The curse of compulsive phone checking

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Excerpt from this article:

My children were the catalyst for change. When the summer holidays began, my partner and I were adamant that, despite the fact we were busy working and unable to spend long days at the park, my two sons shouldn’t spend their break bathed in the light of Kindle Fires and YouTube videos of grown men playing Minecraft. But how could we tell them to get offline when, as soon as they’d gone to bed, we were cycling aimlessly through apps, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, Gmail and back again, just in case something new had been posted in the last 15 seconds?

…During my week offline, I finished my book, yes. But I also did smaller, enjoyable things I came to realise I’d really missed. My podcast habit went from occasional to daily, with my phone placed out of reach and set to full volume so I couldn’t drift away from the narrative and into another app. Bedtime became an opportunity to talk with my partner, with conversation frequently descending into hysterical giggles. I slept better, I read two books on which I’d previously found it hard to concentrate, and several paper issues of Vanity Fair from cover to cover. To my surprise, I ate less crap (I’ve subsequently discovered we overeat when focused on other things like the internet) and lost a few pounds. Most of all, my thoughts became clearer.

I came back, of course. It is 2016, after all. I’m not dead yet. I missed the baby pictures, the wedding albums, the laughs, the clueless pets and, most of all, the true friends I keep in touch with online because our busy lives don’t afford us regular face-to-face contact. But I was reassured to find I hadn’t missed much else. Despite the internet’s incessant updates, breaking news and campaigning, everything was much the same as before. What had changed was me. Because, while a digital detox is an important exercise, it is much like embarking on a juice cleanse to fit into a tight party dress. The whole thing becomes worthless if, when it’s all over, you immediately pop into McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Like crash diets, total internet abstinence is neither healthy nor achievable. I wanted a lasting, meaningful change in habits. I made the decision to never scroll back through timelines if I could help it – to only look at what was in front of me when I had the time, and found that, actually, I was entirely FOMO-free. I didn’t reinstall the apps either and my social-media activity has very happily plummeted back to what I’d describe as healthy levels of engagement. When we’re watching TV, the phone is flipped over to obscure the constantly updating screen. After dinner, it’s banished to my bedroom altogether.

 

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