I have a love/hate relationship with phones. Several years ago, the "shitphone" post on Medium caught my attention and made me start thinking more seriously about A) what I spend my money on, and B) why I did that. This year has been a year of disentangling myself from my phone. I started by deleting all social media. That was easy and didn't feel too painful. I wasn't constantly
Next, I removed Gmail completely. I no longer check email on my phone. There are few instances in life where an email is so urgent it needs a reply while I'm walking somewhere. Those times were better solved with a phone call or text anyways. That was a little more painful because of the instant-reply expectation that comes with email.
The next step was adding an app called Action Dash which reported my usage time daily. I respond to data, so seeing hard numbers about my use helps me meet those goals. Now that I have data, I can start making some more difficult decisions.
After a week, I got my phone usage down to under an hour consistently. Even then most of the use was using Hangouts through the day to keep in touch with my team while I moved around different buildings.
I got thinking about how I use my phone and what I wanted to be using it for. Andy Crouch's The Tech-Wise Family is a big influencer in how I think about technology in general and my phone use specifically. The premise is that a phone has a proper place, just like toys and books. The challenge is that we have to define the proper place in the face of manufacturers and developers trying to define it for us.
My proper place is to focus on communication. Calling and texting (through various apps) is my goal. The phone is a utility, not an entertainer. After entertaining thoughts of moving back to a flip phone, the loss of a calendar in my pocket would be a huge burden to manage because my schedule is so variable. I can't realistically limit my phone to only communication, but I can make some other changes to define its role in my life.
I went on a deletion frenzy. I deleted YouTube and Netflix. I deleted Goodreads. I deleted non-family and non-work related chat apps. Games are gone. I deleted and disabled all of the browsers this week. I deleted everything I could that didn't directly relate to communication as a rule of thumb.
It felt great. It feels great.
My phone isn't completely locked down to communicating, but I'm getting closer to having a very specific and well-defined role for its place in my life. I still have my Kindle and Overdrive books, I still have a podcast manager and an RSS reader. I'm solidly in young-children mode, so my camera gets plenty of use. But each of those consolations has a specific purpose in specific situations.
My phone is here to stay, but now it's on my terms.