After what I thought was several minutes. I looked up and realised I was back where I’d started.
Yep, the train had reached the end of the line, turned around and started going back the other way, and I hadn’t even noticed because I was so busy scrolling through Instagram.
I’m not alone in my tech addiction. A recent study revealed that young adults in the UK spend an average of five hours a day glued to their phones – that’s a third of their waking lives.*
And then there’s disturbed sleep, short attention spans, poor memory, “tech neck” and anxiety to contend with.
As someone who needs a diary so I won’t forget plans – and who’s had therapy for anxiety in the past – I think I tick most of those boxes.
However, my salvation may come in the form of a new book by Catherine Price called How To Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan To Take Back Your Life.
It promises to wean you off slowly over the course of a month, leaving you with a healthy, functional relationship with your handset. Wish me luck with my conscious uncoupling…
DAY 1: DOWNLOAD A TRACKING APP
Rather than go cold turkey, the first step is to download Moment, an app that tracks screen time.
As usual, I have a little scroll in bed before I get up and during my commute, WhatsApping at my desk and checking social media at lunch.
I don’t call anyone, yet I still clock up two hours 40 minutes – and I’ve picked my phone up more than 50 times.
I feel physically sick at the hours I’ve wasted and can’t stop thinking: “You’ll never get that time back.”
DAY 3: START PAYING ATTENTION
Week one is all about mindfulness – being conscious of why you’re reaching for your phone and how you feel once you’ve satisfied that craving.
I realise that every time I’m waiting for something – a train, a lift – I use it as a distraction, and I pick it up at work when I need a mental break.
That night I go for dinner with friends, and even while everyone else habitually checks their phones.
Mine stays firmly in my bag, although the compulsion to look at it feels like an itch I really need to scratch.
DAY 5: DELETE SOCIAL MEDIA
I’ve been dreading this step, but I do it quickly, like ripping off a plaster.
It’s not a complete ban – I can still access my accounts from a web browser, but it’s not very user-friendly so I’m not as tempted.
I end up having one of the most productive Saturdays in ages, tackling life admin, working on the novel I’m writing, doing a food shop and cooking with my husband Andy, 27, a journalist.
By bedtime I feel clear-headed and read a book before I go to sleep. Usually I’d spend ages scrolling through friends’ feeds or wait obsessively for responses to my posts (I’ve been known to delete Insta pics and Twitter updates if they receive below-par likes.)
But with nowhere to post anything, I definitely feel less stressed.
DAY 9: THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING APPS
Like feng shui for my home screen, I put all my apps in folders so the icons don’t tempt me.
I also turn off notifications, which is scary: what if there’s an emergency? But now my phone’s not constantly lighting up, I’m much more absorbed in everyday life, from getting on with work to simply walking down the street.
I still check my phone – 38 times today, eek! – but with nothing to see on my lock screen, I put it down straight away.
My brother Sam, 25, lives four doors down, and instead of WhatsApping him from the sofa as usual, I pop round after work for an IRL catch-up.
DAY 14: STOP PHUBBING
Ever noticed how often people are on their phones? Because it’s All. The. Time.
A quick glance around my train shows every single person hunched over their handsets.
At home, instead of concentrating on the TV show we’re watching, Andy’s face is bathed in the glow of his inbox.
I suggest he breaks up with his phone, too. “I need it for work,” he insists, and I wonder how many employees are now available every waking hour instead of the eight they’re paid for.
Thankfully, Andy concedes that our bedroom can be a no-screen zone, and we both sleep better, even using an old-school alarm clock.
DAY 20: TRIAL SEPARATION
I have to leave my phone in a drawer for 24 hours. Gulp. It’s Saturday, and as soon as I wake I make plans with friends, arranging a time and place to meet later. Leaving the house, I feel twitchy.
What if the plans change? When my mate buzzes me into her flat, I’m flooded with relief.
We go for brunch, then head to the cinema. I notice my behaviour is rubbing off on my friends, too, because they’re on their phones less than usual. Heading home just after midnight, however, I feel vulnerable.
What if someone attacks me and I can’t call for help? But without my phone on display, I’m probably less of a target. The next morning, I turn my phone on, excited to see what I’ve missed.
It turns out quite a lot – my friend has texted to say she’s pregnant. I call her straight away to scream down the line. See, they are useful for something.
DAY 26: CHECK YOUR CHECKING
I feel like I’ve regressed slightly this week, checking social media more than usual through my browser.
Maybe I’m making up for the day’s worth of posts I missed – although I’m still totalling under an hour a day (my PB is 40 minutes).
The book’s author, Catherine, encourages you to consider the best thing that could happen as a result of your checking.
What’s the best email you could receive, or emotion you could experience? Chances are we’re not going to get that message offering us that dream job, yet we still chase that high.
Every time I feel tempted to check, I ask myself what else I can do instead, whether it’s making a cup of tea or chatting with a colleague.
DAY 30: THE VERDICT
After four weeks, I feel like a new woman. I’ve read four books, finished another draft of my novel and spent quality time with my husband, friends and family.
I feel so much more zen. I’m no longer afraid to turn my phone off, and I’ve realised how much I sought validation through social media, so I’m not going to bother reinstalling the apps or turning my notifications back on.
If you need me, call me.
It’s been nice knowing you, iPhone, but I’m loving the single life too much to come crawling back.
Illustration: Getty Images
- How To Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan To Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price (£12.99, Trapeze) is out now.
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