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You Don’t Need to Break-up With Your Phone, But You Do Need a Break From It

Break out of a toxic relationship with your phone and transform it into a healthier relationship.

Mankind has witnessed far too many changes, innovations and upgrades in the 21st century, especially when it comes to innovation in the mobile phone industry. Everywhere you look, people are glued to their mobile phones — heads bowing to their screens and thumb muscles in labour. And everyone has a justification for using their phones. If you have to look up some information, you open Google to search. To complain against a government service, you open Twitter to vent. To stay connected with your circles, you open Facebook and WhatsApp to ‘like’ and chat. To share photos, you open Instagram and shower ‘hearts’. Then of course, your email account is always synced to your phone. Transfer of funds, paying utility bills, booking movie or flight tickets, even simple calculations are being carried out through our smartphones today. And the never-ending notifications! The mobile phone is enabling us to be competent but it’s also an addiction.

And I am guilty, too. While my wife has blamed me for it far too many times, I finally accepted this recently. A couple of weeks ago, while returning home from a meeting, I felt a sharp tear in the right side of my head. The pain was so excruciating that I thought I would fall unconscious. My body began to go numb. I immediately asked my driver to take me to the nearest hospital. Several tests and a couple of days later, I was told that my C5-C6 spinal segment (neck) was swollen. Apparently, I had been using my mobile phone too much and it had made my spinal segment to slightly lean forwards, suppressing my nerves in the region.

This had happened a few days after I had picked a book titled ‘How to Breakup with Your Phone’ by Catherine Price. And I thought, here I am, encouraging people to use technology, introducing communities in rural India to the mobile phone, and creating awareness about the various benefits that people can access through the internet; all this while having become a mobile patient. That’s when I started reading the book more carefully, and realised how apps are designed to force you to hit ‘refresh’ after ‘refresh’, keep you glued to your screens and make you spend hours on the device. Every notification demands an action, even if to be dismissed.

Having said that, if we were to throw away our phones today, there are high chances we’ll feel incapable of functioning. After all, the mobile phone enables us to do so much work in lesser time, and we’ve gotten used to that ease and access unlike generations before us.

So how do we get rid of our smartphone addiction? Well, Catherine shares quite a few sustainable ideas that can help us break out of a toxic relationship with our phone and transform it into a healthier relationship, so that we don’t suffer at the expense of our love (for the device). One of the advices is to ask yourself, every time you pick up your phone, whether it is a need, desire or habit that requires you to unlock your phone. Another is to fix certain hours in the day to check your phone. Set goals for other things you like — reading, cooking, running or gardening. Follow a trial-and-error method that suits you best. For the iPhone users who’ve updated devices with the latest iOS 12, the phone does that for you. It tells you your screen time and your “pick ups” per hour, telling you how many hours have been spent on social networking, reading, productivity, entertainment and other.

It is interesting to note that to get a million subscriptions, the telephone took 75 years, the Internet took seven years, Facebook took four, Instagram took two and Pokemon Go simply took a month! However, remember, you’re using the technology to serve your needs and not the other way round. You own the device and not the other way round. You’re supposed to be in control of your device and not the other way round. Most importantly, it is important to take care of your mental and physical being.

When a mobile becomes a part of your life, and it starts acting as a necessity, it is important that we, the people who made it relevant, do not become its slaves. Technology is evolving fast and spreading wide, and it comes with it banes and boons. Its consumption, however, is entirely dependent on its users.

Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chair of Manthan and mBillionth awards. He is member, advisory board, at Alliance for Affordable Internet and has co-authored NetCh@kra–15 Years of Internet in India and Internet Economy of India. He tweets @osamamanzar.

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