Small break from smart phone addiction

It was hard for me to recognize how I addicted I am to my smart phone. Many times in a day I will bump into it to check if there is any new message or a mail. Even if I am busy doing some important work which needs my complete focus, my hand goes to that tiny gadget to check if it needs my attention. Even when I am at home and even when I am in the conversation with friends and family and even when I am writing, my mind continuously force me to check the smart phone as something might be waiting for you. Research says that we must be unlocking our phones for more than 100 times a day.

This realization hit me when my one and half year old daughter started asking for mobile. I understood that it is not the new generation kids who are tech savvy, but we are the one who cannot spend even 30 minutes without checking phones. It was clear that I will have to stop this addiction before it makes me zombie. It was not possible to completely throw away my smart phone and pick up a very basic phone (Though many are doing the same.) The problem is not in the technology, but in our attitude towards it. Technology is for our better life unless we become slave of it. So, I decided to experiment for one week if I can leave without WhatsApp and email checking on the cell.

To implement it better, I read some bloggers who already did this and I came up with my own list of actions. Please note that I didn’t uninstall emails and WhatsApp from the phone as I thought that might be very extreme and I wanted to take small steps in the starting.

Turned off the notifications – This was the main reason why I was attracted to check emails and WhatsApp messages. Notification gives the feeling that you need to take action on some of the pending items. It lures adult the same way, candy does to kids. I just turned off the notification so that it does not disturb me. Even if I went to check the phone in the starting, there was nothing waiting for me. So my mind was now getting bored as it didn’t have anything to look after. This action reduced my unlocking attempts to a great extent.

Inform friends and family – I informed my family members that I might not be checking WhatsApp regularly so if anything is there, then give me a call or sms me. To friends, I just told them that there is some problem with my phone and my WhatsApp is not working so give me a call. I didn’t see the need to explain to everyone what I was doing. I got many suggestions to change the phone as I am using three years old Lumia, but it is giving me everything I need. This helped me to be assure that I won’t be missing anything and if there is anything urgent, then people will call me.

Checking emails in the morning – As I mentioned earlier, I cannot completely disconnect from technology at this level. I had some emails to check every day so instead of checking it on cell, I allotted 5 mins in the morning to check them on laptop. This also allowed me to stay relaxed during the day as I didn’t have to worry on missing emails.

How was the week?

People called me – I have done that by myself when I sent message to one of my friends and realized that he did not see his WhatsApp from many days. Similarly some of my friends called me after finding that I am not looking at the WhatsApp regularly. So there are fewer chances that you will miss something important.

Focused on what was important – I was able to give 100% focus on what I was doing. Many of you might not think that checking phone continuously break the attention. To those, I can only advise to try once taking a small digital break.

SMS saved me – I had to message some of my friends as I was not able to call them. The obvious way would have been to send it through WhatsApp, but I realized that I can use the SMS facility which I have not used for a while. Yes it will cost you more, but 5 to 10 rupees per month is not a big amount.

Benefits – The biggest benefit was that I didn’t have to charge my cell frequently. I was not looking at the phone continuously as my mind got bored when it found no notification or any messages. I might not be able to see very big impact in such a short time, but I know that it is going to help in long run. Even if I can save 15 minutes of the day by not looking at my cell phone, then I am saving approx 90 hours a year. Not bad. Also, it is not just about the time management, but about being aware and mindful of people around us. It opens many doors of interactions. Plus when you are free, you get time to think about the areas where you were not thinking earlier. Try yourself.

Going forward – Once you set up a habit, then you do not have to act forcefully. It seems that now I have developed habit of not checking phone continuously unless I go back to old habits. I have decided to check WhatsApp once in a day when I am not busy with anything. I will try to embrace my experience into other areas where I am spending time, but not getting fulfillment. It has given me confidence that we can live a conscious life if we chose to do so.

Final words – Something magical happened during this experiment. I became a part of one movement where we had to file petition for the traffic issue of Mumbai. To my surprise we got many supporters (1500 within 5 days) in very short period of time. Partly due to frustrations of people and partly due to social media and WhatsApp. Many people shared the link of petition to their friends in different areas and then they sent to many more. It made me realized that all these Apps and social media are very powerful tools, but we are not using it for the right purpose.

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