Saturday, February 25, 2017

Not Alone

Our family has a rule that when we’re apart we have to check in with each other once every 24 hours no matter where in the world we are. I had given up my smartphone at Christmas, so my upcoming travel means I have to reengage with the online world in the days ahead.

Before I blindly resumed where I left off in 2016, I asked my friends and family for advice, both online and off. I knew other people who had gone on digital detoxes and social media diets/fasts, I asked them what they had experienced and what worked for them. I've received app suggestions like AppDetox and Moment. I got links to Time Well Spent, and articles from all over about how Smartphones are really stressing Americans Out  and how I should Quit Social Media. Your job may depend on it. I had to laugh out loud at the XKCD cartoon captioned

"Wanna go for a walk?"
"Sure, just need to grab my device that feeds me a 24/7 stream of opinions, context-free scary world news, and random emotional stimuli. Plus a spare battery so the feed won't be interrupted" 

Misery loves company, so I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one searching for a better way. I finally ended up taking a friend's advice and tweaked it for my own purposes:   
I disable all notifications except text messages. I also disable notifications for some "chatty" text message groups. That means no Facebook notifications, no Snapchat notifications, no Email notifications (and no automatic email checking). Nothing. If I want to check an account, I do so manually by launching & forcing a refresh. My phone rarely lights up, and I find I don't reach for it terribly often anymore. Of course, if you lack the discipline to keep yourself from polling constantly, none of this will help much. Oh - it also really helps battery life so your phone is ready for those photos... :)

I am keeping my dual sim 10 key phone, but only leaving my primary SIM in that phone. My smartphone has my secondary SIM and I am using it primarily for data to my laptop. In a year or so when I'm ready for a new device I'll probably move to a dual SIM smartphone. I also turned off every single notification I could find, and as my phone finds new ways to blink and buzz at me I research new ways to turn off the notifications. Telephone calls can go through on either device, but if I am running out for a quick errand I'm more likely to grab the dumb phone before I grab the smart phone. The smartphone doesn't have facebook, twitter, or instagram installed. It also doesn't have any shortcuts on the home screen except for my address book, calendar, camera, and phone. I can text with the 10 key keypad, but it's a pain, so other than my stock replies I don't text from that phone. 

As for the smartphone, for work I installed Pages Manager from Facebook as well as Messenger, but all notifications are turned off. I can see notifications if I click on the apps portion of my screen, but they don't jump out at me. I'm probably going to install facebook and twitter on this upcoming trip, but my plan is to uninstall them once I get back. 

What's the single biggest change? I've given myself permission to not check my phone compulsively. The rest is just details. 

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