I have denied the fact that I have been addicted to my phone since the second I got my first one. I was 15 and my parents got me a really cool flip phone because I went missing for a few hours one time; that’s a story for a different time though. Anyways, I was 15 with my own phone and I didn’t know it then but that was my first taste of freedom.
I could call whoever I wanted, and I could rack up my dad’s phone bill because texting wasn’t free back then. That’s right kids, there was a time when text messages cost upward of 50 cents per text and also cost to receive texts. This was Canada back in the early 2000s and yes, it was pretty archaic. It was back when data wasn’t even an option to add to your phone and Mark Zuckerberg was still coming up with the first version of Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.
Since that day, I have been addicted to phones. I always want the latest and greatest iPhone. I’m checking Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’m reading the news and chatting with my friends. I’m a product of the generation that loves having information available at the touch of the button.
But then I started getting the comments from friends and family that went along the lines that I am ALWAYS on my phone. The thing is, they aren’t wrong. Not even close. Even though I deny it when they say it, I know for a fact that if my phone goes missing even for a minute I start to have a full-on panic attack.
To be fair to myself, I own two businesses and work a full time 40-hour week for a software company. Yes, I would be classified as a workaholic, something that is a major personality flaw handed to me by my parents (my brother is also a workaholic so it’s definitely in our genes). So being connected to my phone, email and my office 24/7 wasn’t ever really something I thought was wrong.
But then I had a breakdown. Not one of those really pretty breakdowns where a couple tears fall down, and you run to your friend and chat about what just happened. No, it was a full out ugly crying breakdown where I hid under my desk rocking myself back and forth. It was one that led me to take 6 weeks off and then another 6 weeks after returning to work for four days. It was bad. It was really bad.
As soon as I got off stress leave I found myself going back to old habits. I had hooked up all of my emails back to my phone and went back to my old routine of continuously checking every ding that came through. I did this because old habits die hard and worse things had to happen in order for me to quit my addiction (even though still, my friends will tell you I’m addicted to my phone).
My ex put it lightly when he told me he was worried because I was never switched off. I was always working or down to answer any email that came to my phone or text message from work. I never gave myself the chance to relax. He was also getting pissed off that my phone would go off when we were in bed, trying to spend alone and quiet time just together. I don’t want to equivalate the ending of that relationship to my technology habit because there were far bigger problems, but if I had paid attention more to my relationship and less time to my phone, I would have seen the signs earlier that it wasn’t working.
In addition to my ex, my friends were getting pissed I was always distracted. They were trying to reach me, and they wanted me to listen, really listen to them because they were going through some shit. I like to think of myself as a good friend, but the fact that I would interrupt them constantly to say ‘sorry’ and check my phone actually made me a really terrible friend. I was there in physical form, but I wasn’t ‘there’ mentally or emotionally. I was giving everything I had to random, faceless people through my phone and not staying present with the people I claim I love the most.
I thought that having my phone on me constantly made it so I’d never miss anything, but I was missing the biggest thing of all; human connection. I felt more depressed looking at the people on Instagram with their perfect portrayal of their lives and completely missing the amazing and beautiful people right in front of me. I was living a life that made me feel sadder and sadder because I didn’t realize how much I was actually missing out on.
Then I had another breakdown.
My ex left. I had made it so work was the only thing really in my life. My friends and family weren’t too impressed with the beautiful IRL moments I had missed with them. I was just becoming a person I never wanted to be which was emotionally unavailable and too invested in a piece of technology.
Here’s what I’ll tell you about what I’ve learned. My phone didn’t make me feel better about my break up, my friends did. My phone didn’t watch me cry and tell me that everything was going to be OK even though right now everything was falling apart, my family did. My phone didn’t really do anything for me to make me feel remotely better about my breakdown because it’s not supposed too. It’s not supposed to be the most important thing in your life.
Real life isn’t behind a screen. It isn’t in the pictures you like on social media or the inspirational phrases you tweet out. Real life is breathing in the fresh air outside with people who matter. Real life is in the moments you spend with other people and even just with yourself experiencing tangible things. Things you might otherwise miss if you’re constantly looking down at your phone.
Listen, live your life the way you want. I’m not someone to preach to someone how they should or shouldn’t live but I hope you give yourself a break away from technology. I know for me, after two full-on break-downs, I do my best to use my phone as just a way of communicating the people who actually matter and arrange times to see them in real life. I no longer connect my work emails to my phone because they can wait till I get in the office in the morning. I still have a long way to go and I’m trying my hardest to leave the phone at home or in my purse.
Kicking a technology habit is hard and not something you have to give up altogether. But once in a while, leave the phone at home and experience everything else this world has to offer.