Breaking Up With My Cell Phone Addiction

E2T Letting Go 90 Day Experiment Days 12 & 13

“The Wifi is out at the lake house and there’s very little cell coverage. If you need to use your phone you’ll have to drive to the center of town,” our host for the weekend texted everyone on social media.

Twenty friends were coming together at a friend’s family home to spend a day and a half on the lake, eating food, laughing, enjoying a camp fire and an old fashion slumber party.

Before I arrived, I checked my email one more time, answered notifications on social media, and explained in text that I would be out of range. Once at the lake house, I left my phone in my bag.

Soon after, I realized I didn’t have a camera. The scenery was beautiful, there were funny pictures of people I adore that I wasn’t capturing. I realized other people had their phones, and were snapping away, and so I left the phone in my bag.

Within the hour, the serene lake, the laughter and playfulness of the day all made me happy, but when I went to get a drink I felt the intense need to check my phone. Before I realized there’d be no way to see if my mother had called, or if someone had texted me, I was digging through my bag, ignoring the friends at the party.

One message had made its way through and I tried to answer but it wouldn’t send. I worried that the person would feel ignored and wondered if I should drive to the center to tell them I couldn’t join them in their invitation.

It took four hours to stop reaching for the phone that didn’t work. Within that time, I began recognizing how much nicer it was to be with my friends. No one was sending a text while I was speaking with them. The discussions didn’t turn to what they were seeing on Facebook or Instagram. There wasn’t any swiping left and right by the people who were online dating. We weren’t looking up answers to questions by pulling out our phones.

Conversations went on for hours with deep eye contact, and we learned things about one another we hadn’t had a chance to discover when we were seeing things through the filter of the online world.

Twenty-four hours later I felt calmer than I had in months. I didn’t want to turn my phone back on. As soon as we were back in an area with service, my friend sat in the car talking to me while answering texts, looking at Instagram photos, and I felt a loss of the deep connection as I only received a part of him, while the other part was immersed in content.

Watching my friend text as I drove, I thought back to a recent night out with friends to watch the Bruins game. As we sat around the bar everyone was on their phone: one friend was looking through Facebook, another texting friends and putting the photo we took onto social media, taking time to choose the correct filter. The guy next to me was swiping through Bumble while his buddy played online games. Across the way, I could see two women swiping left and right and I wanted to connect them in conversation with the two guys who were doing the same thing on my side.

A married couple sat next to each other both on their phones not speaking to one another. I wondered at my own need to pick up my phone and look for messages. I realized I felt lonely sitting next to these people who were on their phones and that I wanted to feel connected, so I began texting a friend.

Compared to my friends, who are upset when I tell them to put the phones away and pay attention to me when we’re out together, I’m the least likely person someone would think needed to admit she had a cell phone addiction.

My phone has my books, my audio files, my finances, my connection to my family and friends. I can book a flight, a hotel, or find directions anywhere in the world. My photos are beautifully taken, so much so that my DSLR and lenses that I love haven’t come out of the closet in a long time.

I recognize the tool in my pocket, but I’ve also come to realize it doesn’t make me happy. When I read, I’m also multitasking; a text message pops up from my girlfriend in California who I miss, I forgot to pay that bill this morning, I wonder what that flight to Portland costs this morning. Facebook has a new notification. Youtube has a video suggestion.

Before I know it, forty minutes has passed and I’ve barely read a chapter. When I return from the skating rink each day, I’ve used my phone for music and haven’t checked it as often. I call my mother on my way home and we talk for thirty minutes, then I answer texts, next comes the emails, then the messengers, the Facebook notifications. I look up, and as I plan to work, my mind is exhausted, or it wants to keep playing in my digital world.

At night when I return from dancing, once again I’ve been detached from my phone for hours, so the whole process begins again.

My bedtime has become later and later as I continue chatting with people I love, and when I do fall asleep, I find myself waking just a few hours later. I turn to my phone to find the audio books that help me to fall back to sleep, but how did I end up scrolling through social media or emails?

When I wake, the first thing I do is look at my phone. I tell myself that it’s okay, because then I turn on a meditation that calms my mind, but before I’ve even started my day, I’ve created judgment about my life, what I look like in that picture my friend uploaded, oh geez I missed that event I wanted to attend last night and everyone looked like they had a blast, the responses to the stories I wrote.

On days 12 & 13 of my Letting Go 90 Day Experiment I put my phone away. When I started using it again, I realized the stress was rising and I felt mentally exhausted. This phone addiction was harming me, and it wasn’t the way I wanted to live anymore. But how in this modern world could I let it go?

By Monday when I unconsciously began the checking cycle I knew I had to add something to my E2T 90 Day Letting Go Experiment — releasing the cell phone addiction.

I’ve set timers for when I can use it, and I’m already feeling the intense draw. It’s as if this phone has the power alcohol has on an alcoholic. I want it. I long to check it, but as I sit in my garden, writing without the constant dinging going off, I realize it may be the only way to take back my life from the constant stimulation, and be able to truly thrive.

How many hours per day combined do you use your phone? Would you be willing to give it up if you knew it would make you more confident, happy, and healthy?

For the rest of my experiment I’m going to let go of my phone, utilizing it as a tool when needed and not as a source of connection or entertainment. I’m a little afraid to feel that disconnected from the world, but maybe, I hope, it will make me feel more connected to a real life than a digital one.

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Marci Nault

Author of The Lake House (S&S), founder E2T Adventures, world traveler, figure skater, white water kayaker, dancer, keynote speaker. www.e2tadventures.com