Imagine: after a long day of work you drop on the couch and (finally) find some time to check your phone. You promise to yourself that this time, really it’s just checking briefly for some messages, it will take 5 minutes max. After that you will leave it for the evening, so you can focus on other stuff…
Half an hour later you ‘wake up’ phone, realizing those 5 minutes have passed six times over. With a slight sense of guilt you put your phone away and start preparing your diner. Even before the water starts boiling you realize you really must not forget to share that funny thing you just saw with your friends. Within seconds you are multitasking (read: constantly switching) between text chatting and cooking your meal. By the time you go to bed you realize that not even half the things your planned (start reading that really good book that’s been lying there for over a week) to do tonight have worked out. The main disrupted plan of not getting distracted by your phone seems to be the key problem. Just before your turn your light off you check if you have received no more important messages – even though you are fully aware of the fact, that if something really was amiss, you would receive a phone call. With the last received email from work still fresh in your head, you turn your light of and (try) to get some sleep.
Unfortunately, to me this happens more than I would care to admit, and I know this happens to many of us. The worst of all is that this is not part of my regular evening, but part of my every single day, ever since I started to use a smartphone. It annoys me that the blessing of the smartphone, at the same time turns out to be our curse. We are more connected than ever, but feelings of loneliness are soaring. Mobility and access to information have never been so easy, and still depression and burnouts have raised tremendously since the smartphone turned mainstream after the iPhone was introduced in 2007.
We seem to have reached an impasse: giving up our smartphone, for many people and many reasons is no longer a possibility, nor should we want this to be the solution, but living with them, being dictated by our addiction of them is detrimental for our physical, mental and societal health. It seems we are losing the fight against smartphone addiction. Why does it seem that we are losing this? Why is it so important not to? Do we actually care? And what can we do about it? This is what I am currently trying to find out.
Although I am far from the first to take this course, it is my quest as a digital anthropologist and plan to do it thoroughly. I will talk to addicts, psychologists and other experts. I will also start a 30-day plan to ‘break-up’ with my phone as proposed by Catherine Price in How to Break Up With Your Phone. I will keep a diary of my process that can be followed in my blog.