Most people spend a sixth of their life staring at their phones. Make this the year to reclaim your time.
We’ve all made new years resolutions about eating better, exercising more or keeping a diary – most of which don’t last much beyond January 3rd. But there’s one resolution that is currently shooting to the top of the self-improvement charts. Author and science journalist Catherine Price says almost everyone she talks to is resolved to spending less time on their smartphone. Her book How To Break Up With Your Phone is designed to make this split as painless as possible, offering a step-by-step guide to liberating your life in a tidy four weeks.
While Catherine doesn’t think any of us should bin our smartphones (they’re incredibly useful tools, after all), she hopes the book will help people take a look at their tech habits and question whether all that screen-time is really making them happy.
“It’s starting to be acknowledged that they’re bad for us,” she says. “It’s like cigarettes. There was a time when people didn’t acknowledge smoking was bad for you and a lot more people were hooked. I don’t think you have to get off Facebook, but I think you should get the app off your phone and make sure you’re using it because you want to, not on reflex.”
She points out that most Silicon Valley tech designers keep their own children far away from screens, aware of their addictive powers. Steve Jobs, for one, wouldn’t let his brood handle an iPad. Even if you think you’ve got your phone under your thumb, you’ll likely be surprised by the results of the addiction survey Catherine includes in the opening chapter. (Spoiler: we’re all junkies.) For her, it was becoming a parent that made her realise she had a problem.
“The motivation for me in writing the book was that we’d just had a baby and at some point I was feeding her and looking at my phone. I saw her looking at me while I was looking at my phone and had one of those out-of-body moments. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want that to be my daughter’s experience of what her mother is’.”
— Catherine Price (@Catherine_Price) January 19, 2018
Although Catherine has no interest in being a judgmental parent, she does note her research revealed a spike in playground injuries when 3G service was made available to parents. But wounded kids aside, she’s found taking control of her phone has made a real and positive difference to her own life.
“I realised if you stop using your phone you have a lot of free time. That was kind of scary. So I signed up for an adult guitar class and it’s added to my life a community of actual people I see once a week.”
Breaking up is never easy, but the book attempts to help the reader create new habits to resist the phone-check reflex (keeping your phone outside the bedroom is a great start). Instead of being about denial, the mindset is more about doing something that makes you happier.
In addition, Catherine has built a website offering helpful downloads, an amusing video “intervention” for phone-addicted friends and a 30 day email support program. Her own experience is that addicts will notice a positive difference straightaway.
“I think the moment you start thinking about it, you will notice a change. Just reading this article is going to change people’s attitude to their phone. Just reading the title of the book. If you have that tiny Emperor’s New Clothes Moment, I think the change will be pretty profound.”
Not everyone will immediately start divorce proceedings, but Catherine says there’s one good – and very final – reason to make the break.
“Because you’re going to die,” she says, laughing. “Honestly, that’s why. Your time is not infinite. If you want to spend it all on you’re phone, that’s fine, but I’m guessing more people don’t. I want to live a happy, fulfilling life.”
HOW TO BREAK UP WITH YOUR PHONE \ By Catherine Price, Hachette, $27.99