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  • Writer's pictureAnanya

Making the impossible choice.


For the modern literati; join me as I test out new strategies each week to reclaim my cognition and creativity from the digital ether. Aiming for a little more life and a little less screen.

It’s one of the most unsexy vices out there; phone addiction. Yet for its lack of visual or cultural appeal, it remains omnipresent in our lives. I could quote you stats from intelligent, reliable people who know more about this than you or I ever will, but I don't think I need to. We all know it. We all suffer from it to varying extents. We all (probably) have tried to kick it at some point. 

My first phone was a rose-gold SE in eighth grade which saved me from social oblivion. I’m now on its third incarnation and my relationship with this little glowing box has changed drastically.

For the past three months or so I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to kick my phone addiction. At its mildest, the addiction has shortened my attention span and chipped away at my productivity. At its worst, it’s made me über-anxious and, well, less alive. 

I just graduated (you’ll be hearing a lot about this). I’m entering a completely new chapter of life and I really want to be here for it. But being truly present has become increasingly hard to practice, and especially so with the state of the world right now. The political divisiveness. Erosion of democracy. Election year. Potential recession. And now I’m throwing in the task of maintaining long-term relationships with friends spread across the country and building a new life. 

I could go on and on and on. 

In the past, I’ve approached this (like most things before this last semester, actually) with a shrewd, capitalistic framework. I did it solely to increase my productivity as a worker. While I’m sure my productivity could benefit from less screen time, I’m realizing now that there’s much more to life than work and I’m interested in a more holistic exploration of the benefits. Worth noting also I just can’t do that anymore cause after four years of grinding, quite frankly, I’m exhausted

Now, I’m approaching the phone addiction thing not from a “how much can I pump out of myself” but rather trying out “how much can I take back?”, an approach inspired by a great podcast episode from the Ezra Klein Show. And for me that begins with the framing of the issue. 

Phone use is so casual that I think we forget battling this addiction is as close to a sisyphus-esque task as it gets. It’s nearly impossible. There’s a Bo Burnham quote I keep coming back to while thinking about this: 

“At the end of the day you have a choice, in your bed at night, between all of the information in the history of the world or the back of your eyelids.” - Bo Burnham, here

For all the doom and gloom I’ve spread in the past ~400 words, I do think that it is possible to kick this addiction, but I want to be very aware of the actual choice I’m making. All the information in the history of the world is a sickeningly compelling offer. Why would I get off my phone when I could go down another niche rabbit hole and learn more about another facet of the world? Learning has never been this accessible before! Or swipe through a sea of Hinge likes who I’ve already convinced myself will inevitably hurt my feelings or fall short of my expectations? It’s all about the potential. We’ve heard it a million times, so I’m not going to pretend like this idea is novel, but it really is true; in an increasingly disconnected world, our phones emerge as these sort of beacons of hope that promise us connection, love and acceptance. 

To be fair, I think that promise holds true — to a certain point. A point that is much lower than my current 6 hours and 10 minutes of screentime per day. (This is very hard to admit). But getting off the phone is just half the battle. The key to getting any sort of meaning out of this lies in what I choose to do with my time off of it. 

I’m NOT going cold turkey because that never works for me, so I’ll still be on my phone throughout this. I am not a numbers girl. So instead of attacking screentime first, I’m going to start by attacking the essentials list (thank you Time Magazine):

  • Are you sleeping well?

  • Are you eating well?

  • Are you leaving the house and being social?

  • Is your work going well?

  • Are you physically active?

For next week, I'm just going to prioritize some sort of novel 1-2 hour activity that relates to one of these functions and where I’ll be completely offline. I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m going to do or how to do it, which is very new. I have a tendency to overplan. But I’m trying to be a little more flexible and so I’m gonna go into this armed with intent to commit and a promise to keep writing.

Maybe I’ll go solo to a bar and turn my phone off. Or dig up my old iPod nano and take a hike. Maybe I’ll go full y2k and go on a date with just a flip phone.

Idk this is still a work in progress, so very much open to suggestions. DM me! 

Hoping to come out of this a little more balanced, connected and very much alive.

1 Comment

6 days ago

<3333 recognition!!!!!

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