Dumbing Down (my Smart phone)

Following my need to go a little anti-social media (see this post), I also decided that another aspect that needed attention was my phone. I'm not sure why we still call it a phone, because it seems that actually calling people is the last thing it is meant to be used for nowadays.

Like so many others, I carried my phone everywhere. Used Maps to help navigate, checked emails on the go, answering them almost as soon as they came through. I'd be checking every few minutes to see if anyone had responded to that really funny Tweet I'd put out, or that meme on Facebook, 'cos you know I'm a comedy genius and they must all be roaring at my brilliant joke, or insightful commentary. Right?


Crickets. That's the reality of it, but we tell ourselves that it'll be the next one that gets all the likes. Perhaps the one after that. So, then I'd check out the news, scroll down the latest thread of world changing events (which now seem to happen every other day as opposed to decades apart). I'd lose myself for hours following the threads as they tapered off into wild theories, or watch news reports from around the world.

My evenings would consist of finding the latest funny trend on Tik-Tok and putting together what I called a galleria of videos to show my wife, a funny end to the day, something to help unwind to. But all I was doing was adding to my anxiety, seeing all these booktoks and thinking I should be doing that, and making notes on what I could do.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I suffer anxiety and carrying all that around with me, well, it wasn't helping me, and isn't that what our tech is supposed to do - help? Not add to our worries and our anxieties. It is supposed to augment our daily lives, not burden them.

And now add the cost of living crisis that is engulfing us all, certainly us starting-out authors. My monthly phone bill - unlimited minutes, texts and data - was £28. In a given month I would send 0 texts, make about 10 phone calls. But the data useage; wow. That was huge. So was the screen time for using it. Around 6 hours a day.

It might be a smart phone but I was being a dumb user. It wasn't helping me in the slightest, and so I made some choices.

1. Decide to change.

Before I could do anything, I had to decide to make that change. I did some research, watched and read some reports about smart phone use and its links to anxiety and depression. Only recently here in the UK was a tragic case of a young girl whose social media use added to her mental suffering to the extent it contributed to her death. It is very clear that right now the harms of social media far outweigh any benefits.

But there are benefits - the different platforms do helps us connect with others of a like mind - but it becomes more obvious every day that we are all screaming into the same void. I could continue doing the same thing I have been for well over a decade, but to what end?

It was finding an article from 2009 in the LA Times where co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey explained the way they named the platform, that made my mind up.

...we came across the word "twitter", and it was just perfect. The definition was "a short burst of inconsequential information", and "chirps from birds". And that's exactly what the product was.

I'll just leave that there and let you make of that what you will. I know what I thought about it.

2. New Plan, New Number

With the decision made, it was time to sort out the next step. I couldn't justify paying nearly £30 a month for something that was a) actually harming my mental health, and b) not performing its primary function. My carrier didn't want to help, despite being out of contract now, and didn't have any suitable alternatives to offer me, so I paid off the last bill and closed the account down.

It took just a few minutes (on the PC) finding a pay-as-you-go sim only package and now for just a sixth of what I was paying, I now get unlimited calls, texts and around 4GB of data to use each month. A lot better value for money.

It means getting in touch with those people who need to know the new number, but there's not many, and it's the first time I've changed the number in many years.

So, with the decision made and a brand new number and plan, there was only one thing left to do - clear up the phone.

3. Only The Basics

Twitter, Facebook, Tik-Tok, YouTube, YouTube Music, Notes, Email, Health, Calculator, Banking App 1, Banking App 2, Photos, Kindle, Weather, Clock, Safari, App Store, Maps, Siri, Wallet, and several others I can't remember. Oh yes, and phone and text messages.

That was the sort of thing cluttering up my phone and in turn, cluttering up my brain, making me anxious whenever a little red notification came on. It would sap my time and my energy, this little mini-computer in my pocket, so it was time to have a de-clutter.

Time to get back to basics. What did I actually need the phone for?

  • To make phone calls

  • To send/receive text messages

  • Find my way around places

  • Take pictures

I'd still need to access my bank accounts so I would keep those apps, but everything else would go. Some apps are built in to the phone and can't be deleted so all of these go into a folder which is kept off screen.

And here's how it looks now:

Isn't that pretty cool? It certainly has made me feel a whole lot better. I'm no longer anxious that I've missed an email - I just check on my PC when I'm working. Nothing is so important it has to be dealt with right now - unless anything to do with my family - and that has been a big change for me.

This is all about how I react to and interact with things like social media and tech. You may not have this sort of issue. But I know people whose phone has become a part of them; they sit and eat and scroll all the time. They take it everywhere and their interactions are 90% based around their phone, not with the people around them.

I see it when I go out and sit in a cafe or pub to write. I see people together at a table but apart, scrolling and clicking alone in a group.

It's sad to see, but when I do, it just reminds me that I made the right decision.

when something is free, then you are the product

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~ JP ~