I was a total phone addict.
I wasted my time — valuable years of my life — on things like replying, updating, posting, commenting, re-posting, scrolling, sharing.
I exchanged that time — those valuable years of my life — for things that I should have been doing instead: things like living, doing, experiencing, going, enjoying, achieving, learning.
The shame is that I can’t get back that wasted time. It’s evaporated into the world wide web, into the digital-verse.
I can’t back get that wasted time
Back in 2011, I worked in digital media. It struck me already then that I was way too contactable. I had clients and customers coming at me from all angles: email, Skype, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, traditional phone line.
When I left the industry, I put a few of my social media channels out to pasture and made myself a little less available online. My Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts have all been dormant for a few years now. And I don’t miss them.
These days, I don’t have much reason to be online or on my phone. On an average day, I have a few pressing emails to get to and my Pilates business to advertise/manage but it’s work that is done in an hour.
Despite that, my phone still dictated much of my life. It ruined my sleep, it made me unproductive and it took away quality moments with my loved ones. I caught myself writing back to messages while spending time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. I watched dinner tables in restaurants, where people sat on their phones, disconnected from conversation and engrossed in their digital egos.
I felt anxious when I didn’t write back to messages or emails — even ones that were not urgent or from people I didn’t really know. I started having pointless conversations for the sake of conversation: My day was fine thanks. How was yours?
Hours and hours went by scrolling through my Facebook news feed, filling my mind with other people’s worthless junk and their boring day-to-day lives. And still I had (and have) this constant urge to update the world on my own worthless junk: what am doing, where I am and who I am with. No one asked how I was really doing because Facebook said I was doing just fine.
I allowed pointless content to infiltrate my mind: watermelons exploding, babies dancing, dogs chasing their tails, people singing in cars.
I came across some really foul-mouthed and nasty bullies in online forums — I spent time arguing with these trolls and going nowhere; I gave them my energy and my time.
I was so busy ‘photographing and posting’, I never got to enjoy the moment for what it was. I never stopped to say: “Hey! What a sunset! It smells like a forest after rain! I love the squelch of wet beach sand in between my toes!” I was too busy photographing and posting it to care what I had seen, felt, smelt, heard. My life felt like a live broadcast.
Being on my phone was the last thing I did before I went to sleep, and the first thing I did when I woke up in the morning.
And I didn’t like it at all.
I never stopped to say: “Hey! What a sunset! It smells like a forest after rain! I love the squelch of wet beach sand in between my toes!”
I started making changes over a year ago when I switched off my phone’s internet at night. It was a small step in the right direction. I took on the approach that if something was that urgent — a family emergency — people would phone me. Otherwise, there was no reason for people to contact me while I slept.
Still, it didn’t work having my phone next to me while I slept. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I would reach over, switch my phone’s internet back on and end up checking my mails or scrolling through Facebook. Eventually, I banned my phone from the bedroom at night.
This was a great move. I had more time to read and more time with my man under the covers. I slept better and I woke up to the morning rather than to my phone.
During the day, I made an effort to put my phone aside when I had conversations with other people. I realised how rude it was when I listened and texted at the same time or when I stuck a phone between myself and another human being.
In recent months, I have started to treat my phone like a job: something I don’t do at night or over weekends. I switch off my phone’s internet on a Friday afternoon and switch it on again on a Monday morning.
When I go back online, I have missed nothing from the weekend. And no one’s missed me. The messages I have are not urgent and the posts I have missed are not important.
Online life goes on without you. That’s okay. But to watch your own life go on without you. Now that would be a real shame.