A short story about overcoming my addiction to the meaninglessness of social media and smart phones.
It’s early in the morning, probably around 7 because it’s still quite dark outside. I’m reading a book and trying to relax a bit before another busy day, my phone is resting on the table not too far away from me, but still out of reach. The book is about stoicism and a lot of topics in it are about having control over our lives.
“Buzzz, buzzz!” The phone suddenly comes to life with vibrating sounds and light emitting from the screen that turns on. As it does, it slightly illuminates the dark room with its blueish glow.
A wave of emotions hits me. Excitement, mixed with a bit of fear and anticipation—is it someone who needs my help? Someone from my subscribers telling me about their story? Is it someone sending me feedback about my book? I jump from my armchair and frantically rush to press the button to turn the screen back on. The moments seem like minutes before I finally get to see what the notifications is. It’s Twitter. “Rob White just liked a photo by Hung Lee…” What?! Who the fuck are these people and why the fuck should I care? You disturbed my morning routine, made me get up from the chair, destroyed my focus, made me feel anxious and interrupted me while reading the book and this is what I get in return?!
I used to take my phone everywhere with me—always in my side pocket. I would jump on it like a starved lion jumps on a fresh piece of meat whenever it buzzed. I would check in on it even when it didn’t buzz. Shit, sometimes I would even check it a couple of times in a single minute. I always expected something important and meaningful to show up on that screen but most of the time, the screen was either full of junk or worse—empty. When it was empty I would go on and unlock the phone and start checking in on every app that I commonly used. There’s gotta be something there but the notification probably didn’t come through, is what I was thinking.
I had been doing that for years and never saw anything wrong with it but then one day it hit me. I looked at myself from the third person. Jumping from whatever I was doing just to check the phone. Checking in even when it didn’t buzz. I was pathetic. Like a junkie, dependant on that dopamine rush but only to be let down every time. Like a mouse in an experiment not knowing what the sound brings, food or an electric shock. Like the people in casinos, putting the coins into the machine and pulling the lever always expecting that this time it will really be their time. This time they’ll hit the jackpot and become rich. But they never do. I wasn’t any better, I was a buzz junkie. Hooked to the meaninglessness of social media. How could I have been tricked into becoming such a fool? Why did I allow these corporations to come in and disrupt my personal life like that? Why did I allow to feel nervous and agitated all the time because of this shit? It brings no value to me. Absolutely zero. So why keep doing it? At that moment, I found it ironic that I had been reading a book about stoicism and having control over my life for almost a year but only realised that so late. I had very little control over my life and I needed to do something about it.
Breaking a habit
And I did, I disabled all notifications except messages. I never had the Facebook app on my phone and now it was time to delete a few more. I always used the ‘Do not disturb’ mode that comes with iOS and set it from 10 pm to 7 am. I go to sleep at 10 in the evening and get up at 6 in the morning so that meant I only had one hour of distraction-free time. That’s crazy, why would I allow meaningless shit to agitate me right before I go to sleep? Why would I want to start my day with this meaningless shit? I changed the ‘Do not disturb’ mode to start at 8 pm and end at 9 am. Now nobody can disturb and agitate me two hours before I go to sleep and 3 hours after I wake up. This had a tremendous effect on not feeling anxious all the time. I feel more relaxed in general, I don’t look for meaningless distractions, I can focus.
It took some time to get used to these changes. Occasionally, I still felt the urge to check on my phone and I had to make a conscious decision to stop myself from doing it. It needs to be a conscious decision until we get used to it, it’s the only way to rewire our brain. I still get that urge sometimes when I glance at my phone lying somewhere, just waiting for me to turn the screen on and see what cool things it has in store for me. Most times I manage to resist the urge, sometimes I give in. It takes a long time to break a habit. But breaking a bad habit is liberating and worth the effort. I don’t feel as anxious and constantly agitated anymore. I feel I finally have peace of mind.
It’s easy to feel sorry for people that are hooked on drugs… but aren’t we all hooked on something? It can be as innocent as sugar and coffee or something more destructive—cigarettes, social media… How do you use your phone? What is your relationship with social media like? Comment bellow because I’d love to hear your stories.
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