Every once in awhile, I forget to bring my phone charger with me to work and then midway through the morning the battery will die. Which isn’t technically a problem as I don’t really need my phone much during the day, but I also feel sort of limbless without it.
I don’t think I’m addicted to my phone. Or at least not in the way most teenagers are these days, the generation of kids who never grew up without one. When I’m out with friends, very often it’s in my purse and out of sight. And if I’m simply at home for the day spending time with family there are any number of places around the house I might have left the phone and forgotten about it because I’m happily distracted by real people. But it’s different at work.
On the days when I forget my charger, I notice how many times I absentmindedly reach for it. I’m far more tempted to check for messages or scroll through news articles when I’m at work and I have no idea why that is. Maybe I’m not addicted to the phone, but at least during the workday I feel like I’m becoming dependent on it in some ways.
I use it for music while reviewing backlog work or taking inventory. I read e-books during my commute and sometimes at lunch when my coworkers that I’m friendly with are out of the office. I read brief news articles from Feedly during breaks. And of course there are the ever present influx of text messages and Facebook chats that I’m tempted to check anytime I hear that telltale “ping!”
There’s a growing trend of people who are removing social media accounts from their phone. Deleting them, while effective, has become too extreme for people who still want to be kept apprised of what’s going on with friends and family. But making it more difficult to access (like taking the time to turn on a computer) makes going to a social media site a conscious choice, an intentional one, rather than an impulse. And there’s something to that idea. Why should I waste time wading through a flood of updates multiple times a day, when I could set aside a more brief amount of time to give my attention to just the updates that I care about? After all, that’s how it was for me before I got a smartphone in 2014. I survived all of high school and college without a smartphone, so I should be able to do it as a post-grad, too.
I don’t have a ton of social media accounts. I have WordPress for this blog of course and I update that (usually) weekly. I have a YouTube that I check about twice a week for a handful of subscription updates and I watch those while I’m cooking dinner or cleaning. I have a Tumblr but I rarely update there except when I remember to or feel like spamming the world with quotes from whatever TV show I just binged. But then I have Facebook and Snapchat. And I know for a fact that I check them way too often. Multiple times a day, without a doubt let alone conscious thought. I’m not worried about impulse checking my blog or articles I read on Feedly or e-books on OverDrive; that’s all creative and educational. But I think if I aggregated the amount of time I spend on just Facebook and Snapchat that I might be disappointed with myself. Which is probably why I haven’t done it.
Maybe it’s time to do a social media cleanse. Maybe it’s time to take a break from it all and remove the accounts from my phone or at least “log out” of them to remind me not to check them, to resist the impulse. Maybe forgetting my phone charger yesterday was a wake up call, a reminder that I can do better.