My reasons for resisting getting a smartphone aren’t anything that will surprise you… People being unsafe because they’re looking at their phones, checking phones in the middle of a meeting, looking at phones instead of talking to the friends across the table from you, etc. Smartphone addiction is definitely a thing, and as a person who already struggles with turning off the internet, surely having a whole computer in my pocket would be like an alcoholic living above a bar. Ultimately I was worried that getting a smartphone would affect my mindfulness and ability to be present when and where and with whom I am at any given moment.
To make a long story short, I have a smartphone now. I went fearfully into the transition, kicking and screaming. A month in, I’ve found that by setting some ground rules for myself I’ve been able to moderate my behavior. Below are Alissa’s Personal Guidelines for Responsible Smartphone Use.
No phone use when there are IRL people to interact with
This guideline is most challenging for me not when I’m joking with my besties but when I’m waiting around in a group for the movie to start. I’m an introvert, and it’s so easy to use my phone to check out of social interactions. But as a former brickphone user, I know it’s also very rude to be in the middle of a conversation with someone and have them pull out their phone. I don’t want to be that person.
No phone use when in a situation where the whole reason I am there is to pay attention
This is just a fancy way of saying don’t pull out my phone to check e-mails in the middle of a meeting. Or in the middle of class. Or in the middle of church. In fact, unless there’s a very specific reason I will need it, I try to not even bring my phone to these situations at all. I don’t need the temptation to distraction.
No phone use outside
Besides the fact that walking-and-texting is unsafe, this is a mindfulness thing. If I’m outside, I want to remind myself to look at the clouds in the sky, listen to the sound of raindrops on the sidewalk, laugh at the funny bumper sticker on the car that drove by, notice how a chill makes goosebumps arise on my arms, or feel the warm sun on my legs. And also keep alert to watch for my bus.
(Tip: this guideline is aided by setting my screen brightness so low I CAN’T see it in the sunshine.)
No work e-mail on my phone
This is all about work-life balance. I love my job but want to leave my work at work. Plus, let’s face it, I can’t do my job effectively over the phone. “Can you schedule a meeting with X, Y, and Z?” From my desk, but not really from here. “How many customers did we see last month?” I need to pull up the files from the server to find out. I don’t have the kind of role where people will die and my company will go under if I wait until I’m back at my desk to respond to an e-mail.
One thing I liked about brickphone life was learning to entertain myself in boring situations. Once in a doctor’s office I tried to identify stuff I could see in the room beginning with each letter of the alphabet. (J was hard.) When I’m bored, I check myself before pulling out my phone. Can I just sit with this boredom for a while? Is there something else to entertain me instead? Ooo, a crummy magazine! Let’s see which advertisement has the model with the fakest smile.
No phone use in the car
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It only takes a second of distraction to cause an accident.
Of course, there are exceptions
At dinner my friends and I were discussing a pretty house and we pulled it up on Google’s satellite view on my phone. I take pictures of beautiful things I see outside, but I’ll wait until later to upload them to Facebook or Instagram. And in some circumstances I may answer my phone in the car and put it on speakerphone.
I’ve discovered that by defining boundaries I’m no longer afraid of my smartphone and it taking over my life. I’m learning to enjoy it and benefits like looking up an address on the fly when I’m lost. Instagram is lots of fun. But getting the smallest data plan my service provider offered was also probably a good thing — just in case I start to get carried away.