Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Phone Challenge 2014

I'm going to describe two situations that occur in my life - more regularly than I'd like to admit - and I want you to consider them. 

(Before we get going, I'll just say that no, this post is not about Jack Johnson, despite my fondness for his beachy tunes.) 

Situation #1 - I forget a lot of things a lot of the time, so I regularly give myself the pat-down. Pat the coat pockets, jeans pockets, purse pockets...I only disrupt what I'm doing to retrieve what I've forgotten for two things: my keys - because I literally have to go back for them - and my phone...because...why?

Situation #2 - I need to contact my mom/brother/dad/husband, so I call/text them...but they don't answer.  I deal with this by calling/texting them over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until I reach them or give up hope. 

So what do you think?

I'll tell you what I think.  I think I have a problem.  

My name is Jessica Higginbotham, and I'm addicted to my phone. Even worse than that, I live in a culture that promotes phone addiction, and I expect everyone to be able to be contacted all the time. I need to be able to reach you, and you need to be reachable. Right. Now. 

I have been aware of the exhausting tether that is a cell phone ever since I got one at sixteen.  Before then, I had been free as a bird.  I had conversations when I was with people, or when I was pleased to have them over the house phone.  Beautiful.  Blissful freedom.  Of course, I thought myself incredibly lame for not having one...you never know what you've got til it's gone, right? Right.  Once I had a cell phone, I was caged.  I had to be reachable.  I had the ability, and therefore the responsibility. It was nothing but accusation if I missed a call. Once upon a time, if you couldn't reach me...hey, that's life! But no more. 

No more. 

Yeah, I know.  I totally wanted to have my cake and eat it too. At sixteen, I just wanted freedom without resonsibility, not understanding yet that that is simply not how it works.  Yet, while I've become considerably less selfish and immature, I can't help but know that there was a certain amount of truth in those moments of loathing the tether that was my dull gray, free, not-smart flip phone.  There's a goodness in being disconnected, or at least in learning how to handle connectivity.  

What's the first thing you reach for in the morning? Your glasses? Your spouse? 

I reach for my phone. 

Sure, sure, it starts with turning off my alarm (which is my phone)...but then it grows. Suddenly I need to see if I missed any calls or texts overnight, and then it's emails, and then how about Facebook messages? And then I'm lost. 

I think it comes down to being a bit self-obsessed...at least it does for me. Does anybody want to talk to me? Am I important? Have I been validated, needed, wanted in the last eight hours of slumber? Girl. Get over yourself.  

And let's not even talk about the self-obsession that is social media. Oh boy. 

And I expect everyone else to be this way.  Let me tell you, nothing ticks me off like not being able to get one of my family members on the phone, which is really not good, since my family is sort of notorious for not answering. Hence the calling over and over and over and over again. Seriously? Call once! Chill out! Nothing in my life has been SO important that I needed to talk to them RIGHT THEN.  Sure, sometimes it comes down to whether or not I'm supposed to bring an extra side for Sunday lunch at my mom's house but...is it really that big a deal if we don't have it because we couldn't connect to communicate?


I'm really really really not the first person to consider this. In fact I was inspired to write this post and start this challenge because of something my brother posted. There are studies on it, and articles, and great videos, like this one - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nfUD0WhE264&autoplay=1&desktop_uri=%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DnfUD0WhE264%2526autoplay%253D1 - and this one - https://m.youtube.com/watch?autoplay=1&v=OINa46HeWg8&desktop_uri=%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DOINa46HeWg8%2526autoplay%253D1 - which you should watch!

So I'm not having a revelation. 

I'm posting a resolution. 

BAM! Wordplay. 

You saw it coming. It's the last day of 2013, and we're all thinking it over, and considering how to do 2014. For me, I want to go phone free in 2014. Do you want to join me?

I searched some hashtags, and found a few people on Twitter that commented on a #phonefree movement, but it was more of a feeling, nothing specific on HOW they were going phone free.  Knowing that the best way to achieve an idea is to be intentional and specific, I'm committing to a couple of different ways to going phone free in 2014:

1. I'm taking one day a week and going completely phone free. I know. It's bold. (The font, and the idea.)  I'm going to turn off my phone, possibly even give it to my husband to take away, for a full 24-hour period one day a week. What if I there is an emergency? What if I have to be reached? What if I'm in a car accident? It will be fine. I will use someone else's phone if need be. I am conceding to the fact that I am not so incredibly important that anybody HAS to reach me immediately for anything. And let's be honest, we're all probably safer and less prone to accidents without phones in the car. 

2. I'm not going to be on my phone when I'm in a social setting. There were several times over the holidays where I felt rather hurt and a little stumped when someone shut out everything by getting into their phone.  It was especially apparent on car rides...everyone else's company and conversation couldn't be tolerated for even 15 minutes? Whoa. I suddenly understood why my husband is constantly asking, "Whatcha looking at?" when I have my phone out while he's driving. Let me in! Talk to me! Let's play! I don't want to make other people feel that way anymore. If we're at dinner, the movies, bowling, playing games, in the car...I'm going to be there.  If I have to take or make a call, I'll step away from the group.  I think we can leave an exception for maybe one or two pictures...but of the group, not the food. 

3. I'm going to have a specific time for phone cruising. Time management...oh baby. Talk about difficult and important. My phone ruins time management.  Or rather, my habits with my phone ruin time management.  Pausing quickly to check my email or Instagram or Facebook in between the laundry and dishes sometimes turns into the dishes not even getting done. I am so lame.  So I'm thinking for 2014, I will get my phone-cruising in between 4pm & 8pm, and otherwise use my phone like a regular phone. For calls and texts...not for browsing Facebook stati for two hours. Blech. 

That's it.  Three things.  I think I can handle it...I certainly hope I can, anyway.  I know I'm going to blow it, and I will have *exceptions* and whatnot...but this is something important that I want to address.  I don't want Babyhig growing up with an addict for a mother, satire aside.  I used to think he would reach for my phone because it was glowing and hey, who wouldn't? It glows! But what if he's reaching for my phone because he's imitating me, and I'm always reaching for my phone? I stick out my tongue, he sticks out his tongue. Monkey see, monkey do?

I would like to invite you...hmmm, no, I'll challenge you to join me. New habits are helped along by accountability; I need you! If you see me violating one of my commitments, please (gently) help me get back on track! I don't want to be tethered.  I want to take advantage of the technology and connectivity that's available to me without having it rule me. Don't you? I want that for you. 

If you decide to join, please let me know.  And write it down! Comment with some specific ways that you are going to go phone free in 2014! Maybe you can't do a phone free day a week, but how about once a month? Try it!!!

And, yes, I realize the irony in this, but i'm going to use the hashtag #phonefree14 to keep track of my efforts on this front. 

So. Challenge extended. Will you accept?