do this: unplug

A few posts ago I mentioned my desire to detach myself from my iPhone, and a few of you commented how you have felt the need to do it, too, but it is SO HARD. Like, much harder than one might think. Sometimes I tell myself, “Okay, Bethany, put your phone down and just live this moment.” And I do, for about a minute. Then, through some kind of dark magic, my phone is back in my hand. How??

It’s called addiction, my friends. I’d venture a guess that many or most of us are much more addicted to our electronic devices than we would like. Granted, I’m not on my phone all the time. It’s usually just in moments when I’m not doing anything else but, say, eating lunch on my own or watching Allie play and bounce in her jumperoo. Moments where a healthy human brain would cherish the mental break and take the opportunity to process thoughts, ideas, and dreams.

But of course there are also the moments when I’m with other people and we’re all on our phones. All for very valid reasons, of course! Like checking the price online for an item in the store, or looking up an answer to a question someone has (things like what a map of pangaea looks like or Which Hunger Games Character Are You?, both recent items in my iPhone browser history).

I once read an article (that I can’t find for the life of me) about the condition from which most people with internet access suffer: seeking. We get high off of consuming information—whether it be Facebook statuses, viral YouTube videos, random captioned pictures of cats… Let me just say I believe there is tons of really good content on the internet. Uplifting, inspiring stuff. But sometimes we interrupt actually living our lives to chase down the information high. It’s a fine line, and honestly I have no idea where that line is, but I usually know when I’ve crossed it.

Anyway, we have become dependent on our phones (or just the internet in general) for either information or entertainment or both, and I just feel this need to take a step back and give my brain a chance to think for itself. I typically just grab my phone without even thinking, scroll through my Instagram feed, check Facebook, read emails, etc. Half (or more) of the time I have absolutely no specific purpose for picking up my phone. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. Or at least get curbed dramatically. It was never like this before I had a smart phone! I miss my old Nokia with no functions other than calling and texting.

So, with this is mind, I am sitting here and thinking about specific things we can do to unplug. I am under no delusions that this will be a lasting thing, but in those moments when you realize you need to put the phone down but need, if you will, a sober companion, here are some ideas. And this list is totally for me, too. These are super basic, but I feel that in moments like these we just need something fun and interesting to latch onto.

When you are sitting there with nothing particular to do and are tempted to grab your phone

  1. Read one chapter of an actual book (BuzzFeed articles don’t count).
  2. If there is a person you know nearby, talk to them. (Novel idea, I know.) Ask random hypothetical questions just for fun. If the person nearby is, say, an infant, write him/her a note, stick it in an envelope, and label it: Open in 2025. Or something.
  3. Or in general, grab a piece of paper and write a letter to a sibling, a friend, an old high school teacher, anyone. You don’t even have to send it (though I’m sure the person would appreciate it if you did). Snail mail is totally fun.
  4. If you play an instrument, go play it. If not, just turn on your favorite song and listen. And think about stuff.
  5. Do the multiplication tables in your head.
  6. Start a daily scrapbook. If you want, just take one picture from your day and add a caption.
  7. Dig out your old yearbooks and read through the messages. I just discovered all my high school yearbooks the other day, and holy throwback.
  8. Try to do any of the following: a handstand, the splits, or a cartwheel.
  9. Go organize all your books, clothes, or beauty products according to color. If you are into that sort of thing.
  10. Play MASH.

And for those times where you are doing actual things with actual people, you may find yourself in this situation:

When confronted with a question the internet could answer

  1. Stop and ask yourself two questions: (A) Can I or anyone I can reach right now answer this question with a little bit of thinking? (B) Does it really matter that much?
  2. If the answer to both A and B is yes, either figure it out yourself or ask the person who knows the answer. In this case, using your phone to call someone is okay, because it involves actual human interaction!
  3. If the answer to either A or B is no, grab a piece of paper, write down your question, and save it for another time. Just the act of waiting to get the information gives your mind a break and a chance to process thoughts on its own.

OVERALL IDEA: In any situation, when tempted to grab your phone, think back to that time long, long ago, before cell phones. Think what you would have done in this moment. And do it.

So anyway, try to get past the inherent irony of these ideas coming to you via a post on the internet, and best of luck with your own unplugging efforts! And please oh please add to these lists if you have any specific ideas!


19 thoughts on “do this: unplug

  1. You’re not the only one, sister. I am constantly browsing my phone with no actual purpose! I know I need to stop, but I’m starting small. For now, my goal is to not use my phone while I’m laying in bed at night or before getting up in the morning. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s making a difference! I’m actually reading real books and getting more sleep at night. Good luck to you!

    • That is a really good idea. Baby steps. I can do that. And it’s probably better for falling asleep because being on the iPhone stimulates you before bedtime. I think I’m going to try this.

  2. Our family is trying to get more intentional about this. We are going to instate a no electronics rule from 5-7 p.m. on weekdays. It really is addiction and my husband and I are just as guilty!

  3. I don’t have a smart phone… I get really annoyed when I need to forward an email from my gmail to work (and gmail is blocked at work) and I’m like UGH if I JUST had a smart phone. I’d love to be apart of the instagram would – I’d probably be able to capture more moments with my phone. BUT – I see so many people (family members included) GLUED to their phone and it’s annoying. Like hello we’re right here, things are happening in the real world in front of you! And for that, I will not get a smart phone, I will use my old flip phone for texting and calling only… I’ve made it this far right?

    • Oh how I envy you!! I have thought many times that I should get rid of my smart phone, but at this point the withdrawals would be insane. Stick with the flip phone!! Maybe one day I’ll have the strength to do it, too!

  4. This is great! I have started unplugging every day from 4-7pm, and that means every sort of electronic distraction, and even non electronic. I procrastinate too much with this stuff, so when I say I will JUST lay with my kids or JUST do housework with no distractions I am happier. It works!

  5. It’s definitely an addiction, that iPhone. I honestly don’t even know WHY I reach for it half the time I do. It’s just this weird connection that we all have. Heck, if it’s not in my hand when I’m heading to work, I feel like something’s missing (keep in mind, this is on transit, not driving).

    I love being able to unplug every now and again, but it can be tough!

    xo Jackie
    Something About That

  6. I love this! And yes, I’m so addicted. I think for me it’s because I crave that adult interaction during the day so I check my instagram, email to see if I got blog comments, and etc. Those are awesome goals!

  7. I need to work on this. I’m a writer and photographer. Most of my work is done on the computer and then for some reason, I also spend my free time on the computer or on my phone.

  8. First of all, MASH! I love MASH!

    Also, I was thinking that once our children are old enough to start asking questions about the world (that we don’t know the answers to), the lure of the iPhone will be even greater!

    • It’s true! That’s why we have to just write down their questions and answer them later. I sometimes wonder if our kids will be as addicted as we are since they’ll grow up around smart phones.

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