Smart Phones are the Modern-Day Cigarettes

The addiction is overwhelming. You can’t stop thinking about it. Just one time, just for a minute. You pat down your pockets or dig through your purse to find it. When you do, you put it on the table in front of you. Just being in your line of sight makes you feel better. But not for long. You just check the screen - just for a flash. You tell yourself it’s just to check the time. And then you put your it back down again and go back to your in-person conversation. Kinda.

Seriously. I do this shit 100 times day - in meetings, during meals, at happy hour. Why am I so addicted to my phone? I don’t even hold my phone up to my ear anymore when I’m on the line with someone. I use my AirPods and tell myself it’s because it’s more comfortable, but really - it’s so I can check my phone while I’m talking. I quit smoking in my early 20s and the idea of giving up phone is 1000x worse.

Cal Newport says we need to exercise “attention resistance” in his book, Digital Minimalism - Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. That the digital addiction has crept up on us unaware and we’ve “ceded our autonomy”. Thus, our ability to resist is anemic and underdeveloped.

What’s worse is that these behaviors actually change brain make-up and chemistry. The more we give in, the more dopamine we require to feel good from a “hit” - just like any physical addition, cigarettes or otherwise.

Newport recommends that we set aside a period of time (30 days) to practice mindful abstinence, during which we build our muscle to recognize the symptoms and behaviors. This practice triggers neuroplasticity and results in reversing the physiological damage we’ve inflicted upon ourselves.

I’m sold. I’m going to start small by going for a walk in the woods and leaving my phone in the car.

- MJ

Full disclosure: I’ve bought the book and it’s on my Kindle app. I’ve read the first couple of chapters and they’re great. But I haven’t be able to get through the book yet - I’m too distracted from checking my phone. This article gives a good summary. #babysteps