We’re in abusive relationships with our technology. As someone who has both survived an abusive relationship myself and worked at a domestic violence shelter, I feel I can say this without exaggeration.
The excuses I hear from people about why they continue to use technology that they know is harming them are eerily similar to those of actual abuse victims:
“I know it’s not good for me, but I just can’t stop!”
“I rely on it financially.”
“All of my friends and family are there, I’m scared to be alone.”
“I’m addicted to the emotional highs I get.”
The ways modern technology abuses us are many. In some cases, it’s just bad for our mental health. In other cases, it’s a massive time-suck that destroys our productivity.
In the worst case, our technology stalks us, tracking our every move, and uses that data to cheat us or sell us out to the highest bidder.
The problem has gotten so bad that some people are even willing to pay to attend an adult summer camp that doesn’t allow phones.
If you have a toxic relationship with technology, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to resort to buying a “dumb phone” or shun technology altogether to improve your relationship with your tech.
Deleting these three things from my phone made a huge difference for me, and it might just help you, too:
Alright, you know this was coming.
Social media is ruining your life, tracking you and selling your data, and making you miserable. If you find it hard to give up on social media entirely, for example, if you use it to promote your work like I do, try just deleting the apps from your phone.
Having social media on your phone means it’s usually the first thing you check when you wake up, and the first thing you see before you go to bed. Read check it while you’re waiting in line, going to the bathroom, and boiling ramen. Do you really need to, though?
Set specific times of each day when you’ll use social media with a particular goal in mind.
A side benefit to this I’ve found is that I’m able to enjoy events and activities in real life much more when I’m not worried about presenting it on social media. I take pictures only of the things I actually want to remember or show a particular person (send them a text!), and I am able to be much more present in the moment.
This one is easier said than done. If you’re not techy, it can be a little hard to figure out, but it is worth it.
Google is tracking your every move, listening to you, and selling your data to people who only want to take your money and your attention. While most people already know this, Google has managed to create a culture of learned helplessness around itself — we know it’s bad, but don’t see any other options.
Getting Google off of your phone will certainly make your life harder while you adjust to the inconvenience, but it’s completely worth it and completely possible.
I use Lineage OS, a free (as in “freedom”) operating system that is installed on my phone. It removes all Google Services, including the Play Store, so you have to get apps another way. F-Droid, an app repository for free and open-source (FOSS) applications, can provide nearly everything you need from email, to weather and news, to games.
Group Chat Apps
After moving across the country, nearly all of my friendships are long-distance. Group chat applications like Riot, Discord, and Slack became the primary way I communicate with my friends and socialize from day to day.
The downside of this, though, is I never got a break and felt constantly pressured to always be online and replying. I couldn’t go for a trip to the grocery store without replying to the latest drama, and I started to resent getting messages on my phone rather than enjoy them like I used to.
Deleting group chat apps off my phone means that I can schedule my casual socializing time when I’m at home on my computer, usually in the evenings after I’ve stopped working. There’s nothing stopping my friends from contacting me one-on-one if they need something urgently, and I’ve found that switching to individual texts with a few of my closest friends has made us even closer. It’s even inspired me to have some good, old fashioned, phone calls with my best friend.
Your Phone Should Be a Tool, Not a Burden
If you feel like your phone is more of a burden than a tool that helps you navigate the world and accomplish your goals, then it’s time to make a change. Ditch creepy proprietary software that’s stalking you. Delete social media that’s making you feel bad. Take control of your interactions and your data.
It may feel inconvenient at first, but it’s worth it to be free.
M. K. is a feminist writer, activist, and recovering software engineer. Subscribe to get her latest posts directly in your inbox.