There’s no hiding it. I’m completely addicted to my iPhone and social media. I vividly remember life without smartphones, apps, the internet, computers even! (I know, so old.) Yet I’m chained to my phone like an underemployed Millennial manning a bone broth shop. Literally stopped writing mid-sentence to post a photo on IG, check FB notifications, WhatsApp a friend and, oh yeah, google “digital detox.”
This is a problem. Other signs it’s gotten out of hand… Cringe with me, people, because shit’s about to get real:
- Not only is the phone the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing at night, I
sometimesoften shuttle my kids out of my room in the morning with promises of “breakfast” so I can slide the phone out from under my pillow (where I hid it when they came to “wake me up,” though I’ve already been online for 20 minutes) and finish scrolling my feeds.
- Anytime Dman mentions I might have a problem or demands I put the phone away, I get irrationally angry and lash out in unpleasant ways.
- I haven’t finished a book since Christmas vacation because when I retire for the evening, “just one last scroll” turns into 2 hours while my book sits there unopened. Yeah right, sex.
- The book I’m writing remains unfinished.
- I feel antsy and anxious if I don’t go online to see what’s happening or has happened in the past 10 minutes.
There’s more, but I think you’ve gotten enough of a glimpse into this window of my crazy.
Now it’s easy to point to other people I know who are way worse than I am. I can always fall back on the expat excuse: “This is how I stay connected to friends and family back home.” Or the “I run a blog (website, digital magazine, whatever you call it) and work requires my online presence.” There’s also the CheetOTUS defense: “I have to know what’s going on with American politics at all times because our democracy is crumbling.” But really, I’m not so far gone that I don’t realize what a colossal waste of precious time this is.
Going back to the age thing, I’m old enough to know my most valuable commodities are time and health. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that time seems like it’s slipping away the more my face is buried in a screen. When I look up, my kids are older, taller and wiser and I’m never getting those moments back. When I’m “too busy” to do something with friends, it’s because I lost those hours in the online ether. Always being on the phone prevents me from taking real pleasure in my life. There’s even research that shows constant picture-taking of our summer vacation and the double rainbow diminishes our memory of it.
After googling, these are the digital detox techniques I think will be most beneficial to me:
- The one-screen rule. If I’m watching a movie or TV show, I only look at that screen. The iPhone and laptop are put away. No more live tweeting a “Girls” hate-watch marathon. (JK, I like “Girls.”) I don’t check my phone when I’m working on my computer.
- Bedroom is tech-free. Which means I’ve got to get an alarm clock. Any recommendations?
- No screen time whatsoever when I’m with the kids. We implemented this rule a couple years ago and it didn’t stick, but I think this is the most important one. I never want my kids to feel secondary to my phone (how fucked up I even have to write that?) And I don’t want to pass my online addiction onto them. “I learned it by watching you!” (Gen-X reference, young’uns.)
- Designate my online time and stick to it. Whether it’s 3x/day for 30 minutes or something else, I do plan to stay offline between 9am and 9pm. Unless absolutely necessary for work. (Slippery slope, I know.)
- Do fun stuff with my free time. I want to fill the time I’ve liberated from my addiction with things I enjoy. Connecting with my kids and friends IRL, reading, writing, exercise, sewing, music, dance. Maybe go to a museum and have sex once in a while. Learn how to use my Instapot.
As with all things, I do better with a day-by-day approach, but I would like to try this for at least a week. And keep going from there. Does anyone want to join me? We can check in during our designated online times to make sure we’re staying on track. Because there’s no doubt I’ll be going through some major withdrawal. Join the LES LOLOS Digital Detox (featuring Young Justin Trudeau) and let’s go offline and enjoy our lives!
Were/are you an online addict? Any tips to get over it? Share them here or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And please sign up for our newsletter for more ideas about being happier and healthier—as an expat or otherwise.