A Radical (But Doable) Plan for Breaking Your Phone Addiction
To make your phone work for you, not against you, think like an anthropologist and deconstruct all the jobs you’re asking it to do
My hands hurt. They’re sore and stiff, and on bad days I can feel a dull ache from my wrist all the way up to the base of my skull. I know what the problem is: Even though I’ve tried to be on my phone less, it’s clearly still too much.
The pandemic has thrown us into a tizzy of endless news-reading, doomscrolling, and social media escapism, without the in-person social norms that used to help regulate our behavior, and the tumult of the election year didn’t help. I also added five months of maternity leave and a texting-while-nursing habit to the mix, which meant that the good phone hygiene I had once developed — the ritual of picking a new library book for my commute each week, limiting my work email and Slack habits to business hours, plunking my phone into an off-limits phone jar after work — quickly disappeared.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship to technology. I work in tech and I’m endlessly fascinated by it, yet I, like so many people, long for the days when conversations were not interrupted by a Google search and there was no pressure to turn intimate moments into Instagram posts. Recently, that tension has mounted, as I’ve realized just how hard it is for me to rest, relax, and recharge when my phone is by my side. So I decided to do something about it: I created an exercise to help me deconstruct my phone and use it more intentionally.
In the past month, my phone usage has dropped to 60–90 minutes a day, from a pandemic high of three hours. To date, no one has reprimanded me for delays in my email responses, and I haven’t noticed a drop in productivity, either. My hands are even beginning to feel a teeny bit better.
To give yourself a break from your device, you’ll need to first understand its hold on you, and then rebuild your relationship with it according to your needs. The idea is not to abandon it, but to make it work better for you. Here’s how: