getting smarter with a “dumber” phone

Though I can’t fathom going back to a life without turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation and text messaging, I do long for a life free of cell phone dependence. I started to think about this a few weeks ago, when I took my debate team out to BonChon for a tournament celebration. After the waiter took the order, every single kid but one took his/her phone out, playing games or texting. One kid even had a laptop out to play a game. I encouraged the students closest to me to converse (obviously we couldn’t have a 25-person conversation as an entire debate team) and felt like a 1990’s parent dealing with kids on GameBoys. It saddened me even more in particular because the students are extremely close friends–and cell phone dependence still trumped conversation. Peering around the T yields similar results–almost every single person is buried in their Facebook news feeds, trying to beat level 125 of Candy Crush, or (now that there is extended cell service) bellowing into their cell phones. All of this is inspiring me to “single-task” and make 2014 the year of the smarter yet “dumber” phone.

No More Work Email After Work
When we switched to and Google Apps (instead of the Outlook Webmail and shared drive that we could only access from school), I decided to remove the email from the Mailbox app on my phone. I used to think that having instant access to my work email would make me more efficient. However, it made me more rageful and ironically more inefficient. Earlier this year, I stopped responding to work emails after early evening–that was big progress from my previous habit of checking work emails until about 11:00 p.m. and then checking it again before work. I stopped because I didn’t want coworkers to *expect* me to be responding at all hours of the day. A harangue from a coworker who’d sent a late-night email and was wondering why I hadn’t responded (at 7:30 a.m.!) gave me a huge reality check about the unhealthy way that I was enslaving myself to email and setting up unhealthy expectations by others. I still had my work email on my phone though, and because Mailbox collects multiple accounts into one inbox, I’d see the work emails when I’d check my personal accounts. Seeing a stressful work email late at night would make me upset and then cause unhappy sleep. Now that I don’t have the work email connected anymore, I work harder to make sure I tie up loose ends before I leave work and then check only after I teach my first two classes of the day.

No More Mindless Apps
Yet when one app goes away, another takes its place with a vengeance. My compulsive checking habit wasn’t gone with the work email, so I’d read my Facebook newsfeed and look up to realize that I’d just wasted an hour and a half reading listicles, perusing baby pictures, and liking statuses. I’m removing the Facebook app from my phone.

Same goes for the:
1) Compulsive check-ins on Foursquare and Yelp. Being the mayor or duchess of a place just means I spend way too much money there. Additionally, when I realized that I could be located easily by patterns such as Davis Square –> Park Street –> Pure Barre –> SBUX –> school, I stopped checking in.
2) Playing games obsessively. First it was Words with Friends. Then it became Scramble with Friends. Then it became Candy Crush. I realized that I wasn’t making room for actual fun things and being present in my life–I practically needed an intervention for my compulsive “playing under the covers like a little kid with a Nancy Drew mystery and a flashlight” and for my taking the 87 bus from Davis Square home instead of walking so that I’d have a few more minutes to play Candy Crush.

Here’s to phoning smarter in 2014!


  • Jess

    I am so bad with not checking emails! I need to slowly work my way to it. I am lucky that I don’t really like a ton of the mindless apps. I can’t get myself off facebook though! So hard! Maybe you will be my inspiration if I see it goes well for you! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers