Book Review: How to Break Up with Your Phone
Book Review: How to Break Up with Your Phone
A 30-day plan to break the addiction to your phone, focusing on positive outcomes and with a funny, chatty vibe.
I just read an article on CNN about Unilever threatening to pull ads from Google and Facebook, which “have become a ‘swamp’ of fake news, racism, sexism and extremism.” The word “techlash” is used in a quote in the article, and I feel like that is exactly where I am. There are some things I love about my phone and social media, but there are a lot more things that I hate. You could compare it to smoking embalming fluid or a plague of frogs (Twitter is the worst offender but they’re all bad). And it’s getting in the way of me living my life. So I had picked up How to Break Up with Your Phone on a whim and in the little over an hour that it took to read (it’s short!), it made a big change in my perspective.
The book is structured in two parts. The first part explores how we use our phones and focuses on the bad and the ugly when it comes to phone use, particularly social media. Price discusses how app-makers stroke our dopamine response, and how we develop the habit of picking up our phone.
“Want to know another device that uses intermittent rewards to drive compulsive behavior? Slot machines.“
This is meant to motivate you to follow through with the break-up process, which is detailed in the second half of the book. Price presents a 30-day plan with daily tasks to not just reduce your phone use, but to use your phone for good and to focus on living your life. (By the way, this sounds so dumb, I can’t believe I’m writing about this. I’m so ashamed that this is an issue!) Some of those tasks include:
- Download the SPACE app to track phone use. (She doesn’t suggest using it to reduce phone use right away, but hey why not.)
- Assess your relationship with your phone.
- Delete social media (I deleted FB, which is really problematic for me. I quit Twitter a while ago since they’re dining on our nation’s decaying corpse. Instagram is less so, so it’s still on for now).
- Organize apps.
Not being a rule-follower and knowing my tendency to be inconsistent, I wanted to make sure I had it somewhere I could see it, so I put the tasks in my calendar. I did skip ahead a bit and complete some tasks that were for future days all at once, because I was excited about jumping in. Today is my second day with those steps in place, and I feel really optimistic!
“My research has convinced me that this is not a trivial issue; our phones are having serious effects on our relationships, our brains (especially young ones), and the way we interact with the world. They are designed to addict us–and from what we know so far, the consequences of this mass addiction don’t look good. Just take a look around you. Phones are changing the experience of being human.”
Day 2’s assignment is writing out your feelings about your phone and your goals, so here goes nothing:
Things I love about my phone and social media:
- I’m a member of some ladies-only groups and neighborhood groups that I enjoy.
- I like keeping up with friends who I don’t see regularly through their social media posts.
- My daughter’s school and PTA use Facebook to communicate.
- I love finding out about new things, and crowd-sourcing ideas and problem-solving.
- Beneficial apps for me are Audible, my podcast app, Spotify, the apps my kids’ teachers use to communicate, Fitbit, Habitica, Amazon Kindle, texting, and my workout motivation app. (Wow! That is more than I expected.)
Why I hate my phone:
- Facebook is actively making our world a terrible place. (I gave up Twitter a while ago).
- I check news sites all day long. This is partly because of the political climate, but it is stress-inducing.
- I am constantly looking at my phone when I should be doing other things.
- There are a lot of things I could accomplish if I were not distracted by my phone, like reading the New Yorkers that are piling up, drawing in my sketchbook, planning meals, taking a walk, playing with my kids, and cleaning my house.
- I feel like my phone is making me dumber.
- Using my free moments for reading, writing, drawing, and talking to other humans.
- Using my phone for navigation, communication, and for fitness and quality entertainment (books, audiobooks, podcasts, and music)
- Using Instagram and no other social media.
- Not being in the habit of picking up my phone reflexively. Living in my own brain.
- The book discusses how phones change our brains. I’ve been working really hard lately to change my eating and exercise habits to stay healthy, particularly to avoid heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which run in my family. There’s no research on the effects of cell phones on Alzheimer’s (other than phone radiation), so it’s an unknown quantity, but I can’t imagine scattering your brain with the phone is helpful for overall brain health in the long-term. If I’m willing to give up sweets and get up at 6am to exercise, it seems reasonable to rein in the phone addiction. Preventing Alzheimer’s is a pretty long-term goal, but I wanted to add it in here because it’s a very deep motivation for me and I do believe it’s a related issue.
I’m excited about getting through this detox program and moving on with my life. I love that she includes tasks like doing things you enjoy to exercise your attention span. Enjoy reading a book, playing an instrument, listening to music! That is what our brains are supposed to be doing! It feels like shedding skin and moving on to a new phase.
I highly recommend this book, and I’ll check back in later to share how it’s going. I hope that the rest of the people feeling the techlash right now find this book.
If you’re not having techlash but really wondering about the decay of discourse in our times and how to do better, check out my review of How to Think by Alan Jacobs.
My thanks to Netgalley and Ten Speed Press for sharing this book with me free of charge. My opinions are my own.