Taking a break..
Am I a smartphone addict? Maybe, maybe not. Today it is day 3 since renouncing myself from smartphone use. Currently, I am using the age old Alcatel's flip phone. Yes, I bought it off shelf from T-mobile's store in San Francisco (it's weird they still have those) and I've decided to use it hence forth for at least 60 days.
Let's dive back a few years ago as to what transpired this decision. 2012. Right out of college I had received my first paycheck and all I had on my mind was to buy a smartphone. Samsung Galaxy S3 it was. All I had heard before that was how my friends chatted in groups on WhatsApp, how they boasted of accessing Facebook without visiting their terminals, those eye catching games (bubble blast!) and much more.
This carried on for the next 4 to 5 years. I let the monster in me satisfy his thirst. Trying out new apps, unlocking the nerd in me with rooted devices and Cyanogenmod, tons of games like CoC, PUBG, etc. Of course now I realise all this was the result of an acceptable resolution to run away from the loneliness I was facing. Being away from family most of the year, being away from my wife, those monotonous software engineering routine, lack of health awareness, I could go on and on. I read about how people are addicted to smartphones and how there aren't much useful resources about it. Sometimes I boxed myself like a teenager (I'm more than 25 now!) hooked on to my smartphone and stubborn enough to not move on with my day despite realization. What for? All this amounts to what? It was a filler. Filler for the empty time I had. I was ok with it since it didn't make me sad. It ate up my time.
But this went on to the next level. I was hooked on to my phone even when I was with my friends. I was guilty of hanging my head down when having that one precious video call with my wife or with my parents. I could predict which top users would be on my instagram feed; obviously learning a pattern by historically opening the app tons of thousands of times in a day. Those circulation of fake news on Facebook and fake forwards on WhatsApp, Twitter trolls, Snapchat, it just bottled all the saturation I could until one day.
No, no. Not at the point where I give up my smartphone yet. Until that one day when I recollected a couple of instances where a friend of mine was blocked from WhatsApp for trying out some fake client of it. He was timed out of using it for 3 days. Another incident happened when the same guy dropped his phone dead on the ground. He had to wait for a week to get it fixed and used a regular cell phone. His feedback: he loved it. It's been a few months since I thought of giving up smartphone life and trying this reboot. This is a reboot. Just like Joe Cross who went on a 60 day juice diet. I thought of trying out this experiment where I give up smartphone for 60 days. I couldn't come to terms with giving up a smartphone though. It just couldn't happen with me.
One day, I woke up, went straight to T-mobile's store. Bought the Alcatel flip phone, came home, master reseted my Samsung Galaxy S8+ and hoped to live a better life since.
I feel much better. Not physically, but mentally. I am having time. Time to do nothing. I have time to think. Time to have a contiguous stream of thought. It was difficult to have that; says a lot about my concentration level, sadly. I am receptive to my surroundings. I observe when waiting for a bus that just like myself, more than half of the people around me have their heads hanged down (not in shame) in smartphone. I am receptive to how wind brushes the leaves of trees. How the the NBA champs of 2018, Golden State Warrior's flags are around the city fluttering in the gushing wind. How it is painstaking to walk by a homeless draped in light to nearly no clothing in bruising wintery nights.
I had to catch up with friends during weekend. This was a challenge since I had no Uber or Lyft now. I Googled directions for the destination, jotted them down on a piece of paper and head out. When I arrived at the nearest MUNI (the public transportation system of San Francisco), I noticed there was huge map! Freak, was it there since the beginning? I had never noticed. Google maps said there were 'significant delays' so I was expecting something would screw up my travel. Well, as it turned out, I started noticing boards. The display there said more information about the directions that had alternate arrangements to my destination. I was flabbergasted. Had it not been for that, I would have simply sat under it, reading up Quora or Reddit and eventually ordering an Uber well past the desired time to reach my destination. FYI, I reached my destination in 20 mins! (Hell yeah!).
During my commute to office, I sit with closed eyes. I try to meditate, I am currently unable to since I find it difficult to broaden my concentration span. I've seen far worse cases of smartphone addiction but I believe those are in their teenagers and eventually they come out of it. I think I am trying to be proactive in giving up smartphone life.
Yes, it's a bit difficult. It's difficult to commute. Difficult to read paper based maps. I'd say but you eventually learn it. You learn to look for the right block of info and ignore the rest. Just like you intuitively know how to use a new social app, it's the same, just with paper and signs! Giving up smartphone life didn't mean giving up my social life. I still love to meet my friends. They are the ones who have a huge contribution in keeping me of sound mind. They are the ones I fight with. My intention is to simply roll myself 10 years back, that time when I could stay connected to my digital life but only with a computer. I am writing this blog right after browsing my Facebook feed, tweeting how awesome the Warriors parade was. It doesn't mean giving up all of this. It simply means cutting it down and being a better planner. Looking up directions on my laptop before I head home. Planning an hour rather than 15 minutes before I want to catch a movie. Relying on SMS, yes, teenagers, it's a messaging system. Nobody told you because you inadvertently know about it. Remember where you receive all your verification codes! Alright, that might be too arrogant.
The point is, it's a step to put on a filter before having the urge to access what your friends are up to or having the urgent need to stay connected. I'm ok if I am not, I have some time for myself.
Wish me luck.