Recently, research has shown that the average American spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphones each day. This translates to about 20 hours a week, 86 hours a month, and a whopping 1026 hours a year. And this is one of the more conservative estimates I have found! Some estimates have users spending over four hours a day on their
Just for a moment, think about what could have been done with just a few of those 1026 hours. A visit to a parent’s house, a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend, a hike in the woods, a game of Chutes and Ladders with your kids.“Swimming with Smartphones”via GIPHY
Smartphones are great — we can keep in touch with others, send a quick text to say hello, figure out how the hell to get to Uncle Ned’s house. But, ultimately, and more and more profusely, they are time snatchers.
In my younger days, before minimalism, before having a better concept of personal finance, before kids, (Remember those days? Full nights of sleep, lazy Saturday afternoons, being able to watch an entire movie uninterrupted, ahhh those were the days) I was on the smartphone carousel along with everyone else. I had my shiny, new iPhone with 40 different apps. But then my oldest son, C, came along. As children grow up, they of course become more and more aware of the attention (or lack thereof) they are getting. C was no different.
My “Aha” Moment
The tipping point happened one afternoon when I was either on Facebook, or Words with Friends, or some other app and I looked up from my phone to realize that my son had just been calling my name for the past 30 seconds. C wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t even particularly upset. He just wanted some attention. But here I was, trying to make a word out of X, L, M, and O (can’t be done, by the way) instead of spending quality time with him.
I had chosen, in that moment and many other moments before then, my phone over my son.
That was the wake-up call, the aha moment. What was important to me as a parent? The next day, I went to Verizon and switched to my circa 2007 flip phone.
That was four years ago. Since then, I have been the butt of quite a few jokes as well as some strange looks when I flip it out in public. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) And that’s not even getting into the reactions I get from my students. At this point, they barely even remember that flip phones existed. But, while I’ve been poked fun at more times than I can count, just as many people have bee genuinely curious about my decision to break away from the technology addiction.
My Journey Back in Time
But do you know what hasn’t happened since then? I haven’t missed my son calling for me because I have been so distracted. I haven’t looked up from my phone and thought, “shit, where did all the time go?”. Facebook, Instagram, and all the other apps will have to wait. I spend more time playing with my kids, talking to my wife, and living in the moment, instead of living behind a screen.
Switching to a basic phone has some real negatives of which you should be aware. First, typing in T9 (remember that) is a bitch, especially when we’ve all been spoiled by a full keyboard on our screens. Second, I do miss being able to take pictures since I am now back to a 0.2 megapixel phone, although I don’t miss this as much as I thought I would. It’s kind of nice to live the moment instead of focusing on capturing the moment for a picture. Third, the video capability is gone and that hurts, especially when my kids do or say something memorable, funny, or cute. I just look at the positives as outweighing these three negatives.
So What Can I Do?
The goal of this post is not to demean or even to try to get someone to ditch their phone, but simply to make sure we are all mindful of our phone use.
Here are a few possibilities:
1. Leave your smartphones on silent/do not disturb.
2. Keep your smartphones on the counter or nightstand when you walk in the house, don’t carry it on you when in the house.
3. Turn off app notifications on your smartphones.
4. Turn off your smartphones for a few hours.
5. Motivate yourself by entering a contest, such as this one from Vitamin Water to win $100,000!
6. Try a 30-day challenge like this one from Jillian at Montana Money Adventures.
5. Flip it Up!
I would love to hear your opinions about phones in the comments section below. Could you ever imagine going back to a flip phone or is that out of the question?