Digital Minimalism: An Easy Hack

There are a lot of tricks to getting off the phone and into the world. Turn the screen grey, set timers for app use, shut off the data and only use the thing on wifi, leave it in airplane mode most of the day, turn off notifications, and more. I have a three-step tip that may be even more powerful.

  1. For one day leave your phone behind, powered off, or on do-not-disturb. Whatever you can manage is fine but those three options are in the order of their power.

  2. Watch people use their phones. Hear them blast music through headphones. Watch them text while their child goes ignored. See them read texts and email during intermission at the theater. Try to ignore them recording the concert you're attending.

  3. Realize that we have met the enemy and he is us.

My phone is in my pocket. Notifications are off. I've been reading a book. My students are supposed to be reading as well. One next to me has his headphones blaring and hasn't turned a page in six minutes. He looks at the page then shifts to the phone. He's not just listening to music. He's got a video playing and can't look away for long. He has also, in six minutes, received 37 notifications. I've listened to the phone buzz.

How sad this makes me. He is a high school senior who cannot set his phone aside, cannot let it go. The phone often leads him into terrible, angry fits. I've watched him laugh at something on it, then look around as if to share before realizing no one else has seen it. He often asks, what? but is rebuffed because no one wants to bring him up to speed on the real world he chooses to miss.

Watching him I see me. God knows how much I missed when I was on Facebook. Has there ever been a tweet worth remembering a year later? I should never waste time learning what the big orange maggot has done today, who he has fired, for what he is being indicted. That way leads to regret.

The quickest way to get me off my phone is seeing others lost to theirs. Maybe I want to be better than them. I certainly want to be better than I am when I'm acting like that.

Take a phone holiday and observe all those staring into their screens as if that was the only world. As if that was a world worth living in.