I remember the first time I heard of text messaging. I was in Spain, it was fall 2006 and I missed a required meeting for my study abroad program because, apparently, someone had texted that the meeting was happening. There was no assistive technology then for cell phones, or none that I had any awareness of, so I never knew about the text.

For years, I avoided texting and mocked it for its “impersonal” nature. Finally, in 2010, when I had the money and was tired of being the one at the table with no phone in their hand, I bought a phone that was compatible with a screenreader whose name I cannot even recall now. I remember the screenreader being around 300 dollars, on top of the phone cost. (Have I mentioned lately how egregious it is that blind people, who statistically bring in way less income than sighted people, are required to pay for assistive technology on top of regular technology?) Anyway, with that particular phone model, (hey hey, HTC Dash!), I could text. It wasn’t always pretty or without ridiculous typos, but it was something.

In 2013, I finally transitioned to a smart phone, some kind of Android thing because I couldn’t afford an Iphone. The screenreader was built in, but flaky. I had literally bought the very last smart phone in the T Mobile store with a physical keyboard that pulled out beneath the touch screen.

Finally, in 2015, I got an Iphone. I could no longer ignore every other blind person saying how amazing the accessibility was. I was skeptical because I couldn’t picture using a phone without buttons and a keyboard. But, I found the accessibility on my Ipods to be pretty good, more or less, so I finally went for it.

This is NOT an advertisement for Apple. In fact, they used to be terribly inaccessible until they got sued for it by a blind advocacy organization. But I will say that I prefer Apple accessibility to everything else I’ve tried. It is fairly simple and streamlined across most apps. So, when I got my Iphone, I installed all the apps: Facebook, Twitter, Meetup. I set up my Gmail. I was all in, constantly checking my notifications and trying to dictate texts. (Results varied greatly there.)

Gradually, I’ve started to see the toll this has taken on me mentally. If I didn’t check my phone a few times an hour, or more, I felt stressed. When I did check my phone, I’d feel better for a minute, because I got some kind of emotional validation from someone “liking” something I posted on Facebook, or I received an instant message, or a new comment or retweet. And then I’d feel anxious until I could check my phone again. When I was out in the world, I’d walk blocks looking at my phone, not paying attention to anything else. Or I’d at least listen to a podcast or music. I fell into a trap of needing constant distraction, validation, proof that people loved me, or that they at least took a half second to click “like” on something I said. That was love now, apparently.

I only started to really realize this after I deleted Facebook and Facebook messenger off my phone. Suddenly, I was on a bus and had no idea what was going on on Facebook. I felt panicky for a while, and then not, and then relief. Facebook messages could wait.

There’s more to it, though. The energy I had put into checking Facebook now went into me checking email, constantly refreshing, refreshing, as I went about errands and life. I recently read an article that said that checking your email more often led to more stress. (Well, duh.) This past week, I’ve deleted all of my email off my phone. All that’s left is text messaging (still full of typos, still bad at dictating), and calling. Those are the only things I can do to contact others when I’m not tied to my laptop.

I know people have described the way we constantly look at our phones as obsessive, even addictive. I’m not authorized to diagnose myself, but I know that I have obsessive tendencies and my constant phone checking got stifling. I’m really hoping I can stick to just texts and calls. I’m hoping it will reduce my anxiety and increase the awareness of my immediate world.

What about you all? Do you do anything to reduce phone gazing? Or, does the constant gazing not affect you? Or, do you think the whole screen addiction thing is ridic? Tell me in the comments, and if you have the time and bossiness level, feel free to check in to see if I’m keeping myself accountable!

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9 thoughts on “Technology Detox

  1. You are spot-on Lauren Hummingbird! Your Momma raised you right…..with a social and inner awareness. (I’m sure Dad had a little to do with it….LOL). I find myself having to do a mental detachment from my phone from time to time. And I really notice the lack of face to face social and interaction skills the generations are being raised with. I have a new grandson born in Australia on Valentine’s Day so, without any other way to interact with him and my daughter and son-in-law, I find myself REALLY bad right now. Thank you for the reminder. Keep doing what you’re doing. If people need to reach you, they will figure it out! Keep the thought-provoking messages coming. Keep us on our toes with the world!

    Jan

    1. Thank you so much! I only wish I had started doing this sooner. And congrats on your new grandbaby, who will, mind bogglingly, never know a world without smart phones. πŸ™‚

  2. I can’t remember my log in info to actually sign in but I wanted to say I completely agree with you, and at the same time awknowledge that I may never get rid of these programs on my phone as long as I sell Jamberry (it’s the primary means of reaching out to my regular customers). I was late to the cell phone party, I didn’t get one until something like 2006. Then I was also late to the smartphone party, not getting one until 2013. I remember mocking others who always had their faces in their phones, and now here I am.

    Anyway. I feel like I would be so much more productive in other areas of my life–writing, reading real books instead of Facebook articles, doing my job instead of reading blogs (heh heh), knitting socks for my cats) if I just put the phone down.

      1. Oh, I totally get it, with the Jamberry and the mocking everyone for being on their phones! I still do that sometimes, and then of course I’m an ass because I do the exact same thing. I’m hoping to fix that! Now stop reading this comment and get to that sock knitting, your cats will be so pleased. πŸ™‚

      2. I’m currently at my desk at work being non productive on my phone. Nobody minds, but I think if I were to bring in some knitting, some eyebrows would be raised.

        Also, I don’t know how to knit, but maybe if I get off my phone I could learn!

      3. Hahha that is so true! It’s amazing how you can slack off at work on your phone but can’t slack off doing something cool like knitting. πŸ˜€

  3. I got my first cell phone to help with connections on a bus trip with a group of students – before smartphones. It was for phoning. I could not only call ahead to locations, but I could have kids line up 30 minutes from home to call their parents for a ride at 2:00 AM, avoiding waiting for them to call Mom at the school, then waiting for Mom to come get them.
    Texting was added because teenagers never seemed to answer their cell phones. Besides, we could send out a message to texters in 1-10th the time of calling them one by one. That was really handy when cancelling rehearsals due to weather.
    Pretty soon I was jealous of my daughters iphone. I loved all the possibilities – maps any time I wanted, directions to places I’d never been, researching on the internet without being near a computer. Facebook is the only way we keep up with our extended families. I actually kind of know my cousins’ kids, thanks to facebook.
    Retirement probably has a lot to do with my lack of phone stress – I’ve got lots of free time I didn’t have when I was working, and since I’ve gotten myself into so many volunteer activities, I love having the calendar along with me.
    Yes, Don and I sit at dinner out to eat while we wait for food with our phones in hand, but we are trolling facebook and news sites and sharing the results with each other. It’s become an interactive communication tool. And diddling with game apps while waiting – something moms and grandmas seem to do a lot – has taken the place of dragging a book along with me – besides, my book is in my Kindle app on my phone!

    1. That’s great! I can definitely see where technology is helpful in those ways, and it’s awesome that you have gotten to know people you may not have as much through Facebook. I definitely don’t think any of these things are “bad.” I just think that for me, being as plugged in as I have been hasn’t been particularly healthy for my own state of mind.

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