On breaking smartphone addiction.
Over the last few years, I've been addicted to my smartphone. It started with a Blackberry Torch in 2011, which wasn't very smart but let me keep up with the news in a nearly-constant fashion. I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S5 in 2014 and then a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge last April. For the last few years, I've almost always had a smartphone with me.
I've been grateful to have the smartphone for numerous reasons: I credit the smartphone, for example, with helping me lose weight, largely due to the calorie-estimated step-counter in Samsung Health. I would take walks, and then read the calorie counts of the packaged foods I would eat; when I compared the food to the amount of walking I'd have to o to work it off, it became much easier to resist eating it. In that case, it was a direct matter of time-usage. The same program helped me get back into running when I really have no self-motivation without the opportunity to make an interesting map. For the last few years, with no small credit to the smartphone, I've been able to keep my weight down at a more manageable level. This is good, since I really hated myself when I was up at 225 lbs.. It's good to feel more at ease in my own body, even to the point that I might take my only sport coat to a tailor for refitting.
I've been grateful for the connections I've made with people, for the ways I've been able to reconnect with some people in my life through the smartphone. It has become an essential part of my life for keeping connected with people, particularly my kids, who live 1200km away. I can use the smartphone to send video messages or text messages through Messenger or other apps, and that's all good.
However, I don't like how much I've let the smartphone take over my life. I am by no means a luddite, but I really don't like how I use my time with the smartphone. I miss the boredom, the times when I would sit down and read a book or write a song instead of scrolling through a series of news feeds. I miss the ways I used to choose between different options for time use instead of defaulting to a smartphone.
So I've been trying to find some ways to get the smartphone less prominent in my day-to-day life. Already, with my kids so far away, I find myself taking photos with my phone far less often. I've largely gone back to film, back to the more careful methods of photography that I was used to long before my family went digital. This feels good to me, and I'm enjoying taking photos again.
One thing I've done: a suggestion box.
I haven't used the suggestion box much like I originally planned, since I haven't had any visitors since I started the system. But I hope that, once I do have visitors, I will remember to take my phone and put it in the box. I've also considered using it for meals when the kids come down to visit.
I've also got the kids' room in the apartment where I don't let myself bring my phone. That's a phone-free space, and it's the only place in the apartment with a comfy enough space for reading and whatnot. That's been a good step. But still, I end up in my sleeping space in the living room, scrolling through the phone. A phone-free space in the apartment simply isn't enough. I'm addicted. I don't like it, but I can't seem to stop.
However, over the last few months, a few things changed. I haven't had the kids. I only got to see them up in Smithers for a few days over Thanksgiving weekend, and I was rather stunned by how much they looked at screens. It made me think more about my own habits, since I knew it would be hypocritical to tell them to get off the screens if I couldn't do it myself. Even so, even with that conviction, I couldn't seem to break my own habits.
But I've been addicted, so just shutting off the phone wouldn't work. And it's my only phone. And it's the main way that I keep up with the kids. So I had to regroup my de-addiction plans, since I can't really just scrap the thing.
Then the play happened.
During the A Flea In Her Ear run, I simply did not have the time to pay attention to my step counter. I couldn't have the phone on stage and needed to pay too much attention to everything that was going on to keep up with the phone. At the end of the run, despite rarely meeting my step count, I weighed the same as I started. I also felt a little less attached to the phone. I no longer panicked if I realized I forgot it plugged in at home when I left to get some groceries.
This inadvertent byproduct of being in a theatre production is much appreciated.
Third of all, I've tried to reorganize some things at home:
By setting up my apartment in a way that more mimics a pre-smartphone space, I find myself turning to the smartphone less often. Now, it takes as much work for me to put on a record or a CD as it does for me to track down the portable Bluetooth speaker and set up a podcast. This gives me choice between mediums and media, and I'm more likely to pick things other than scrolling through a news feed, or other than listening to yet another episode of *insert podcast name here.*
So we'll see how it goes, but I feel good about it. I never wanted a smartphone or a cell phone in the first place; my family life just pushed me in that direction. And the smartphone,as amazing as it is, does not make me happy. I feel like, if I can find any way to put the smartphone down and choose to read a book, write a journal entry, listen to some music, or write a song, I should do it. Because as much as other people might have lots of willpower to crate immersive things on apps and whatnot, and enough self-discipline to finish a project before bouncing to a browser or app to take a break from the task at hand, I simply don't have those characteristics.
This week, I'm going to try something I haven't done since I got the Blackberry Torch in 2011: I'm going to leave my phone at home instead of taking it to work. I'll report on that later. Wish me luck.
Brief road trip.
This past weekend, I drove up to Smithers, BC, to visit my kids. They're living up there and I had a 3½ day weekend, so I went up to visit them. It was good to see them and I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with them. It was also a little heartbreaking, considering the length of the drive and the typical things adults need to deal with in regards to today's kids: namely, screens.
My kids do not suffer from obesity, but I find it difficult to pry them away from screens. I feel like this is a common Western parent battle, though; practically every screen-laden household needs to deal with this sort of thing. And we all have double-standards about how much screen time is too much, and when it's appropriate to use screens.
I need to regularly remind myself of how much television I watched at their age, even when "nothing was on" and I barely enjoyed it. I did this too.
But I can see how these screens mess with sleeping patterns, with relationships, with perception of the world. Because I deal with it too. Even now.
So who am I to say, "Get off the screen and pay attention to me..." when my own hand is also reaching in my pocket for my own personal screen? I may cast the first stone, but I do so as a hypocrite.
In my continuing battle against screens and digitization, I've been re-engaging more with film photography. Here are a few recent film photos from the trip to Smithers... and I digitized them in order to post them to the Internet.
These are all photos taken on a Pentax K1000 that I borrowed from the school. Black and White Kodak C-41 film was already loaded in the camera.
15 weeks ago, according to Instagram, I received this 235° clip-on lens in the mail. It has been a dear, convenient companion since then. Although I've posted a few photos to this blog where I've used the lens before, I'm really pleased with how some of these photos turned out. So here they are.
I've had to repair it a few times; once it slowly unscrewed itself, and recently I dropped it and the lenses inside got all misaligned. However, it's a sort-of soothing thing to repair, so I don't mind.
It really is an excellent little accessory and has created some memorable photos, especially in family situations (which I do not post online). It's fun to be able to capture a photo that gathers light fromt he entire room.
Social media update.
Over the last year, I expanded my social media presence. When I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S5 in early December of 2014, I signed up for Instagram right away; I signed up to Twitter in January; recently, I opened a Tumblr blog. Yes, I'm typically late to the game, but I'm in the game nonetheless.
By contrast, I've deleted vast swathes of my Facebook history and hope to delete most of my personal presence from it soon. Facebook-style social media became something that consistently battered my ego, and after a second "hiatus" from that social network, I've minimized my presence there drastically. At this point, I exclusively use my personal Facebook profile as an address book and messaging service, and my "band page" will still be used if I ever get my music working again. I still check my Facebook every day, but I don't participate. It's like smoking without inhaling.
So over the year, what have these networks become to me?
Most importantly, they give me the ability to embed different types of short-form media into this website. As the year has progressed, my weblog entries here at jnordstrom.ca have grown more embedding-dependent. 30-second rants on Twitter have been a good outlet for days when I can't seem to focus on a singular topic; Instagram photos are stylish enough to make my banal life worth posting; Tumblr posts let me embed vain ideas or other people's art. As a student going through a research project, embedding makes room for easy citations and spreads my social media influence out a little. As if I have any influence in the first place.
Twitter has become what Facebook, for me, essentially was from 2007-2013. Over those years, I regularly posted interesting links to my Facebook. When people suggested that I should do this on Twitter, I wasn't really interested. For that period of my life, the private, limited audience of Facebook was all I desired, and I didn't have the self-control needed to avoid flame wars on Twitter. You can still find some of my immature comments underneath news articles here and there throughout the Internet; I didn't need to consolidate those comments in Twitter.
By 2013, however, my attachment to Facebook had grown pretty thin. I wasn't posting links very often and rarely engaged with anybody. I avoided any controversial content, and in turn lost relevance amongst my Facebook friend group. Facebook brought me no happiness.
Again, all this changed when I got the S5. Twitter was annoying to use on my Blackberry Torch, so I never used it, but the screen size on the S5 made it a reasonable option. Twitter is a more public space, which gives me the freedom to expres comparatively neutral opinions; where I felt oppressed by people's intimate judgement on Facebook, Twitter's inherent public-ness was a relief. Twitter's been useful for hearing what people are thinking, but I have to admit that I don't read very much there. It leads me to some news now and then and gives me a chance to rant every once in a while.
Instagram has helped me revive my love of taking artful photographs, especially when I don't live near a good developing store for medium-format film. I enjoy being on Instagram because it is both public and generally consequence-free.
Tumblr has become my place to be a little more ridiculous. I'm a little more self-conscious on Twitter and Instagram about posting selfies and whatnot because they connect to too many apps. Twitter and Instagram are simply too embedded in the fabric of social media to be overly silly, for my purposes. I assume that, when I start to look for work again, people will want to check out my Twitter to see my antics, and I'd like to avoid coming off as a Narcissist. But Tumblr is the realm of chaos and ego, so I can let my happiness with my weight loss shine through a little more there. I'm still learning how to use Tumblr effectively.
So what does it represent?
I think I've taken a sort of unique path to social media. As I mentioned, I came to all of these very, very late. And I certainly haven't developed a marketable image on any of them. They're all for me. And I have very little to say right now. I can only think in bite-sized chunks, and I can then spew those bite-sized chunks all over these three platforms.
This year of latecoming to social media shows the hodgepodge chaos of my life right now. I have no goal, no direction, and no overarching vision. I'm just trying to get by with what little I can.
So I guess it's almost actually representative of my life right now.
And if sure feels good to have generally disengaged with Facebook.
12 Days of Christmas.
When I saw the choir stands in downtown Chilliwack on December 6, I had a mediocre brainstorm: sing the 12 Days of Christmas in different locations until Christmas, and post each day to Twitter. Twitter's videos max out at 30 seconds, so it would get progressively more difficult each day.
DAY 1: DOWNTOWN CHILLIWACK
DAY 2: DOWNTOWN HOPE
DAY 3: GUILDFORD MALL IN SURREY
DAY 4: AT AGASSIZ ELEMENTARY-SECONDARY SCHOOL
DAY 5: DOWNTOWN AGASSIZ
DAY 6: FERNWOOD IN VICTORIA
DAY 7: HIGHSTREET IN ABBOTSFORD
DAY 8: COTTONWOOD MALL IN CHILLIWACK
DAY 9: AT HOME IN CHILLIWACK
DAY 10: WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN CHILLIWACK
By the way, apparently Global News used this clip (above) in their newscast on Christmas Eve. They didn't tell me they were going to use it, nor did they even give it a "heart." So I don't know if they broadcasted it because they liked it or because they thought it was laughable. Thank you to my friends, however, who alerted me that I'd made the news.
DAY 11: IN THE LIVING ROOM IN CHILLIWACK
DAY 12: WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN CHILLIWACK
Happy holidays. I'm glad to have finally memorized the song... until next year.
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