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I’m Breaking Up with My Toxic Partner, My Phone, and You Should Too

“It’s really not me, it’s you.”

These are the lines I uttered to my partner as I decided it was time that we need a break. All the moments that we shared from vacations and trips to lazy Sundays turned into lazy Mondays, then Tuesdays and so forth. My issue was that they weren’t propelling me to be the best version of myself. If anything, they were holding me back. They were clingy and needy, constantly begging for my attention. If I was trying to do work, they would stop me in my tracks by poking at me and reminding me they were there. They were incessant and distracting in my life. They were my phone.

So yes, this is not your ordinary breakup, and like any toxic couple, we probably will be getting back together, just on different terms this next time around. After reading Catherine Price’s book How to Break Up with Your Phone, I realized the hold that this little device held in my life.

I grew up in the age of technology; it is all I have ever known. I remember getting my first phone at the ripe young age of eight. Yes, eight! I begged and begged my parents for it and although they were quite reluctant, my continual efforts prevailed and on Christmas morning that year, I found my new phone boxed up and wrapped for my delight.

Since then, the continual craving for technology has yet to cease, and considering how integral it has become in society, I do not think it will be leaving anytime soon. For those of us who have grown up in the digital age, the continual stream of new apps or websites set to distract us has never ended. We have moved through the years from one platform to the other, swiftly grazing through MySpace, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Musical.ly, to today’s modern-day energy vampire, TikTok. These apps continue to come and go, just like our attention spans.

Now if you are wondering, what is the issue? This is where I’ll dive into my discoveries and why it’s become clear that technology is taking over our lives. It is easy to get caught up in the mindless stream. One TikTok can turn into two, then ten and suddenly you have been scrolling for hours on end. Where did all the time go? The problem lies within the fact there are no sensors to tell us when to stop scrolling. We hypothetically can continue for an infinite amount of time and software companies know this. There are hundreds of people working to keep your attention.

Taylor Swift via TikTok

As I read Price’s book, I learned why this can be so problematic. While it may seem harmless scrolling for that long, in the long term, it can affect our memory. The constant stimulation on these apps is always feeding us new information. This, in turn, makes the amount of time we can stay focused on one task or item shorter and shorter. This constant stream also affects our dopamine receptors. It triggers these feel-good receptors every time we see a new post or watch a new video, but by setting it off so frequently, it is rewiring our brains to crave this feeling. Finding it so accessible is causing a phone addiction of sorts.

This is exactly what these apps and phone companies want because our attention means money. These apps want us to be glued and non-wavering, because every minute spent on the app is a new opportunity to advertise to a mass market. Every few Instagram posts, there is a new ad popping up, and there is now even a shopping tag on the app. These companies are preying on our usage, and it is affecting the health of this generation.

While it would be best to swear out these apps or change their layout completely, I know this is not the option for many, including myself. So, since it cannot be removed altogether, it has become pertinent to me that I need to change my relationship with my phone and these apps. I want to be more present in the life going on around me and I want to stop getting swallowed into the hole that is my phone.

So, I challenge you to take these steps with me and engage in some of Price’s tips from her book How to Break Up with Your Phone. The overall goal is not to completely cut out your phone, but to become more mindful of when and more specifically why you are using it. It is easy to get swept away with the stream of media, but these activities will help turn it into a less common occurrence.

It all starts with being mindful. As I mentioned earlier, my goals at the end of this are to stop pulling out my phone any time I don’t know what else to do and to limit my time scrolling. Take a minute to specify your goals either by writing them down somewhere or making a mental note of what you hope to change.

The next step is to analyze your current relationship with your phone. Check your screen time and how much time you spend on each app. I’ll be the first to admit my screen time is much higher than I would like it, but that is okay! Whatever you are at right now is your starting point. From here you can work on lowering it a little each day. Now I am not saying to cut the phone out altogether, but quite the opposite. As Price discusses, it is good to give in to your cravings. If you feel the urge to go on your phone, do it, but assess why you are doing it? What are you hoping to accomplish? Is there an actual task that needs to be completed, or are you looking for something to keep distracted? Knowing your intention and the feeling you get after you do pick up your phone is key.

As you become more in tune with your usage, you will naturally become more mindful of when and why you are picking up your phone. Once this is more clear, you can start setting personal boundaries for yourself. It’ll be easier to recognize you do not need to be on Snapchat clicking through everyone’s stories, or watching five Youtube videos in a row. Now that you know why you are grabbing your phone, try to begin replacing time spent on your phone with other activities such as taking a walk or cooking a meal.

However, at the end of the day, do not be discouraged if you fall back into the occasional old habits! Like any breakup, this is no easy one. They will try to remain in contact, and they will try to gaslight you to stay with them. That being said, if and when you find yourself back mindlessly scrolling, just stand back up and straighten into old, positive habits. It is all about being mindful of your usage and you have to remember that progress is not always linear. So, let’s grab our tissues and Taylor Swift albums and brace for this breakup together.

Hi :) My name is Jade and I am a second year at UCLA! I am a double major in communications and cognitive science and I am super excited to be apart of Her Campus
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