Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone
(and how to try your own low-stress experiment)
In 2012, I realized I had a problem. My iPhone made me twitchy. It called to me from my pocket, the way the Ring called Bilbo Baggins.
My moment of clarity happened in my living room. I was sitting on the floor one evening, building train tracks with my kids, when my older son said:
He wasn’t trying to make me feel bad or anything. He was just curious. But I didn’t have a good answer. So why was I looking at my iPhone? I didn’t even remember taking it out — it had sort of materialized in my hand. All day, I’d been looking forward to spending time with my kids, and now that it was finally happening, I wasn’t really there at all.
I froze for a second. I thought back.
When the iPhone came out, in 2007, it was shiny and beautiful and cool and I flat-out wanted one. But I needed a justification, so I convinced myself that I needed it for work. After all, the iPhone had email, a web browser, and even a stocks app — this was a serious tool for serious people!
So I got an iPhone, and just like that, I signed myself up to check and respond to email wherever, whenever. No pay raise, no new job title, not even a request from my boss. For me, this was a 100% self-inflicted responsibility because I wanted a shiny object.
Over the years, as new apps came out — Facebook, Instagram, news, games, etc — I installed them. They were shiny, they were free, and they helped me “get my money’s worth” out of my phone. Every app created new responsibilities. More inboxes to check and more feeds to read. Every app latched onto my brain, tethering my phone to my skull with invisible string.