I got my first smartphone in the summer of 2012, and ever since, I’ve found myself wishing I had stuck with my flip phone. It’s not that I hate my iPhone, exactly, but I frequently hate how I use it. I check it all the time, especially when I’m in the middle of hard work requiring concentration and effort. When I’m bored, I look at whatever the internet is serving up to me, often getting anxiety-provoking information I’d rather not ruminate about right then. I feel nervous about being “off the grid” if I don’t have my phone with me, even if I’m unreachable only for an hour or two. And yet, despite all these ill effects, I keep carrying and checking my phone.
I don’t want to be a slave to my mobile device, so I jumped at the chance to serve as a guinea pig for the program outlined in Catherine Price’s new book, “How to Break Up With Your Phone.” I also dug into the research and talked with experts who study digital media use. What I learned is that it’s possible to take back our lives and attention from our phones, but it takes some planning and commitment.
My biggest struggle with my phone is that I check it more often than is necessary, and then I feel bad afterwards. “People mistakenly assume you have to like something to do it over and over again,” said Adam Alter, a professors of marketing at New York University and the author of “Irresistible,” a book about behavioral technology addiction. That’s a logical assumption because “there’s a strong correlation between how much we enjoy something and how much we do it,” he said.1 But it’s not a perfect correlation, he said. We overeat while hating the feeling of having overeaten. We fall in love with people who aren’t good for us and come back for more. I haven’t experienced disturbed sleep from my phone, but plenty of other people have. Regardless of whether we’re truly “addicted” to phones and other technology, many people don’t like their phone habits but find it very difficult to change them.
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