Why My Phone Makes Me Feel Old-Fashioned (And Why I Like It That Way)

The other day, I wrote this post and then I did what I usually do on a Post Day: I refreshed Facebook and Google Analytics incessantly to see what people thought and how many readers there had, in fact, been.

The numbers were small.  Surprisingly small.  Strangely small.  It was unusual, I kept telling myself, my numbers are usually five, six, seven times higher than this.  I refreshed, looking for the glitch.  I clicked through, seeing if the glitch had been worked out.

It hadn't, of course, because there was no glitch.  It was just a small day on this little blog.

Which in theory is just fine, because I write here simply to get things out, not because I need 20,000 people to read each post.

But let's not fool ourselves. The bigger the number, the more comments, the more likes and shares and "me, too!"s a post gets, the better I feel.  

And so when the number was tiny, I felt equally small.  At the end of that day, I'd had enough.  I've logged enough hours of therapy and am innately smart enough to realize when I'm being foolish.  And deriving your sense of self-worth from numbers is indeed foolishness.

So I installed StayFocsed again.  The timer is set for ten minutes per day - enough time to allow me to post a new blog post if there is one, and not nearly enough time to get lost in accidental procrastination.

Then I tackled my cell phone.  Before, I'd had pink, patterned wallpapers - my phone looked like a toy, and I used it like one.  I replaced the lock screen with an arty shot of my kids, and the main wallpaper with a sentimental image from Hope & Olive - the bar stool I was sitting in when I was in labor with my daughter.  Both new images are darker and less visually stimulating.  I deleted the Facebook app, which helped for a day, until I just started checking the site via the internet.  Once I realized that my self-control really was that limited, I Googled "How To Block Facebook On My iPhone" and followed the instructions.  Now, I can't connect to Facebook at all via my phone, unless I enter a special password.  I'm confident that even my pride would be tested if I began to enter the password.  I deleted the Analytics app, which had become the replacement constant-refresh once Facebook was gone, and also Twitter, which I barely use.  Instagram is the lone survivor, and for now, that feels okay.  I love the quick, often-beautiful visual entrances into my friend's lives, and love offering that door into my life, too.  

I've turned my phone and my laptop into machines again.  I've taken away distraction.  I've eliminated the urge to hide in the bathroom, scrolling.  Instead, I've called some people, I've texted some people, and I've listened to This American Life.  And while I realize it's likely that many of you have much more self-control than me and can manage your social media existences with less dramatic displays, I also know that I wasn't the only one checking my phone at red lights, while pumping gas, or when a friend ran to the bathroom at the coffee shop.  Our middle moments - the ones in between what we're really doing, the moments that used to be free for new ideas or feelings or simply quiet - have been snatched away by clean lines, sleek design, and red notification bubbles

Today, as I drove up into the hills to take my tired kids and our antsy dog on a walk in the woods, I thought, "Is this it?  Without all of that, isn't this a bit mundane?"  Ludicrous, yes, completely.

But in a connected, on-call world, choosing to stay present feels almost old-fashioned, a bit boring even, especially while in the detox period.  I'm okay with the fact that, for now, at this beginning, a less-connected life feels jarring.  I wonder what I'm missing out on, and am stunned by how easily and seamlessly the Social Media Train chugs on when we step off and onto the platform; it's like you were never there.

Because, of course, you weren't.

You were right here, where you are, all along.

Tonight, I hopped on for a few of my ten minutes and saw that a wise friend had posted this video.  It's a real representation about the truth of what we miss when our heads are down.

"Look up," I'll remind myself.

Because our real lives are in 3-D, friends.