Smartphones: What Prompted People To Give It Up?
In a world where many of us stick to their smartphones, Dulce Cowling is an out-of-the-ordinary case, giving up her smartphone.
The 36-year-old found at the end of last year that getting rid of her phone would improve her mental health. So, she told her family and friends she would use an old Nokia phone over the Christmas break, which could only make and receive calls and text messages.
One of the pivotal moments leading up to her decision, Ms. Cowling recalls, was spending a day in the park with her two sons, aged six and three, and saying: “I was using my mobile phone in the park with the kids and I looked at people and every single parent, there were up to 20 people, looking at his phone.”
She added: “I thought to myself: when did it happen? Everyone misses their real life. I don’t think you get to your deathbed and say you had to spend more time on Twitter or read articles online, “she said.
Ms. Cowling, a creative director at London-based advertising agency Hill Yeh, adds that the idea of ditching her smartphone had grown in her mind during the shutdown proceedings involving Covid.
She added: “I thought about how much time I had on the phone and what else I could do. Being in constant contact with many services creates a lot of distractions which is stressful for the brain to deal with, “he said.
And Cowling plans to use the time she gained from leaving her smartphone to read and sleep more.
Around nine in 10 people in the UK today have a smartphone, a number widely repeated across the developed world. And we stick to these devices, and a recent study found the average person spends 4.8 hours a day on their smartphone.
Alex Dunedin, for his part, dumped his smartphone two years ago. “Culturally, we became addicted to these devices,” says the educational researcher and technology expert. “They slow down perception and hinder productivity,” he added.
Mr. Dunedin, who lives and works in Scotland, says the other reason behind his decision is environmental concerns. “We’re wasting huge amounts of energy-producing huge amounts of CO2 emissions,” he notes.
He maintains that he has become happier and more productive since he stopped using smartphones. And Dunedin doesn’t even have an old-fashioned mobile phone or even a landline. And he can only be contacted electronically via emails that get him through his computer at home.
“That has improved my life,” he says. He added: “My thoughts were freed from constant cognitive contact with a machine I need to feed with energy and money. I think the risk of technologies is that they empty our lives, “he said.
And Lynn Voice, a 53-year-old teacher and writer from Birmingham, moved in the opposite direction. I started using the smartphone again last August after a six-year hiatus.
She says she has reluctantly had to repurchase a smartphone because of having to deal with QR Codes in restaurants and so-called COVID passports, as well as facilitating communication with one of her daughters living in Paris.
But she says she plans to give it up again if she can “after the end of the epidemic, and when Ella [her eldest daughter] comes back from abroad, I might try to give it up again. It feels like an addiction.
And when Voice first ditched her smartphone in 2016, it was to help encourage her daughters to reduce the time they spend on their equipment.
She says: “They were glued to their phones. I thought the only way to stop that was to get rid of my phone. That made a big difference, “he said.
“For example, we were going to a restaurant, and you didn’t see me holding my phone,” she adds.
Not having a smartphone “eased a lot of pressure on my brain,” she says, “I didn’t feel like I had to answer questions immediately or be available to answer messages when I walked out of the house.”
However, while some worry about how much time they spend on their phones, millions consider smartphones a godsend.
“More than ever, access to healthcare, education, and social services has become more accessible, and smartphone is the primary lifeline,” says a spokesman for the UK’s Vodafone mobile network.
He added: “We also create resources to help people get the most out of the technology they use, as well as keep them safe when they’re online — that’s very important.”
However, Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and author of “Phone Addiction Guide,” says a strong link between intensive device use and problems with relationships, sleep quality, and our ability to relax and concentration levels.
“A lot of people have fixed requests that come through their devices, and a lot of those requests cause a false sense that they need to be answered quickly,” she adds.
“They feel unable to set limits to that, and as a result feel compelled to check their emails and messages just before bed, and immediately after they wake up in the morning,” she says.
If getting rid of your smartphone seems tricky but you’re worried about spending too much time using it, there are other measures you can take to reduce your use of it.
And while it may seem illogical at first, more apps are emerging to limit the extensive use of smartphones.
For example, the Freedom app allows you to block apps and websites temporarily to focus more. And the Off the Grid app enables you to stop your phone for a particular time.
Burke says it would be helpful for more people to watch how much time they spend on their smartphones. “Starting to realize how much time you spend every day on your phone can be a wake-up call and a catalyst for change,” she adds.
It also advises enjoying short periods when your phone is switched off or leaving it at home and increasing the waiting time until you progressively recheck it.
And finally, Burke recommends choosing an image or word that represents what you’d instead do, if you had more time, to put in the picture of your phone’s screen.
“Given that most of us check his smartphone 55 times a day and some of us may check it about 100 times, this is a great visual reminder of a more valuable way to spend your precious time,” she says.
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