How to stop being at the constant mercy of your smartphone – Episode 142

Someone: “What would you do if your phone was taken away from you for a day?”
You: *horrified* “Oh my god. I’d literally die!”

😂 Yes that’s a tad on the melodramatic side, but raise your hand if you relate to that sentiment on any level. Okay, I know I can’t actually see those raised hands, but I’m willing to bet most of them shot up like rockets.

If you’d prefer to 🎧 listen to this episode, go here. Or continue reading the edited transcript...

Can you remember the time before smart phones or social media? How about before the internet became common in all households? What exactly did we do to occupy ourselves all day?

Through most of the 90s, I’d lock myself up in my room for hours on end – reading, daydreaming about my latest crush (I had a lot of those 😛), writing poems and stories, organising, listening to music…

Close up side view of an open book on a bed with a flowery pen and dainty tea cup on it. A world before smart phone addiction.
Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash
(I chose this pic because it represents the day dreamy energy of my teenage years so beautifully.
But I must clarify that I’d never place anything containing a liquid on books! 😱)

Yes I did have long telephone conversations with friends, and I spent plenty of time with my family. But a significant part of my time went by with zero need for constant interaction and connection outside of my own self.

I’m sure you were like this too. At least the lot of you who’re old enough to remember the pre-smartphone days. My heart breaks for all the kids who can’t even fathom a world before gadgets.

Now can you imagine going an entire day without touching your phone or checking your messages? Hard to picture it right? Even a little scary?

The invasion of social media is less than two decades old. Smart phones, only a decade or so. HOW did we become so entirely dependent on these technologies in such a short span of time? *shrug*

My friend and mentor Shailaja recently wrote “the more I use my smartphone, the dumber I feel“. It rings so true!

When we spend most of our days down the rabbit hole of social media and messaging apps, we turn into something like zombie squirrels. Zero-ed in on our phones at the exclusion of all else in the world around us. But also constantly scurrying from one app to the next.

Smartphone on a tabletop. Lots of red notification badges on the apps shown on the screen. Are you addicted to your phone?
Photo by Jonas Lee on Unsplash

Did you know your smartphone is actually not a limb of your body? 😛 It’s quite possible to place it in one room and be in a completely different one. Or even casually leave it at home and go out somewhere. *GASP* Okay okay, calm down. I’m not asking you to do that. Yet. Let’s start with itty bitty chewable bites.

It’s very possible to not be hooked to your phone at all times. And with these simple practices, you can slide out of this addiction gently, firmly and smoothly.

(Damn! I heard how that sounded. I swear I wasn’t going for an innuendo. hehe)

  1. Turn off those damn notifications. If you’re occupied with one thing, you should not be jerked out into something else because of dings, beeps, and drop down banners. Our attention is not meant to be fragmented in this way. Deep focus is extremely important, and very fulfilling.

  2. No red badges with numbers showing how many bloody unchecked messages/emails there are! I know those count as notifications too, but these evil little anxiety inducing buggers need a special mention all their own. Try it now. Turn off all the badges and look at your screen. You’ll literally feel your sphincter muscles relaxing.

  3. Switch off the internet on your phone when you’re not using it. WiFi, 4G, all of it. Tiny thing, but game changer. That little extra step of having to turn it on will give you pause instead of mindlessly diving into the apps. And if, like me, you read books on your phone, not having it connected to the internet makes it feel like a simple e-book reader with very low temptation to switch to other apps. Believe me, this is some next level psychology shit! 😛

  4. App locks are a Goddess sent miracle. Use them! iPhones have this built in under Screen Time settings, Androids users can install the Digital Wellbeing app for this function. You can set time limits for all apps, or each one individually. After a certain number of hours, or certain time of the day, the apps get locked. If you try to access them, there’s an accusing little message about ignoring time limits that you have to go through. Again, gives you pause. I can’t begin to tell you about the number of times I’ve tapped to open an app on auto pilot, and then stepped away because the lock alerted me!

  5. Login to Instagram (or other social media) on a computer instead of your phone. You’d be surprised how much less rabbit hole-y things get! Stories, videos, and reels are a clunky, awkward experience on the computer (sometimes they don’t even play), so their hypnotic power to suck you in is almost negligible.

    Also, there’s something about that extra distance between your face and the screen that keeps you more aware. If you must use your phone for social media, do so only on a certain number of days a week, and delete the app on the other days.

  6. Pick one day of the week, any day, to consciously disconnect from the internet. No emails, no social, no messages, no YouTube, not even googling. Nothing that requires an internet connection except maybe Netflix and shopping for food/groceries. Those days will teach you how much you unconsciously depend on the internet and also how it’s absolutely possible to stay away from it for long stretches of time.

    The reason to make it a fixed day of the week is to train all the energy sucking attention seeking vampires in your life (and also all the nice, undemanding people) to expect zero responses from you on that day. 😂 My day is Sunday. You can listen to my podcast episode about how I began this practice if you’d like more inspiration.

  7. Talking about responding, remember this, NO MESSAGE IS SO BLOODY URGENT THAT YOU MUST DROP EVERYTHING ELSE AND ATTEND TO IT! Seriously, the sky won’t fall down if you take your own time to read and respond to messages, emails, comments, or other such things. And don’t fall into the trap of, “if I just get it done soon, it’ll be over soon”. Sorry, that’s not how it works.

    The more you do, the more will get piled on. It’s never ending. Like Oliver Burkeman says in his book 4000 Weeks, “becoming more efficient and productive leads to more busyness”. When you eliminate that sense of urgency, you won’t feel the need to be available on your phone at all times.

  8. And finally, for fuck’s sake, stop taking your phone with you into the loo! 💩 Admit it, we’ve all given in to this dirty little habit at some point. It might seem small, but it’s a monumental testimony to how desperately we feel the need for constant distraction! What does it say about us that we can’t even take a dump mindfully, without getting bored?! So yeah. Just stop it.

Getting over our smartphone addiction is not something that happens overnight. It’s a consistent practice. Believe me, it’s very easy to slip back into old ways. But implementing the measures I’ve shared above has done wonders for me! I’m not perfect, but I’m definitely working towards lesser and lesser reliance on my phone, and I’m proud of the progress I’m making.

That’s all we can do, no? Acknowledge the unnatural power our phones have over us, and make a conscious effort to mindfully use them as the wonderful tools they are, instead of becoming puppets at their mercy.

Listen to the episode on the audio player below 👇🏽 (or on any podcast app that you like).

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Susmitha Veganosaurus

Shorth haired Indian lady, beaming a wide smile. Flowers in the background. Vegan business coach and chef Susmitha Veganosaurus

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