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On a Mission to Outsmart My Smartphone

For 30 days I am doing a little test alongside my friend Kristen from Worthwhile Paper to see how my life is without the constant temptation to check my phone. I’ve deleted all social media and time sucking apps from my phone, as well as my mail app (that’s a really big one for small business owners!). My phone is just used for texting, talking, GPS, music, banking, ride share, and few other utilitarian apps that don’t keep me glued to the screen. I have limited myself to using social media only when I’m at work via my iPad, and I leave the iPad at work (you could also use your computer). No social media use at night or on the weekends.

You might be thinking to yourself “this sounds like a first world millennial problem. Someone get this woman a pumpkin spiced latte.” and honestly, you’re completely right. There are way worse problems out there besides my phone addiction. But maybe it’s actually more of a problem within our society than anyone wants to talk about. Maybe it’s actually one of *the* major problems with our society right now - I just don’t know. Based on my conversations with just about everyone I know though, I can say that I’m not alone in the phone/social media addiction blues, and it seems to be having a negative effect on people’s general sense of well being.

A few months ago I started to grow an overwhelming sense of fatigue when it came to using social media. I had just come back from a life changing week of intensive therapy in California and I had a new perspective of who I was and a clear vision for my life. I essentially floated back to Georgia and back into my life. I think it was pretty soon afterwards when I started to have very little interest in engaging on social media, or in using my phone at all. Instagram felt like a foreign world and I started to think of posting as some sort of painful chore. “Why do I *have* to post on this thing? Who’s making these rules?” This was a new feeling for me, as someone who had been posting enthusiastically on Instagram for 7 years like it was a sport. Then I realized that something in me had really shifted without me looking: Not only had I just recently experienced a week of enlightening therapy… I had also spent a week without my phone. I had been 100% disconnected from communication for 8 solid days.

When was the last time you spent a solid week without your phone?

I hadn’t quite given much thought towards the magnitude of this and how it directly related to my healing until I got home. When the program ended and I was given my phone back, I was actually scared of the thing. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to turn it on and see what had been pressure cooking for 8 days:

“How many texts do I have? Am I going to have to respond to comments? The emails. Oh my god, all the fucking emails!”

I seriously resented the little black box of social pressures.

At first I was blaming my distaste for using social media on the political climate and how everything felt so contentious in our society right now (that is definitely part of it), but that didn’t really explain my reasoning for not wanting to post on social media, or why the sounds of my phone going off were actually making me feel slightly ill.

It’s my theory that the reason I didn’t want to post or use my phone anymore, was because I had taken a long enough break. I had experienced my life again without a pocket computer, and I had been given a chance to actually remember how much happier I am without being constantly engaged.

Eventually though, as daily work life tends to do, I started to get back into the swing of things. I would go from having a complete aversion to touching my phone to compulsively picking it up and scrolling through mindlessly for hours. I wouldn’t even be looking for anything. Just scrolling. Mindlessly. Looking for inspiration perhaps? Something to make me laugh? Sometimes I’d do it at work every few minutes, then come home after work and flop on the bed only to continue to scroll uninterrupted. I would sometimes avoid doing things that I enjoy just because I was sucked into staring at my phone. Pretty much every time I would do this I would get kind of a queasy feeling and feel a little depressed. I felt guilty for wasting so much time, but would find myself doing it again.

Another thing that has developed for me is that I’ve started to post less often because anytime I try to come up with something mind blowing/beautiful/simple/inspiring/whatever I often feel paralyzed. Overly self-conscious. I don’t want to sound like a salesman, a social justice warrior du jour, or even like someone who sounds like they’re taking current events too lightly...and I certainly don’t want to post the riskiest thing of all things on social media: my true thoughts, feelings and perspectives.

I know this may sound familiar to many of you reading this. Smartphones have really become this heavily integrated device that can sort of feel like an abusive partner; can’t live with it, can’t live without it (or can I?). For me it’s been all about the phone combined with social media that has allowed Native Bear to grow and gain exposure and so I feel that it’s an important part of doing business for me. However, the lack of boundaries between when and how often I use social media has been directly related to the convenience of having it on my phone. Phones give me the opportunity to gawk at others and gain a little dopamine boost at any given moment. It is a downward spiral to seeking outside of myself for worthiness. Why would I sit in silence for 10 minutes when I could be mindlessly entertained? Answer: Because I might actually have to deal with some difficult thoughts if I did.

The main thing that has started to worry me with regards to my smartphone/social media combo addiction is that I’ve been having a *very* difficult time with my creativity. In order to have creative thoughts one has to spend time actually being bored. Being bored isn’t something many of us are used to anymore. I realized that I haven’t been giving myself adequate time to just sit around without any mental stimulation lately, and therefore, I put off working on new projects or designs. The better ideas don’t come as easily as they should because I usually have a phone nearby to conveniently distract me.

You might be wondering why I’m hemming and hawing over this conundrum when clearly the simple solution is to just get rid of the dang phone, right? That is definitely something I’ve considered, but I’ve determined that it’s really the smartphone + social media combo that’s the problem for me. As long as I don’t have it at arm’s reach but can still promote my business - I’m hoping that’s the solution. Because if I’m being completely honest, smartphones are total manipulative and addictive little suckers that are actually *created* to addict us (check out How to Break Up With Your Phone). Even just the simple thought of doing this 30 days experiment without my slot machine apps (instagram, facebook, snapchat, etc.) made me super anxious and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Which is completely ridiculous when you stop to think about it. How could something be *that* addictive?? But it 100% is.

I suspect though that I’m hardly the only business owner/artist/human having this existential crisis. For me, the realization that I feel trapped into social media and constantly feel the pressure to engage is the biggest burden. It feels like one *has* to have a smartphone in order to keep business thriving, or to even to seem relevant as an individual. Everything relies on consumers having a smartphone, and we are constantly being marketed to and business owners are pushed to advertise.

I feel like there has to be a better, healthier way for me to use social media to promote my brand while not losing my authenticity. Whether that means fewer posts and a decrease of engagement I’m not sure, but I’m willing to risk it.

SO! Here goes nothing. 30 days of dumbing down my phone, and a semi social media detox. I am just rounding out day 3 and I can already see a difference in my concentration and energy level. The habit to check my phone is still there but then I quickly remember… I have nothing to check anymore. The FOMO hasn’t been quite as bad as I was expecting, but I’m sure I’ll have more to learn about that as the days go on. I’m excited to post more about what this process is like for me throughout the month for those who are curious about minimizing the tech in their lives - especially those of us who want to do so while maintaining a thriving business in a smartphone run world.

Comments

Erica:

Wow, I cannot believe how much I relate to every single word of this! YES!! So grateful you are talking about it. Also, the your native bear 2018 planner has been such a bright spot in my year AND has been an important part of my daily grounding rituals that take me away from phone/tech/social media and into my real life 🙏🏻

Oct 17, 2018

Hawley Hussey:

I’m so happy to read this. I got one of your journals in Joshua Tree last February and became very attached to the energy of it. Filled it. Need another journal and realized oh I need one from Native Bear. Missing the analogue sweet little journal. And all this has really been on my mind too. Because I never ever took phones or screens to bed and Now it’s happening and I am reading and dreaming less. I am going to join you! Thank you!

Oct 16, 2018

Leslie Abrams:

I am so inspired by you! Being bored is extremely important. No kidding, I have read three whole books about the importance of being bored this year alone! You are motivating me to take the cleanse. Every word you have written has deeply resonated and I thank you for your honesty and conviction. Much love.

Oct 16, 2018

Janna:

Thank you for sharing this. And also, I’d love to share that my 2018 Native Bear calendar was all that I needed to officially take my personal and professional calendar offline – for good. I don’t use Google calendar, which comes with its risks, but all surmountable once the habit is changed and writing each day’s schedule out in pen on paper feels good and solid to me.

Back to your blog… as a small biz owner (yoga studio), I feel this so much. Even though the message of yoga is always log-off, tune in, and get familiar with what is real within you – feelings, thoughts, challenges, triumphs, stuff you want to hide and stuff you want to celebrate – the message must reach the masses and something’s gotta get people to classes. It’s 2018, so… social media posts it is!

I always joke that I’d like to be doing this in 1970-something. Regardless, there’s got to a realm of moderation here (personally and professionally) and I appreciate how your blog seeks it. Because I too am overwhelmed with the texts, DMs, messages, and emails that make my blue screen blink on all the damn time. I love your idea of the iPad for work – I’m going to steal that!

Much love,

Janna

PS: you definitely have to get bored to be creative – LOVE!

Oct 16, 2018

Paige:

I also appreciate this. I just watched an “Adam Ruins Everything” where he tried to debunk the idea that smart phones are ruining our ability to socialize. I was just shaking my head. He is wrong! These things are horrible for us- particuarly artists. I can’t feel like I can do anything anymore because I feel the presence of four hundred strangers, peering over my shoulder and deciding whether it is valid. Thank you for inspiring me to be more radical in my resistance of this new normal.

Oct 16, 2018

Michelle Odom:

This totally gives me hope that I CAN DO THIS TOO! You are definitely not alone in feeling these feelings! All of this is how I feel. I plan to do this myself after I get through a few more committed holiday events. Then I might just take off on a getaway with no emails or social media! Yay!
Thank you for writing about this and helping others to take this step.

Oct 16, 2018

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