Do you remember when a phone was just a phone?
I do. Back in the day (as a teenager) I would sit for hours with the phone glued to my ear talking to my best friend about everything under the sun – and beyond…
That’s when phones looked like this:
That’s when all you could do was concentrate on what was said, the wall in front of you, the pills on the aged carpet, your nails, and your filling bladder (okay and your Mum complaining about how long you were on the phone for and ‘what more could you possibly talk about since you had spent the day with them at school’).
I loved nothing more than long d & m’s (that’s deep and meaningful’s) with my bestie. We could have solved the problems of the world on those calls…but we tended to focus on the opposite sex.
After graduating from uni with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, I started working at a Telecommunications company in a glorified call centre. I was great in the job – I had a great telephone manner, loved helping customers and having a laugh with them, and always came up trumps in the KPI department. This was around the time that mobile phones started to become ‘big’, although admittedly I was one of those people who insisted they didn’t need a phone and would never wanted one. Since I owned a dodgy car I picked up a cheap ass Nokia for emergencies sake. Fine. The phone was a phone and would be handy if my car broke down – which it tended to do. The coolest thing on it was the snake game…
I remained steadfast in my opinion that ‘a phone was just a phone’ until I was given a Blackberry for work and introduced to the concept of receiving emails on a phone. As I was the acting team leader of the Wireless team, I needed to lead by example and know what I was talking about so I sunk my teeth into exploring the phones functionality. The phone was cool and I felt special for being given a work phone. It felt like a real perk!
In retrospect, that’s when the addiction started.
It was when I moved into a project management role that my attitude – and life – began to change. The after hours calls, the 24 hour a day emails, the customer issues…My heart would skip a beat and I would cringe every time the phone rang. I wasn’t a Project Manager. I was a glorified 24 hours, 7 days a week help desk, helping customers and staff to navigate the processes, politics and people in a company that had overcomplicated things through introducing new front end systems on to front end systems, processes on top of processes, as well as bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy. I quickly realised that having a work phone was harmful to my life and developed the habit of not answering it – “just let it go to voicemail Janine” and then deal with it.
The onset of tech & social media addiction
As I moved away from that job into something that was meant to be less stressful (that’s another story for another time!), I started blogging and dabbling in social media. By this stage, smartphones were all the rage and I succumbed and purchased my first iPhone which saw my addiction grow. That was until 2 years ago when I found myself with 5 email accounts, all manner of social media accounts, my blog (and planning 2 others) PLUS an assortment of games, music and mindless brain sucking trash on my iPhone. My phone was never beyond arms length. I would check it from waking first thing in the morning whilst still in bed, to potentially every 10 minutes after that until past going to bed (in bed…checking, emailing, reading, checking, obsessing). And I still jumped when it rang or beeped at me, even though I didn’t answer the bloody thing – I had become so used to people ringing or texting about bad news or wanting something. And so I started leaving the phone on silent…this started as a courtesy thing (in meetings, in the office) but quickly developed into a pattern of avoidance.
Our love / hate relationship with our phones
I have developed a love-hate relationship with my phone.
From working with people who would expect me to be checking my emails every 5 minutes until 10pm at night or beyond, to people getting in a huff when I don’t like their posts of reply straight away to their texts or Facebook message. I started to sense this growing expectation from people who I was contactable anytime of any day, anywhere, via any means – and that I would be available immediately. Sure, I had set a precedent for myself in MAKING myself available, in falling into bad habits, in ‘being available’ to everyone all the time…but I had worked hard to make changes, to pull back and to take back some control over my life – it’s just some people didn’t seem to like it!
Man, no wonder I was a mess, and no wonder most of us are a mess! Merely writing about it makes me anxious!
Change is good.
Over the last year – especially since my third car accident – I’ve had a reality check and forced myself to make some changes. I’m going to share them with you in case they resonate with you, or if you – or someone you know – were like me (I know a lot of ‘us’ out there!):
- Technology curfew. I’ve implemented a technology curfew on myself. I don’t log on (check my phone) before 6.30am and log off no later than 8.00pm. I’ve surprised myself and done well at this, even with starting my business, and I’m working hard to reign these hours in even further.
- Do not disturb. I’ve set my phone to turn itself to ‘do not disturb’ mode between the hours of 7.30am and 7.30pm EVERY day. That is, aside from emergency contacts (my Mum, Dad and D made the shortlist).
- I don’t answer the phone after 8pm. Now this is a lifelong habit – something ingrained from my Mum as a youngun. For us, it’s a common courtesy not to phone anyone after 8.00pm unless it’s important (seriously, if I get a call after 8.00pm I think it’s bad news. i.e. someone died).
- WiFi Nofi. We switch the wi-fi off at night when D’s son is here. Teenagers may call this torture. I call it life experience. I’m trying to prevent you from ending up like me.
- I leave the house without my phone. I know right. Did you just get chills down your spine?? But it CAN be done. I’ve trialled this – mostly on weekends and work from home days – and it’s WONDERFUL. And do you want to know something – I don’t miss out on a thing!
- I’ve removed (some) Apps from my phone. So in 2014 I removed Facebook from my phone. This helped me realise my social media and technology addiction, and precisely the amount of time I wasted in the morning. Removing Facebook from my phone worked a treat, but as I needed to use it as a business tool (because clients and colleagues were messaging me on Facebook to communicate), I loaded it back on to my phone. Well, I no longer need it as I now have the Facebook Messenger and Pages Apps on my phone, so this morning I removed Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog from my phone!
- Data OFF. I turned the data off a few months ago because for the first time I had exceeded my data package (not because of addiction, because I needed to use my personal hotspot when working with a client). This lasted for a few weeks and was freakily good as my phone returned to being just a phone and it forced me to sit between meetings just sitting (or being mindful). I really need to do this again…
- Being mindful. I’ve immersed myself in mindfulness – classes, podcasts, reading and increasing my personal meditation practice. This has all helped me to realise and deal with the impacts of all of my addictions and habits.
- Use the tools, Luke. It’s astounding how man people don’t know that there are social media management tools available – many free – to manage your accounts. Sure, none of them are perfect, and there isn’t one tool to manage them all, but geez, they are time savers! I’ve started to sink my teeth into some of these (Buffer is my third true love), scheduling posts in advance and managing multiple accounts for myself and my clients. Social media management tools = time and sanity saver.
- Talking to real people. I’ve started talking to people (in person and over the phone – what!) about the impacts social media and technology addiction, as well as our fast pace of life, is having on people and their children’s lives. I’m also exploring how we can strike a balance…
- I’ve turned off chat on Facebook and Google. Sorry guys. I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time which I’m incredibly bad at since I’m a chronic multi-tasker. I need to FOCUS! In saying that, if it’s important or I have a spare moment, I’m right there with you!
- I don’t log on to Skype unless I have to
- Changing direction. I’ve decided to pull back on writing and social media management for new clients. Now don’t freak out if you are an existing client – I love you and that we found each other and have such synergies is a huge blessing! But seriously, social media management and writing are things I love but managing social media and writing for others is impacting on my writing and my anxiety. You try being 5 – 10 people or business in 30 minutes and see if you aren’t all over the place! Writing for others on topics I’m not interested in has also taken the joy out of the writing process. For me, this has been a huge realisation. I’m into love projects. Sure, I’d love to be paid squillions to write, but when writing becomes a chore, well…I don’t want my passion to become a chore. So a big hello to changing direction and love projects with awesome people I have synergies with!
Here’s my challenge to you.
I challenge you to unplug at least once over the coming week – even if it’s only for 2 hours. Specifically observe how your mind and body reacts and how others are behaving around you! Are they on their phones? Do they use it as a time-filler? How many people do you see walking around the streets with their heads in their phones?
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