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Digitally distracted. Those were the words that made me take the plunge and swap out the extension of my body that was my iPhone for a less-abled, less sexy, less functional "dumbphone."
As a parent, reading articles about children and screentime addiction, was something I took seriously. I did, however, choose to ignore the fact they had probably inherited their gadget addiction from their social media obsessed mother.
While we had rules around how much time could be spent on iPods and tablets in the home, and as the kids got older and acquired phones, we were cautious about what they could see and interact with, we had been less aware of how our interaction with digital gadgets was affecting them.
It was an article depicting a new generation never having open access to their parents, they way we did, because now there will always be a blue-light device between them and their caregivers that made me stop and take notice.
My kids are hitting teenage years but I'm also one of the main carers of my toddler niece. It actually hurt me to think she could grow up believing a gadget was the reason she had no full access to her aunty.
Thus, my decision to unplug happened.
Full disclosure: it wasn't entirely cold turkey. I work in marketing. I am a writer and have a presence to maintain on social media and, let's be honest, who isn't online for at least some of the day?
With that in mind I bought a second hand iPad mini, that doesn't have 4G. To use it on the internet I have to be in a Wi-Fi zone. And I replaced my iPhone SE with a Nokia 3310 with 3G.
We're a couple of months down the line now. Here's where I'm at...
I've gone from being an instant replier of texts and emails to someone who may as well be living on the moon. I do reply. Sometimes. Sometimes I even reply the same day. But guess what the world hasn't stopped turning. Who knew?
I hate my phone. Nothing figurative about it. I have actual feelings of hate. It takes me 10 minutes to text a simple three word reply and the damn thing has no memory. I don't think I even knew a phone needed memory to store text messages. Turns out, it does. And mine is lacking. I now have to spend time deleting messages.
I now call people. I actually have no idea how I started life as a pre-internet news reporter because for the last few years I have developed a plethora of habits all designed to make it easy for me to avoid actually speaking with actual people. If I can converse via the medium of digital words, I will. No longer. While I am finding myself "borrowing" Wi-Fi in all manner of irreverent places (the supermarket car park: if I park close enough to the wall next to the cafe I can pinch the signal) so I can use my iMessage function on my iPad, I am actually now more inclined to pick up the phone and make a call. I would say hundreds of percent more likely. In this respect, it has actually been life changing.
Social media is now part of my life not the thing my life revolves around. That sounds dramatic, and to admit such a thing stings because it implies a lack of good parenting in the process, which may be accurate. But I would go as far as to say I was dependent, if not addicted, to scrolling through other people's highlight reels. Now, if there's time, I look. And if I have a reason to, I post. Job done. Life goes on. Again, who knew?
My life now largely remains undocumented. My children are probably most grateful for this one. For some reason the dawning of Instagram made my inner self believe my entire life was the subject of a documentary. Every detail, happening, dull moment, was worth a pic, a video and a quirky comment. How did we become these people who honestly believe a home made latte is worth not only capturing on film but sharing it with the world? I don't know how it happened, but it did, but now it's deceased. The iPad is too big to lug around. The phone incapable of capturing anything worth sharing.
Addiction is more than just about the gadget. Truthfully? I'm still spending way too much time on my iPad but I have been known, now, to be without my phone or my tablet for more than 24 hours now. Never did such a thing occur in the previous decade. What have I learned, therefore? It takes more than an apple screentime upgrade to stop someone overusing their digital device. It takes good old fashioned discipline. But for good measure can I say... a good old fashioned phone does help.
Will I ever get the smartphone back? We'll see. At the moment I can manage my life and my job without it. And if whatsapp ever come up with a way to have it on a tablet, I'm confident I will never go back.
Am I less digitally distracted? I believe I am.
Can I now bring order to the habits of my children without the stink of hypocrisy? Yes again.
Am I enjoying life without iPhone? Yes. And, well, not always.
In the mean time, I'll be the lady marvelling at how easy it is to put back together a Nokia... after throwing it on the floor in anger because it still won't remember that my name is Lindsay not Linesax. What the hell is a Linesax anyway?