About Me, mindfulness, reality check, self care, social media

Disconnect: ditching my smartphone in search of a better connection

April 4, 2017

I’ve been feeling a little tug on the old heartstrings these past 4 weeks of Lent. It began as a bit of a wild hair (hare? Rabbit or follicle growth?) the fleeting thought “you should get rid of your phone” which I promptly batted down with a vengeance. Because wuuuuut. Really, what? Who could live in such a way?

I’ve written before about my addictive smartphone habits (be careful the things you swear you’ll “never” do) and my kind of pitiful attempts at self regulation. So this has been no bolt from the blue. But still? To step away entirely? Seems a little dramatic. And why would I be dramatic? Nobody in my family is dramatic.

But the nudges kept coming. At different times, like stuck in traffic and finding myself frantically scrabbling a blind hand in the bottom of my purse, whereisitwhereisitwhereisitdidIleaveitohcrapwhereisit…there it is. And then feeling a subsiding tide of stress tamp down because I had found it, my precious.

And for what? So that I could flip frantically to the last page of my home screen – where I banished all my social apps and alerts – and see if any new dopamine hits had come in since 9 minutes ago when I’d last checked?

I am not painting a flattering self portrait. Intentionally so. I will be honest with you as I have been increasingly honest with myself this past month or so: I am addicted to my smartphone.

I am addicted to the internet in general, as I imagine many (most?) of us are these days, but it’s a whole lot more manageable, at least for me personally, when it isn’t living in my purse or pocket.

Several times during March I experimented with “blackout hours/days,” leaving the phone connected to the charger, going out for a run or a walk or even on an errand (gasp) without my phone, and I don’t think that I can adequately convey to you the level of anxiety that surged up within me walking out of the house without my trusty device in hand. But curiously – or perhaps it is no curiosity at all – after a few minutes adjustment, maybe 15 or 20, I was stilled. Settled. Resigned that I was going to get nothing in particular “done” in this little chunk of time aside from whatever it is that I’d set out to actually do, whether it was the library with the kids, a long walk through the neighborhood, or a trip to the store.

And it changed things. It has changed the way I react to the world. The way I smell things, (did you know things still have smells?) the people with whom I interact, (mostly my own people, because I almost always have tots in tow) and it changes the pace and rhythm of those specific moments in my day.

I reach over and over and over again into a phantom pocket, hand drifting unconsciously to scour beneath the stroller hood, fingers itching to unlock and swipe and capture. (Admittedly, I have missed some cute pictures.) I may have to start carrying a real, live camera again. Or taking notes. So retro.

But in exchange, I think I stand a chance at getting part of my life back.

I don’t think everyone struggles in this way with technology. But I do think the unconscious, blanket adaptation of every new technology to come down the pike en masse is a real problem.

I don’t think every technology is good for every person.

And I will go so far as to say that on the whole, on a cultural level, connective technology is taking more from us than it is giving in return. We are not more connected, but less so. And at a dear price.

So that’s my piece of it, anyway. In search of a little more peace, I’m trading in a piece of hardware and a whole lot of convenience and connectivity for the ability to go … slower. To be in the dark sometimes. To be intentionally unavailable to most everyone so that I can be tightly focused and targeted on five somebodies who depend on me and deserve my undivided presence. (that’s one husband + four kids, not an announcement.)

I’ve spent a lot of time being loosely available and vaguely attentive to a lot of things over the past 6 years or so of smartphone ownership. I haven’t had a lot of good boundaries or hard stops in place, however, which could help me divide and truly be attentive to the various aspects of my vocation that demand not just physical but also emotional and intellectual presence.

I was trying to mentally tally the amount of time I probably spend on this little device throughout the day, whether for looking up a recipe, reading directions, taking photos, scrolling through apps, and leaving voxes and I flinched when I came up with a number. Tried to remember if I could find anything in my own childhood to compare it with, was there anything my mom spent 5 or more hours a day doing, extracurricular to her parenting? Was it possible she spent 5 hours a day watching television, or on the phone, or reading books?

Not likely. Not during the investment years where she was buried in babies and pouring the foundation for her family’s life. I’m sure she wished most days for a lifeline, an outlet, a support network and in so many instances, my phone has facilitated that for me. And I don’t want to dismiss that or cheapen the reality that in moments, the phone has been a life saver. But those real, important benefits do not, in my life, outweigh the steep cost of distraction. Of unease. Of missing moments and becoming more and more deaf to the movements of the Holy Spirit throughout the day, of the little nudges that God has something to say to me but I need to phone a friend and process it with her first.

So that’s a problem.

And this is my solution.

It won’t be everybody’s solution, and it’s no call for an analog revolution. But I hope if there is something that He is trying to say to you, you feel more free to hear him speaking than I have. I hope if it’s this very issue that He has been in your ear about, tugging on your sleeve, tapping on your shoulder…well, I hope this is a little jolt of solidarity from the ether, a confession that, yeah, me too. I’m also having a hard time with this.

In the meantime, I have no plans to abandon the blog. Or my laptop. The technological revolution is here to stay. And I’m going to pick and choose the winnings from the wreckage and say, yeah, this, this works for me. This fits in my life. And this doesn’t. And discard what isn’t helpful, and full steam ahead with what is.

So long little smartphone. We’ve had some good moments together, and you’ve captured some treasured memories. But I’d like to try my hand again at making some on my own. (Also, you make my ear really, really hot sometimes and I’m a little worried that might be a bad thing #samsungproblems.)

Peace out. 

 

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23 Comments

  • Reply Karyn April 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    I have a smartphone but it’s a pay-as-you-go deal where I get 30 minutes a month – I’ve never had a “real plan” but I don’t feel like I miss out on anything. I deleted my facebook a couple of months ago and that has been absolutely awesome. I think going off of facebook would be forcing me to actually call and/or visit with people (gasp) if I wasn’t “down” with morning sickness right now. Now, if I could just figure out how to limit the computer time :/ Good luck with your “withdrawal” — I know you have gone off of facebook before, so you know that that jittery feeling will pass and peace will descend!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing April 6, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      I have deleted all my apps, untethered my email from my phone, turned off wifi and maps and stripped away anything superfluous and for now, it’s working. I really wan to get a true dumb phone if I can find one that fits the bill (current phone is a no contract plan that’s $30/month and tough to beat) because I know that when I get up against a hard place (stuck in traffic, needing to check in for a flight, an urgent email) it will still be all too easy to “just turn it all back on for a second.” And I really don’t want that option any longer. I want to be totally free and have that firm boundary in place of having to be sitting at my computer to have internet connectivity. I miss my messaging apps the most, but I have had like 400% more real conversations, whether in phone or person, just this week alone, and I’m surviving with just good old fashioned texting. Not to mention being way, way less distracted. Feel like I’ve found the holy grail or something!

  • Reply Anamaria April 4, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Good luck! I am contemplating this, too. I look around and know I am not as distracted as others… but I am much more distracted than I’d like to be. Text messages may be the most distracting thing, however, and I have a hard time contemplating getting something that doesn’t get texts.

    Right now attempting self-regulation and that is going well somedays, others not so much. Getting off facebook, not turning the computer on until naps, silencing texts, and not reading things on the internet on my phone has helped a lot. I like the idea of also leaving it at home sometimes- haven’t tried it too much since it seems like I am always waiting for a doctor or my husband to call!

  • Reply Karen April 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    We use tracfones, and they are not only cheaper but have way less memory than the snazzy ones. Every now and then, usually after I’ve taken some pictures, I get “Storage space running out, cannot update apps” and I just delete the notification. I’ve long ago deleted apps like instagram and Facebook, and in fact just today, after reading this, completely logged out of instagram for good. It wasn’t doing me any good to see strangers’ lives. I always find it sadly ironic that nowadays you see people bemoaning on social media that they have no time to read a good book, when they’ve probably spent a good hour flipping through Facebook. I’m taking my time back. Thank you for the nudge.

  • Reply Mary April 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Can you post about the providers/costs/plans that you find? I looked into this a year and a half ago and everything cost MORE to go internet-less. It wasn’t cost effective so I didn’t make the jump. It may be different now! I hope!

    • Reply Ceh April 5, 2017 at 11:42 am

      You can try Charity Mobile. They have some good deals on internet-free plans.
      And a small percentage of the monthly fee is donated to a pro-life organization of your choice.

  • Reply Sarah April 4, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    I love that you are doing this! I am curious at what your replacement will be? Is there a cost savings? You will still have a cell phone I assume? Please keep us posted on how this is going, sadly I think I should do this too.

  • Reply Hannah April 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I smashed my screen a couple of years ago around the start of Lent. After the initial horror I felt immense relief and I decided not to replace it for the rest of Lent. I pulled out my previous phone which still worked, it was Nokia’s first smart phone with a tiny screen and painfully slow page loading. So while I *could* check Facebook if I really wanted to it was pretty annoying to do so! I absolutely loved not having a smartphone but unfortunately I just started to spend more time on the computer. But at least I couldnt just slide into that world so easily. What I found really difficult to do without was internet banking! Being at the checkout and realising there’s no money left in the grocery account and then using the credit card and having to shuffle it all around later is reaaalllly annoying. I’d have to get a whole lot more organised with my accounts to manage without a smart phone, and being organised is very hard for me! If I could figure it out we’d probably save a bunch of money though which would be awesome. Anyway I totally support you and commend you on this brave, brave step. I’m coming up to a contract renewal and wish I was strong enough to just get a basic phone. I’m going to try once again to self regulate and limit my time. I think I will grow more from exercising my will at this point in time. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

  • Reply Christina April 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I have never had a smartphone, just a tracfone so I can call and text. First, it was because I was poor (stay at home mom), but then it was because I almost fainted when i saw how much people spend and I couldn’t justify the cost. I would rather spend the money elsewhere. I have an iPad and laptop that I can only use at home. My tracfone is $10 a month. now when my kids ask for a phone (they are 8&10) i can say no without guilt. my husband refuses to get a phone. If daddy and mommy can survive without one, so can they.

    • Reply Jessica April 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      I’m 31 years old and also don’t have a smart phone and never have from many of the sames reasons as Christina. I also have an ipad and laptop for home.
      I pay 20 dollars a month for unlimited talk and text through verizon.
      I long for a smart phone for the camera and video feature, but I know it would open doors to me constantly looking at e-mail and facebook.
      One thing I found helpful about NOT having a smart phone is downloading the Verizon Text App on my ipad. Therefore I can still get text messages from smart phones. Most smart phone text come through but some do not, and I can participate in a group text on the ipad app. Hope this helps!

  • Reply Diana April 4, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    That is impressive! I try my hardest not to be on my phone when my son is around (besides the occasional phone calls…and texts…and checking the weather…and and and….) because it’s getting more and more obvious to me how little time I get at home with his before school and how I don’t want to spend it looking at a screen. I’ve considered giving up all the smartphone bonuses for Lent (still keeping my phone but just using it for phone calls and texts) BUT…I’m not brave enough to try yet. Curious to hear more about this from you!

  • Reply Mark Stephen April 4, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    I think, every smartphone out there has their own personalized benefits.

  • Reply Leslie April 5, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Love this, Jenny. Gretchen Rubin gave me a lot of ideas about self-regulation and it all comes down to self-knowledge. She says people are either abstainers or moderators. Some people naturally have the virtue of temperance in them; these are the people who can just eat two cookies (not me!!). The other group are abstainers. If they want to stop doing something, they need to stop it all together. I came to realize that I am not a moderator! So I had to totally cut out sugar and also, in some cases, technology. I got rid of my facebook app and my husband changed my password. I still have messenger (i love that these are two seperate things) so people can message me. This started out as a Lenten thing but I am thinking of doing it in general. If I want to read interesting articles, I go to Pocket. If I want to connect with friends, I send them a message on my facebook messenger app. I made these changes after reading Anna Liesemeyer’s blog recently when she said “Being instantly available is something I only owe to my children”. That made a huge impact on me. These changes have really focused me more and made me more available to my children. Sorry for the long rambling comment but I just wanted to share my experiences with the other readers.

    • Reply Hannah April 5, 2017 at 12:11 am

      Ohhh I am an abstainer too! I wish I could moderate. I deleted facebook months ago – maybe more than a year ago now. Couldn’t moderate my usage! But I have just replaced it with other time wasting websites 😣

  • Reply Hannah April 5, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Aaaahhhhhh! I was just talking to my phone company, in the process of signing up to a new contract, and couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to just wait and give it some more thought! So I told her I was going to have to think about it! Part of the reason is that – well when I commented earlier that I was coming up to a new contract, what had actually just happened a couple of days ago is I had already signed up but got an email back saying they’d canceled the order because there was some problem with verifying the info. They sorted it out today, didn’t tell me what the problem was, but suddenly while on the phone, just about to place the new order, I felt a prompting that maybe this isn’t all coincidence and God might be trying to tell me something! I’m a bit scared to listen but will give it a shot.
    Thanks again (I think! 😉 ) for the thought provoking post!

  • Reply Sarah April 5, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Sometimes when I reflect on our addiction to smart phones, I think of a scene from the “Matrix”: the main character Neo wakes up in a tub of goo, realizing all humanity is sleeping in tubs of goo with their consciousnesses connected into a virtual reality created for them by the Matrix. I gave up facebook friends just after the election (I did keep it so I could interact with businesses and clubs I attend). I couldn’t stand the way people were commenting about one another. I have so much more time in my evenings to pursue hobbies and I worry much less about what others have to say or think (I’ve stopped reading the news too. Most news is usually depressing). It is so freeing to be rid of friends on facebook. I’m happy to have a dumb phone. The way I see people addicted to their smart phones, there’s no way my husband or I ever want one. It’s amazing how when we go out to eat, we see so many couples and families tied to their phones rather than speaking to one another and enjoying the taste of their food.

  • Reply Laura April 5, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Thank you, Jenny! I’m glad for your thoughtful examination of things like this that give us so much to think about. I have a problem with my smartphone too, in that it’s often the first and last thing I do each day. I’m not a mom, so I don’t feel guilty of taking time away from people like that. But I am so tired of it. I don’t really even want to be on it, when I’m being honest. But it’s an automatic response, an addiction. I often reach for it at stoplights and then think what the heck? I do NOT need to check it every 10 minutes.

    I am more of a moderator than an abstainer, so I’m very interested in hearing others strategies. I’ve been thinking of getting a clock I can use for an alarm so I’m not touching my phone first. Then leaving it outside my bedroom at night since I won’t need it in the AM…. Thanks for giving voice to something so many of us are struggling with.

  • Reply J April 5, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I totally get what your saying. I think I’m definitely addicted to my smartphone/instagram too. But, I do try to give myself a break when I compare hours spent on my smartphone/computer to prior generations. If you add up the time your mom probably spent reading the newspaper, watching television, reading books, looking up recipes in cookbooks, balancing her checkbook, managing the family calendar, chatting on the phone, paying bills, and reading and sending mail, looking at paper maps to find driving routes, and taking pictures, I feel like it must be comparable hours! And those are all things I do on my phone. Not trying to make excuses, but just wanted to share how I try to look at things when I start feeling really bad about iPhone time. Moderation in everything.

  • Reply Denise Krainski April 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I give you a lot of credit for understanding yourself with your relationship with the smartphone. I am the only one in my family (husband and two adult daughters) that does not have a smart phone. I still have my flip phone that I have had for many years. I only use my cell phone when I need to call someone long distance or am traveling in the US or I need to have it on when I am expecting a call from someone or I text one of my daughters to CALL ME on my landline. I still have a landline phone. I do have an I-pad, desk top computer, and an Amazon Fire. I do have a facebook account but no twitter or instagram account. It is a little unsettling to me to see many young mothers on their smartphones while they are out and about with their small children…I don’t know…are they really present to their children? Are they really present to anyone while they are texting, playing games and generally absorbed when they are on their smartphones?Last year we had a power outage in the area and our wi-fi went down. My husband became so agitated with his smartphone being down, that we had to go to a local cafe to use their wi-fi….hmmmm.

  • Reply Marie April 5, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I definitely struggle with this too, Jenny! And strangely enough it’s even the *good* things I try to do on the phone like reading housewife and parenting blogs for inspiration, looking up preschools in the area, finding out what activities my kids could do nearby… Somehow my mind convinces me I need to be in the future (on my phone, trying to improve the future) instead of here, right now, with my kids , really being fully there with them. And even though I see it, it doesn’t make it easier to change! One thing I do sometimes is put my phone on “priorities” so it will only make a sound if someone important (like husband) calls and then “hide” it out of my reach for a day, but that’s not perfect. I think I’m gonna try just turning it off cause I can always just turn it on if I need it! Good luck with the struggle and God Bless!

  • Reply Lisa April 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Just wanted to offer a word of encouragement from someone who has already jumped off the cliff (of abandoning social media, at any rate). Two years ago my husband and I decided to abandon our smart phones for dumb phones only to discover how many gadgets we needed. I ended up with a happy compromise of the cheapest “smart” phone with the fewest capabilities because I wanted google maps and a calendar that was connected to his, and I have not looked back. I used a cheap point and shoot camera for awhile and we saved our money for several months so we could buy a DSLR camera for Christmas. I get MANY fewer pictures because I have to think of bringing it places, or going to the closet to fetch it from it’s very high hiding spot, but you know what? I inherited BOXES of photos from my mom and grandma in one year, and I can tell you with complete certainty, your adult children will appreciate a few really nice photos, but likely not the documentary of hour by hour activities and funny faces that I was creating with my iPhone.

    Do not be afraid! You can pull your life back to your loved ones! And it will be so, so worth it. 🙂 God bless!

  • Reply Thera April 7, 2017 at 10:54 am

    There are some interesting points in this article. Food for thought.

    I’m thinking about our mothers and how they spent their time, comparing it to the time “we” spend on social media and screens. I wonder about smoking and eating. My mother smoked, and I believe smoking was generally more common in the 1980’s than now. Also, looking around mothers generally seem slimmer now, than when I was a child. So, I wonder how much smart phones and social media is taking the place of smoking and “stress eating”. Is it an improvement?

  • Reply Jen April 8, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Recommendation: I ditched my smartphone for the Gusto 3 via Charity Mobile. Great phone (it is hard to find quality feature phones, I learned) and great service provider. and you can still take pictures when memorable moments arise – just not great quality 🙂

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