Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mindfully present: Breaking the addiction to my iPhone

I've been reflecting a lot lately on technology, in particular my iPhone. We're living in an age where people often think about how nice it is to feel so connected. If you get lost, you can Google directions. If you're running late, you can send a text or call the person you're meeting. If you forget the address of a restaurant, just look it up. Bored? Play Crossy Road or Candy Crush. And hey, while you're there, update your Facebook status letting people know the traffic sucks, check what your friends have posted on Instagram in the time you're waiting to meet them and add that snap with the sad face filter and the message "always running late" to your Snapchat story.

 I mean, what did we ever DO before smartphones?

Only, that's the thing...

Before smartphones helped us be virtually connected all the time, we were more connected with the world around us. If you got lost, you'd have to consult a map or ask a real person for directions, not Siri. If you were stuck in traffic on public transportation, you might make small talk with your neighbour. Do people know how to do that anymore? Or heck, you could even read a newspaper or a book! Who reads books on the MTR anymore?

Sometimes, though, you might just pause and look out the window to watch the clouds breeze by or the raindrops trickle down the windowpane. I have always loved to people watch and public transport is the best place for it, but the people are mostly doing the same things these days -- just staring blankly down at their phones while the light illuminates an expressionless face.

And if you were running late back then? Well, when you made a promise to meet someone, they'd know - by your word - that you'd be there. They'd be patient, and they'd wait. We had college friends who were notoriously late everywhere. Sometimes by an hour, but we always waited patiently because that's what friends do.

I fear that the convenience and immediacy of technology has made us impatient. But more than that, I fear we've become withdrawn and disconnected. Think about how many people you walk by whose eyes are cast down looking at their phones. And for me as a parent, I think about how many people capture moments with their children from behind a screen, rather than watching it in real life. Or how many times my kiddos ask for my attention, when I'm trying to 'finish something' on my phone.

Anyhow, after reading a number of articles and thinking I should do something, I finally read this blog post from A Pair and a Spare in which my friend Geneva proposed a 30-day challenge to be phone free between 8pm to 8am. I'd already decided a while back to make a personal commitment to stay off my phone on MTR rides and instead bring a book, but I wanted to add onto this.

So, since the beginning of this month, I've joined Geneva by keeping my phone away from my bed. It gets charged each night (and plugged in as soon as I'm home from work). I'm using my watch as an alarm and I don't check my phone till I'm on my walk to work. I'd say my phone ban is more like 10pm to 8am.

A girlfriend also invited me to join a Facebook community called Watchful Wednesday (check it out here). I'm really hopeful that I'm establishing better habits, both for me and for my children. Because let's face it -- I can argue with them about screen time, but I have to practice what I preach, right?

Who wants to join me as I work towards being more mindfully present? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment or drop me a line. Or just join me.

And maybe, watch this video. It really stayed with me.


Unknown said...

I've started to charge mine out in the living room at night, AND I put it on airplane mode just in case!! It helps me sleep so much better. When I'd wake up in the middle of the night, I used to look at my (silly) phone. Big NO NO! Then I'd be wide awake. It can wait till the morning. And now I sleep so much better!

Love, Ann

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