I am breaking up with my phone.

Last weekend, driving back from a trip to the beach with my book club, I listened to a bonus episode of The Stacks podcast all about Catherine Price’s book How to Break Up With Your Phone (2018). This is a short work of nonfiction split into two parts: first, “the wake up,” in which Price details how smartphones, though helpful in many ways, have also become harmful, mentally-damaging time sucks; and then, “the break up / make up,” her plan for gradually dismantling and rebuilding your relationship to your device. The Stacks host, Traci, and her husband, had read the book and worked through the process together, and they spent the episode talking about their experiences and answering listener questions.

I cannot overstate just how immediately intrigued I was. My feelings about my phone have been a subject of personal reflection for quite some time now, and I’ve long known somewhere deep in my bones that I needed a reset like this. Price’s book sounded absolutely perfect for me, and listening to Traci and her husband talk about it made me want to get a copy right away.

So I did. On my route from Surf City back to Winston-Salem, there just happened to be a Barnes & Noble conveniently located right off the highway in Durham. And I further justified the visit with the fact that I would’ve had to stop around there to pee anyway. Win-win.

I started reading Sunday evening after unpacking from my trip, and finished the next morning, beyond ready to launch into the phone break-up process—which, incidentally, Price recommends beginning on a Monday.

The first few days involved some usage tracking and reflection questions. The first bigger step happened yesterday, when I removed all social media apps from my phone. Yes. Whoa.

The idea here is not to completely stop using things like Instagram and Twitter, but to reduce the effects of the ingeniously devised features that the apps rely on to suck you in and keep you scrolling (which, as many of us know, often leads to feelings of anxiety, disappointment, and where did the last hour of my life go? once we finally emerge). Having to check socials via browser ideally means that we’ll be doing so much more intentionally, and that we’ll be free from the onslaught of ads, recommended posts/reels, and other tactics that usually keep us stuck in the apps.

This afternoon, day 6, I’m sitting down to reflect on a few more prompts in light of the reduced amount of phone usage I’m already starting to notice. Because when I’m not picking it up to fill every little spare moment in my day, what will I do instead?

I’ve always loved to…
I’ve always wanted to…
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by…
If I had more time, I would like to…
Some activities that I know put me into a flow state are…
People I would like to spend more time with include…

For me, I hope the future holds more time outside (especially now that it’s starting to warm back up here in NC), more writing, more plans with friends, more guitar practice, more experimentation with my camera, more drawing and design work. Less fear of being alone with my own thoughts, even?

To be clear, the end goal of the book’s 30-day program isn’t to become completely disconnected, unreachable, or anti-technology. (It’s always so hard to talk about subjects like this without sounding preachy or holier-than-thou, too, and let me go ahead and assure you here that I am a piece of garbage, indeed, holier than none.) It’s just to encourage us to figure out a healthier way to engage with our smartphones, to utilize the aspects of them that make our lives better but to resist the ones that are sucking away our joy and completely trashing our mental health.

So far I’m enjoying this challenge and looking forward to how my life will change even further in the next few weeks.

Thoughts and prayers for me, please, friends. And if any of this has resonated with you, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of your own—it isn’t a long read. I’m here to chat with and cheer you on if you decide to go for it!

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