

Do you have a phone?

Of course, you do.

But would you ever give it up?

Of course, you wouldn’t.

How would you work without it?

How would you ever stay up to date with all the junk to stay up to date with?

How would you stay in the game, stay in touch, stay afloat, without a phone in your pocket at all times?

With all that in mind, can you have it both ways, can you keep your real-life off-screen while still putting so much into that blinking, chirping, blue-lit little doohickey?

If you love your phone and love your life, then you need some balance.

And this post is about just that: balance.

I recently asked a close friend why she was always on her phone.

It had become really annoying and something needed to be said.

She looked at me, sort of disgusted, and said, “I’m using it for work.” I said, “What’s your work?” She said, “My brand.” I could see what she had up on her screen.

I’d been watching her scroll through her feed for a few minutes now. She was so engrossed she had no idea I was eyeballing right down the cuticle of her thumb. I could’ve probably left the room and taken a drive. I could’ve never come back. And would she notice?

I asked her how much of her scrolling was working (building her brand) and how much of it was “other” (it’s very hard to categorise what endless phone scrolling actually is: entertainment? voyeurism? distraction?).

I asked for a percentage, work to others. She admitted it was still 100% other, although, she assured me, one day that would all change.

The point is: phone denial is insidious and real, and the symptoms are pretty vague and therefore hard to really define.

I think the best way to understand the virus is by understanding it’s a virus, and therefore much bigger than you.

You need help. And here it is.

Let’s look at how to decrease your scrolling time and replace it with more life-affirming activities in three fool-proof (hopefully) steps.

1. COMPARTMENTALISE

Stop using your phone for absolutely everything you do.

Remember the early brick-like Nokias? All you could use them for were calling and messaging, and maybe playing a very primitive game of Snake if you were waiting of the train at Limerick Junction (That thing took hours!).

My current phone does everything: internet, email, alarm, HRV monitor, maps, food delivery, Netflix,  and then maybe sometimes I’ll text someone an emoji, and maybe, once in a very blue moon I’ll decline a call from Marty and Doc.

It’s obvious, but when your phone does everything, you’ve got everything with you, everything is open, splashed all over the desk, incomplete—which begins to resemble your mental state.

Work never ends because you’re always available.

The world never sleeps and neither do you as the dog pics keep rolling in until the end of time.

Practical point: Use your laptop for email and internet, basically work in general. Disable all these features on your phone.

2. TIME MANAGEMENT

Does your phone work for you, or is it the other way around?

When it goes off do you answer to its every beck and call?

Even if you’re with your kids, at a funeral, on a rollercoaster? If you can’t stick to the above practical point (compartmentalising work), then imposing a schedule on your phone might be better for you.

Just like you keep a calendar for meetings and important dates, the same must apply here.

Practical point: This schedule might look like:

Emails: 10am-12pm

Facebook: 2-3pm

Instagram: 4-430pm

Medium: 8-9pm

3. UNDERSTANDING WHY

This might seem like an odd third step, but not knowing why you’re doing something will result in you not doing anything at all. If you don’t think something’s a big deal, why do it? If you love your phone-life and see no harm here, why change?

Stress works in mysterious ways and it’s good to understand exactly how it can sneak into your life.

Right now, stress is in your pocket, or maybe you’re holding it in your hand to read this.

Anthropologist Robert Dunbar found a correlation between primate brain size and social group size.

In his model, humans work best in groups of up to 150.

As we reach this cognitive capacity, we get kind of cagey.

Up until 150, it’s easy enough to remember everyone – basically who to trust and who not to trust – but beyond this number things get blurry.

Paranoia, fear, and hate, tend to ferment, creating a hostile group existence.

In this study, applying Dunbar’s Number to a very complicated Twitter algorithm, the researcher’s concluded,

“We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar’s result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the ‘economy of attention’ is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar’s theory. We propose a simple model for users’ behaviour that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behaviour.”

Considering you’re not a Creationist, then there’ll be something of worth for us to draw from primate studies. We are primates, animals, and technology is very new in that picture. I suggest that fluid and reflexive access to the whole world, might seem like progress, but our biology hasn’t had a chance to catch up—and until it does, we will feel a ‘neurological tension’ i.e. stress, alienation, ennui.

There’s also this study looking at phone-related sleep disturbances and depression among young adults. The conclusion was,

“In prospective analysis, overuse was associated with stress and sleep disturbances for women, and high accessibility stress was associated with stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression for both men and women.”

And then there’s the discussion about your phone’s electromagnetic radiation emissions and the proximal geography of your genitals (which needs its own post). While the research on this is vague, Cancer.Gov says it best for now.

So, to recap, if you’re in need of some phone balance:

  • first compartmentalise (strip your phone of all its non-phone duties)
  • time management (put your phone on a schedule)
  • and understanding why (remind yourself why you’re phone cleansing and make the game plan stick).

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