Me ditching my smartphone is a gradual decision made over the course of years. It started with an empty bucket called enthusiasm about this cool gadget with all its possibilities. After the initial ‘falling in love period’ it -bit by bit- started losing its lustre. The cons kept on coming and after years the bucket was full. It only took a few last drops for me to finally say bye bye.
One of the drops was when my phone started talking to me. It asked what can I do for you and all my frustration with it came out in one go as I answered ‘nothing, you fuck’. My phone answered back with ‘okay’. I don’t swear, so for me to do so SAYS. IT. ALL. Then, a while back, I told my husband I wanted to remove Siri. He laughingly asked his device ‘Siri, why does my wife want to remove you?’ and Siri answered back ‘What’s your wife’s name?’…
It then hit me like a ton of bricks, that my screens were interfering with my life on deep and true levels. It wasn’t just distracting me and ‘stealing my time’. It was actually stealing, altering and degrading my mind and therefore my reality.
In this article I’d like to share the 5 reasons why I ditched my smartphone. I’ll go deep and explain it from a multilayered body, mind and soul perspective. Connecting health, values, philosophy, practical experience, spirituality and science.
Enjoy the read!
5 REASONS WHY I DITCHED MY SMARTPHONE
The amount of time the average person in The Netherlands spends on their smartphone is 2 hours and 15 minutes per day. The average in the USA is even higher, over 3 hours. I’m pretty sure I spend the average Dutch amount of time on my phone. When I add all those hours, it ends up being over 30 days per year. This means a whole month out of the year is spend on my smartphone. And I don’t spend it calling because I never ever come close to reaching my limit of 120 minutes per month. I spend it on the internet, on social media and the web. I spend it on instagram, the weather site, the online second hand market place and google. One month per year. That. is. shocking.
The reason why i find it shocking is because the amount of value I place in my smartphone and the amount of time I spend on it do not match. I don’t think my smartphone is that important and I don’t think it’s worth spending a whole month out of a year staring at its screen. The truth is there’s other things I’d rather do.
And it’s not just me. Half of the people between 25 and 45 think they use their device too much. Many of us feel frustrated by our smartphone use and have consequently thought aboutgetting rid of it. But the fact is almost none of us do. Perhaps that’s because we already feel too dependant on it? We feel we can’t fully live and perform without it?
Sure, I’ve tried the middle ground but it didn’t work. I’ve tried setting boundaries. I turned my push notifications off. I hardly had any apps on my phone. I did not do any financial stuff on it. I have a notebook and a pen. My agenda is made from paper. I did not take my smartphone into the bedroom and kept it downstairs on flight mode between 8 pm and 8 am. I did annual digital detoxes where I refrained from using social media for weeks on end. I have lived with these loving boundaries for years but no matter how disciplined I am, my phone always wins the battle at sucking my attention.
Research done by Harvard Business shows how merely having your smartphone nearby (while you’re not using it and sound and vibration are turned off) influences cognitive abilities. Our cognitive capacity is critical for reasoning, learning and developing creative ideas. Having it on the table, in our handbag or in the pocket negatively affects our ability to problem solve and think clearly and flexibly. The mere presence of our smartphones is like hearing the sound of our name. It is constantly calling us, exerting a gravitational pull on our attention. This not only has an effect on our cognitive abilities but also our social behaviour. The more we use our smartphone to obtain information, the more we distrust people that we don’t know. And when our smartphone is in the room our attention is always rather there and not with the ones we are spending our time with in reality.
The thing is our smartphones are designed to be near us constantly. They are portable computers. Portable cameras. Portable banks. Portable everythings. It seems oddly strange to have a smartphone but always keep it in another room so we don’t experience their negatives. Their vacinity is their plus as well as their con. This makes the smartphone quite literally a walking contradiction. I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me, the cons outweigh the pros. Practical is not what I wish my life to be. I want it to be connected to the ones I love, deeply involved in my doings and beings and about noticing the little things.
Our life is finite. Our time is limited. Which makes the core question: what do I want to spend that time on? And am I content with spending a large chunk of it distracted? Or do I choose to not be digitally hyper-connected and therefore allow myself to be deeply engaged in the present moment?
‘My smartphone makes me feel not here, not there. It keeps me in between worlds.’
Last summer, whilst driving to Spain, my husbands smartphone died. We were driving on a highway, using his phone as a GPS to reach our destination. We had been talking about smartphone dependency just a few hours before. Yoshi had said ‘Smartphones are so practical and convenient, to have everything within reach and available on one device. I had responded saying ‘ But what if it breaks? Will you be able to function?’ The idea of being deeply dependant on one small electronic device, which handled many important tasks, frightened me.
When the phone died it became evident just how dependent he truly was. The address to the hotel was in the phone (GPS) and e-mail, the access code to the hotel was in his e-mail, there was no wifi in the car so we couldn’t use a laptop to get to his e-mail, my husbands banking ran exclusively through an app on his smartphone so he couldn’t pay, we did not have an old fashioned paper road map in the car so we didn’t know how to reach our hotel.
And this was just one part of the story. The mental freak out he had was ginormous. He reacted like the world was ending. His anxiety was all-encompassing, sending him into a combination state of rageful disbelief and cognitive numbness. I had to take over mentally and use my calm and reason. We made it to the hotel and everything worked out. I simply had to pivot and find different solutions to make everything work.
This experience shows how dependent we have become on this device called smartphone. We (think we) need it for everything and therefore use it for everything and by using it for everything we are giving it, technology, absolute power. We use it as a calculator for simple adding. We google for (tainted!) answers to all of our questions. We use it a GPS to find our way. We use it to track (and advise us on) our health. We use it as our office. We use it to store (visual) memories. When we want to know the weather we look at our phone instead of the beautiful sky, instead of feeling the wind. We have stopped training our brains. We have stopped seeing the simple beauties. And in many instances we have stopped thinking for ourselves and instead let the device do the thinking for us. That to me is a scary thought.. Not because I fear technology or so called ‘progress’. But because I realize that technology can be used for good or bad. That there’s extremely wealthy people and Big Tech behind this technology and we are giving our power away, to them. We are blindly relying on the presence of a external substance that is affecting EVERY facet of our lives.
Research shows, as the time you spend on your device increases, so does our dependency. The more time you spend on it, the more dependant you become. And increased dependency resulted in increased anxiety. You become abnormally fearful and lonely. In fact two thirds of British people admit feeling lost, unhappy and anxious without their phone. Half of all Americans say they could not last a day without their smartphone. Fearful and unhappy, is that the price we are willing to pay to use a device we are more than capable to live (and thrive!) without?
‘It is as if we want to make every moment useful and by doing so no moment is really truly gratifying, precious or deeply lived anymore.’
My husband and many others applaud the smartphone for its practicality. Yet the definition of practical is: ‘inclined toward or fitted for actual work or useful activities’. Because most of the time spend on my smartphone feels more like an endless black whole of whatever than useful or actual I call its function illusionary practicality. We think it aids us but instead it merely gives the illussion. How much of the time you spend on it is useful and involves actual work? Does it fullfill you, like actual work and completing concrete tasks does? How much power do you give it? And by giving it power who gains the power you’ve given away?
We humans are energy materialized. We are electrical beings. Each of our cells is charged with electricity. Electricity is required for the nervous system to send signals throughout the body and to the brain, making it possible for us to move, think and feel. A disruption in these intricately and beautifully balanced electrical currents can lead to illness.
Electrical devices influence our electrical currents, our vibrancy. How? Well, think of the microwave. ‘It produces the most destructive free radicals known to man, which decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, membranes and proteins that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, the core of most chronic disease.’ It furthermore destroys antioxidants, as well as a range of essential health promoting nutrients.
Its radiofrequency has the ability to heat biological tissue. And not just food, US TOO! Smartphones (but also laptops, smart meters, wifi routers etcetera) also use and emmitt radiofrequency radiation. Apple knows this and adds information for the ‘safe’ use of iPhones to the instruction manual you get with your phone. But what it does not say is how most smartphones exceed the legal limit of 1.6 watts per kg. In fact, the Iphone 7, the most popular smartphone ever sold, went over the legal limit. It measured double what Apple reported it would from its own testing. And what it also does not say is how MW (radiofrequency) radiation is the fourth largest source of pollution: after air, water and noise. The amount of radiogfrequency radiation pollution (aka electrosmog) is not going to be dropping anytime soon as ‘they’ are planning to install 5G worldwide for ‘our’ benefit.
This last year has been about concluding and assessing for me. One of the things I have been assessing was which things (actions, thoughts, people, items) raise my (electrical) energy thus cause regeneration and which things (actions, thoughts, people and items) lower my (electrical) energy and therefore cause degeneration. You guessed right, one of the main things on the degeneration list was my smartphone. I really did not need to watch the social dilemma or study above and below research to know deep down how incredibly degenerating using a smartphone was to me. After that the decision to get rid of it was by far the easiest decision I have made in a long long while.
Smartphones contain deeply personal information: family photos, new business ideas, full agendas regarding your whereabouts, health trackings, finances, camera, gps and microphone. All of which may be accessed through tracking, bugging, monitoring, eavesdropping and recording conversations and text messages. It might feel like you’re in your own safe little bubble when you scroll and call but unfortunately smartphones are not designed for your privacy or security. Turning a smartphone into a surveillance tool is way easier than you think. For both governments, mobile phone operators and hackers. ‘Another related kind of surveillance request is called a “tower dump”; in this case, a government asks a mobile operator for a list of all of the mobile devices that were present in a certain area at a certain time.’
And yes, it also happens in our Democratic country of The Netherlands. It recently came to light how the Dutch military has -since the beginning of the current epidemic- collected, interpretted and shared huge amounts of data regarding the Dutch population. This has been done to assess behaviour, especially from critical thinkers and critical groups, to ‘predict and prevent civil unrest’.
The thing that bothers me about this is that surveillance from a governing body is always done to control. I have written about this in my recent article, raising disobedient daughters. The governing body or authority always says they do this for ‘our’ benefit but a person or a collection of persons can’t be impartial and thus is subject to harmful discrimination and corruption. ‘What the philantropist might consider to be philantropic good doing might not actually be beneficial to the one the philantrophy is directed at and factually harm the one ‘helped’.
I’ve asked myself questions. Do I wish to live in a world that is paved with protocol? A world in which everything I do and think is tracked and recorded? Do I wish to live in a world where technology, and the people behind it, get to decide what I can and can’t do. Do I wish to live in a world where I am scanned for being ‘secure’ or ‘threat’ material? And even more importantly: What does my life tell me about (hyper)control?
I don’t know about you but I have tried to control maximally and the thing I learned, very quickly, is how control is but an illusion and leads to nothing but disconnect, disharmony and sadness. Life can not be controlled. The human brain, let alone technology and AI derived from the human brain, can not begin to understand the complexity of Life itself. So let’s not pretend control is even an option.
The persuit of control also takes away the beauty of surprise. We lose the joy of the unexpected and the unknown. We think we are the manufacturers of our Life (‘maakbaarheid’ in Dutch) and everything can be done and made as we want it to be.
By having a control of Life mindset we have forgotten that it isn’t about the destination but about the road. That there is magic in getting lost, in wandering, in wasting time, in musing and in daydreaming. Yet these variations and amplifyers of the unforeseen all pretty much eliminated from our daily lives.
To me, magic is the synchronicity of the unexpected coming together.
So the question really should be: do I want to live in a world that is hyper controlled? Or do I embrace the fact that the beauty of Life is the unexpected?
From the moment I birthed a human being and became a mama I have been aware of my examplary role.
Children parrot EVERYTHING. What they see you do, what they hear you say and even what you don’t say but feel is internalized, mimicked and acted out. It’s quite confronting really. And it’s not just children who parrot, it’s adults too! Think about the bystander effect. If someone is laying still over the pavement but no one is doing anything, we assume ‘everything must be okay’ and won’t do anything either. We as people, as humans, have powerful examplary roles to play. How we act -as individuals- matters.
Today, in The Netherlands almost everyone between the ages of 12-55 years old owns a smartphone (98%). During these past two years the average age a child gets a smartphone has dropped two years, from 12 to 10.
This makes me wonder. If I don’t know how to use a smartphone healthily, how should a 10 year old child know how handle it? If it has such an adverse effect on me as a grown woman, what kind of effect will it have on my child who is still in that tender realm of development?
There’s not an overwhelming amount of reserach done yet but when we do the math we actually kind of do know what smartphone use does to our children and teenagers. Ever since our kids have started using smartphones they have become more depressed and anxious. The amount of teenagers that are feeling useless and joyless has skyrocketed. Our kids are hanging out less with friends. Our kids are dating less. Our kids are getting less sleep. Are kids are increasingly feeling lonely.
I saw a group of teenagers sitting on a bench this summer. All of them held their smartphones, none of them looked at each other. When someone said something, one would respond without looking at the friend and kept his gaze on his smartphone instead. I almost cried. I am not okay with this behaviour. If I permit, I promote. If I ignore, I condone. I will not do that. I am not a bystander.
So to me the question really is: what kind of example am I setting if i’m clearly investing a lot of time in something (in this case my smartphone) I think so poorly of. Is this what I wish my daughters future to revolve around? What kind of world do I want to have my kids, and people at large, grow up and live Life in?
I guess by now you know what my answers were…
TIPS FOR THOSE WHO DON’T WANT TO DITCH THEIR SMARTPHONES (YET):
-Put it on flight mode as much as possible, at least during nighttime
-Turn your wifi router off at home when you sleep
-Leave your phone out of your bedroom
-Be extremely selective which apps you put on and use
-Don’t wear your phone on or very close to your body
-Use a headset
-Shut off notifications
-Spend time with people and nature
(This article is not just about ditching the smartphone. It is about technology and our use of technology in general. It is about our ability to assess if technology, and our use of it, is degenerative or regenerative. And our power to choose the regenerative.)