We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.


Why I needed a break from one of my most intimate relationships


breakBy and large I’m not a fan of ‘taking a break’ in relationships. Most of the time ‘taking a break’ is just training wheels for breaking up. But this week I decided that I had to take a break from one particular relationship. Though it has brought be a lot of joy over the years, lately I’ve begun to feel that it just isn’t healthy. I’ve become clingy and co-dependent and it has been causing me to neglect my other relationships. Yup, that’s right. I’m taking about my relationship with my iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bagging on the iPhone. I love my phone. I think it is a wonderful invention. But I don’t always like myself when I’m using it. I decided that for three days I’d use my phone as a phone only. But then I realized that I actually use email for work. So I revised the plan to just the phone and my work email.

Knowing that I have absolutely no willpower whatsoever, I knew that I couldn’t just ignore my apps. I’d have to get rid of them. All of them. But when it came to actually press the x as the little icons giggled away, I just couldn’t do it. What if I lost all my settings? What if deleting my Letterpress app got rid of all my games (particularly the ones I’m winning)? I just wasn’t willing to risk it. Which just shows how much I needed to try this little experiment.

So I moved all of my social media and entertainment apps to the very last page. I hoped I had just enough will power to go with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.

If I really wanted to try and break myself of my bad habits (and get some actual work done) ignoring my phone would not be quite enough. I was also going to have to avoid all vehicles for connecting to social media and entertainment, including iPad, TV, and most of the internet. Because my house resembles an apple showroom, this was not going to be easy.

Here’s what I find really interesting… whenever I’ve told people that I’m on a break from the ‘smart’ part of my smart-phone, none of them has asked me why. It seems I’m not the only one who is disturbed at how addicted I am to my phone. The vast majority of people have said they’ve been thinking about attempting the same thing, but haven’t quite been able to bring themselves to actually do it. Many people have said that they’ve recently gotten into discussions (and in some cases actual fights) with their significant other about inappropriate phone usage. We know that checking our phones when we’re out to dinner with someone is totally rude, but we can’t seem to help ourselves. Even if we manage to prevent ourselves from checking twitter, facebook or pinterest in front of our date, we whip out our phones the second he or she gets up to go to the bathroom. At least I do. And I don’t like it. Can’t we just sit anymore? Can’t we just be? I wanted to try. At least for three days.

And so I did it. And you know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Granted, it helped that the three days of my experiment were really busy. The biggest test was the hour wait I had for an appointment the very first day. I longed to fill the time with some mindless internet browsing. I’ll admit I was tempted. I’m just sitting here, I thought, so what’s the harm in a few games of Letterpress? But I’d made a commitment to myself and I wanted to honor it. After that first day, it got easier. I’m not saying I wasn’t tempted. In down moments I often reflexively reached for my phone, only to force myself to put it down.

I had a feeling that disconnecting from social media would actually make be feel more connected to the people in my real life. Though that was the case to some extent, cheesy as it sounds, the person I really reconnected with through this experiment was myself. It turns out the ‘i’ in iPhone is a bit illusory. The distraction of constant access to media, news, games, audiobooks, etc, has made me much less in touch with my actual I.

Without these things I did things I hadn’t done in ages. I thought. I meditated. I stretched. I slept more and exercised more. I took walks and looked at the world around me. Instead of looking at Pinterest while listening to an audiobook and periodically checking my facebook, I just did one thing at a time. Life slowed down. Yes there was some boredom, some frustration, some irritation, and yes… a lot of temptation. But mostly it was really peaceful. Granted, it was only for three days, but in those few days I did notice a change in my pace, my rhythm, and my energy. The question, of course, is how long the changes will last.

Now that my three-day experiment has come to an end, will it have done any good? Now that I’m allowing myself full access to my phone and all of its many capabilities, I wonder how much I avail myself of them. Will I behave like the addict I’d become and slide right back into my old ways? Or will this experiment be enough to teach myself a little moderation?

Either way, I’m glad I did it.


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