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.
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.
At a staff meeting, administration admonished us to make our online presence less searchable. "Use a pseudonym," I paraphrase, "because we've heard some terrible stories about things people have done to teachers online. It might not even be you; it might be something somebody else tags you in."
For a moment, I considered it. I thought, Yeah, my online presence isn't meaningful enough to me for me to care about. I could pseudonym.
Then I realized just how beyond help I am for that.
I don't want to be anonymous. I have no interest in being anonymous online. I may not go as far as @elibosnick does in using my real name, but the vast majority of my online names are "jeffnords" or a variant of it. I have many reasons for this.
Facebook is still a special case. If there was any place to use a pseudonym, it would be for my personal Facebook profile. Although I've eased up on my personal Facebook ban and I've started paying a little more attention to the Facebook community, clicking "likes" and making comments here and there, I haven't done a purge for a while and I might, one of these nights, delete my recent activity on the site again. Facebook still straddles the public and private spheres in ways I'm not comfortable with. It still creates circles of "friends" that don't seem to mean much in real life. And it seems to be, by the nature of its interactions, cause the most trouble for people. So I'll continue to treat it with the utmost caution.
Perhaps, if and when I apply to work in administration myself, I'll reconsider. Perhaps some of my vulnerable rants and posts will seem childish and unprofessional. Then I might change my tack.
But for now, Jeffrey Nordstrom is my online identity and that's fine. I've traded away my privacy (see below) and I'm banking that it will work out for me in the long run.
I applied the Magic Sauce... and this is what I got. I'd say it's pretty accurate. But, then again, with "83%" on the intelligence scale, I'd probably think that, wouldn't I?
Years ago, I played Jenga at a pub in Vancouver, and someone had written a bunch of dirty suggestions on the blocks. I thought this was fun, so I bought a Jenga set in hopes to make a suggestive tower myself.
But I never used it.
So we started colouring the blocks with permanent markers.
And I made a video and a GIF:
Just for fun.
The Internet Archive
YouTube: ephemeral ideas