Friday 7 February 2020

How to Break up with your Mobile Phone by Catherine Price - book review

How to break up with your mobile phone book review

Recently I've been reading How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price (affiliate link), and it struck such a chord with me that I thought I'd share my thoughts about the book here.

I've written many times about my relationship with my phone, taking part in Scroll Free September and so on, but it was reading this book that really made me understand how addictive smartphones can be, how they are designed to keep you scrolling, and the impact that this has on your life and your relationships with those around you.

The slim book is divided into two halves - The Wake Up and The Break Up. The first half of the book is fully designed to shock and scare you. Very early on you are encouraged to take the Smartphone Compulsion Test, 15 questions about your smartphone usage. You can take the test for yourself here - Smartphone Compulsion Test. As the author agrees, it's a dramatic test, and the vast majority of people will answer more than 8 questions with a 'Yes' and discover that they qualify for psychiatric evaluation. But it doesn't mean that it's not useful in making you think about how you use your phone.

The Wake Up section continues by discussing topics such as how phones are designed to addict us and the tricks that are used by app developers to do so, how your phone affects your attention span, messes with your memory, causes stress and anxiety. It's a frightening read, as it's designed to be, and it definitely gave me plenty to think about. My children are getting to the age when they will be getting phones soon, and I'm going to make them read this section before they get one!

The second half of the book - The Break Up - is a 30 day guided plan to create a new relationship with your phone, and I followed it pretty closely all the way through. It's a simple plan to follow, and it doesn't require much of a time investment each day. In fact I had already taken some of the actions required, like turning off notifications and using a tracking app.

The plan eases you in very gently, and it really encourages you to think about your relationship with your phone. For example, what you love about your phone and what you don't love, what changes do you notice in yourself when you spend a lot of time on your phone, and thinking about why you are reaching for your phone at certain points during the day or when you are experiencing various emotions.

One of the key parts of the plan is to have a Trial Separation, a full 24 hours away from your phone. I must admit that this is something that I didn't do. It fell over a weekend when we were very busy with my son's birthday treat out, and it wasn't possible for me to turn my phone off completely. I would feel very anxious without access to my phone at any time in case of a family emergency. But I made sure to only use the phone for calls and messages.

I found the plan a lot easier to follow than I thought that I would. I do use my phone for many useful things throughout the day - my shopping list, camera, the FitBit app and so on - but I was astonished to find how much I noticed the time that I wasn't spending on my phone.

The biggest single thing that worked for me - and for many others according to the case studies in the book - was deleting the social media and news apps from my phone. When I knew that there was nothing on the phone that I could scroll through mindlessly, the urge to check it faded completely.

To my surprise, the days suddenly began to feel so much longer. I had plenty of time to carry out my daily tasks, and one thing that really picked up was my reading. I've read an astonishing number of books so far this year! And I've been able to concentrate on them fully, no reading a few pages and then picking up my phone to see what's new. I've also been working on my craft projects, and spending more time one on one with the children, particularly at bedtime.

In addition, I discovered that although I spend a fair bit of time at my computer as part of my work, the urge to check Facebook had faded even though I had put no restrictions on my use of social media from the PC. I had got into the habit of opening up another window to check social media when I got bored with what I was doing, but I found that I no longer needed to or wanted to.

Having completed the 30 day programme I really do feel that my relationship with my phone has changed incredibly. It's not that I'm having to concentrate on not using my phone, I just don't feel the urge to pick it up as much as I used to and I'm perfectly content to leave it in another room where I can't see it. I'm really hoping that I can keep it up, because I think that it would be very easy to slip back into old habits. So I'm recommending this book to everyone, and I'm keeping it handy by my desk to act as a reminder to continue being aware of my phone usage!

If you are concerned that you may be spending too much time on your phone and are missing out on the real world, or you are concerned for someone else in your life, I would absolutely recommend giving this book a read. 

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