Help. I’m enslaved by my smartphone.

Help. I'm enslaved by my smartphone.

By Brooke B. Sellas, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’m a terrible sleeper.

It started when I was around 22; my anxiety would peak juuust as it was time to get in bed and I’d go over my list. You know, the LIST of stuff for work, home and personal that is a constant ticker tape machine; paper strips overlapping from corner to corner in your mind.

Fast forward to my smartphone (Apple addict here) and I find my phone perpetuates an already unpleasant sleep.

Now when my list rears its ugly head I’m scurrying to grab my phone and have Siri remind me of something, or opening up my blog notes for a fantastic post idea. This one came through at 1:37 AM on a Sunday night, in case you were wondering.

And FORGET trying to schedule something if I don’t have my precious brain (read: phone) with me. I live and die by my schedule, but I without my phone — which is synced to like, four different calendars of mine — I can maybe rattle off three standing meetings because I have them every week at the same time.

My device:

  • Keeps the time (I don’t wear a watch)
  • Creates new contacts for me based on mail and phone calls
  • Wakes me up (HA! If I actually sleep)
  • Gives me instant access to any music or podcast I want to listen to
  • Keeps my schedule together
  • Reminds me … keeps my notes … even comes in handy for voice notes
  • Turns on/off my house alarm, lights and locks the doors
  • Makes sure I get both work and personal email 24/7
  • Delivers the news, the weather, and other various events like clockwork
  • Does a million and one other things thanks to automation and apps like IFTTT

Oh, and yes, I can contact people from my phone as well, but if you know me you know that it’s usually through text. Using my phone to talk? Rare.

If I’m out and someone mentions something I haven’t yet heard of? I reach for the phone and Google it.

From a marketing perspective, Apple sells this to us as intuitive and smart automation. Instant access.

But try to go without your device and feels a bit more like you left your brain at home.

Remembering a meeting or a lightning bolt idea requires too much effort.

I feel naked/lost/afraid without my phone. I am enslaved by my smartphone.

The Argument

There are two sides to every story, and then there’s the truth.

One side says smart technology is responsible for making our lives easier, making us more capable, and even more intelligent.

The other side says we now are dependent on devices rather than ourselves to make it through the day. Add to that our compulsive nature, rude phone etiquette, a mass of memes and food porn, and an onslaught of selfies and we have … well, what do we have? IS that stuff “smart”?

What is the truth? What is your truth?

My truth is that my device both makes me smart and dumb.

I’m more productive for obvious reasons, but I’m dumb because of the choices I make.

I choose to answer emails late. I choose to let Siri enable my poor sleeping habits. I choose to hit “accept” on that new social platform without reading or understanding the fine print.

I choose be a servant to my device rather than let my device serve me.

Past, Present & Future

In the past, we managed to get everything done without our devices. We focused on people, conversations, and IRL (in-real-life) happenings. We managed, somehow.

In the present, we are glued to our devices. Look around you at any given time and you will likely see the majority of the people holding their precious brain/assistant/knowledge base in their hands.

The future seems to dangle there with more questions than answers:

  • How much more reliant can we become?
  • How many more hours in a day can spend using technology and still remain efficient?
  • When do smartphones and dumb choices shift the way we allow technology to run our lives?

I can’t make some grandstand and tell you that I’m going to work harder to stop and smell the (IRL) roses, or rely on my device less.

While I see the potential problems we’re creating with handheld and wearable technologies they have, without a doubt, also made me feel smarter.

I owe my business and livelihood to technology, including mobile phones.

And I probably owe a little sanity to Siri … even though she may also take a swipe at my sleep.

What’s your truth? Are our devices making us dumb? Are you enslaved by your phone? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Brooke Ballard for {grow}Brooke B. Sellas is an in-the-trenches digital marketer & owner at B Squared Media, blossoming blogger, and  a purveyor of psychographics. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter.

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  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Brooke, my neighbors have those devices on their wrists to tell them how many actual minutes of sleep they get each night, which isn’t many. He’s on his laptop, in bed, which wakes her, so she scrolls on her phone instead of sleeping. Apparently this is a typical night, hence the lack of sleep. IMO, these people are slaves to their devices. Tyrants and despots throughout history have forced humans to lose sleep for their own selfish purposes. But we’re submitting to our digital devices willingly. We still have the power to turn them off, or throw them out the window. But mostly we won’t because we enjoy being slaves. Personally, whenever I feel enslaved, I rebel, so I refuse to bring my phone into the bedroom at night. So far, it’s working!

  • I don’t think our devices themselves make us dumb. But it’s a sick sort of co-dependency that, if we want to sleep, lead semi-normal lives, we must learn to combat. I have no-phone and no-electronic times, else I’d honestly be dead. You can’t go without sleep for too long without it doing physical, mental and emotional damage.

    Of course, you and I have discussed this a LOT, toots!

  • Brooke Ballard

    I did try the whole “no phones in the bedroom” rule … but it didn’t last long. I have gotten better about taking a digital detox (aka: little to no phone use) over the weekends, but that also means I miss out on calls and texts. With me, it’s an all or nothing scenario, so I have to put the phone away or leave it upstairs and not take one look! :-/

  • Brooke Ballard

    Very TRUE, Mallie! I feel like I’m worthless without my phone but my phone makes my personal life a nightmare at times. I just want to know where the line is. Or if there’s a line. Or if my phone is making me a crazy person. (Likely) 🙂

  • It’s an interesting debate Brooke. We have become very dependant on the smartphone devices, sometimes at the expense of our social lives. It’s just so easy to keep flicking through the phone instead of engaging with people. On the other hand they can be a great source of rapid information. It sounds like you are really dominated by your phone though. I switch to airplane mode for those moments, including sleeping at night, when it has to be quiet. You have to be in control of the machine or else…

  • Brooke Ballard

    Thank you for the kind advice, David! It truly is a battle. I owe my professional success partly to my phone — but personally it is very very hard to pull away. My “always on” work mentality is definitely in need of a bouncer.
    Airplane mode is a GREAT idea, thank you. I go to “silent mode” or “sleep” at night, but airplane mode seems a bit more muscular if we’re keeping with the bouncer theme. 🙂

  • Brooke, what a terrific post; your headline reached out and collared me, and before I knew it it had set me down all the way at the end.

    Like you, technology is the reason I live where I live, am married to who I’m married to, and have the business and life that I have. I’m truly grateful to it.

    I go back and forth in terms of the phone ball & chain. I’ve been at the place where I check it constantly – even waking up in the middle of the night to do so.

    “Hi, I’m Shonali, and I’m a smartphone addict.” That could easily be me.

    But more and more I’m trying to rid myself of the old B&C. I love David’s idea of putting it in airplane mode (never thought of that… d’uh!), but I’ve started keeping it at the other end of the bedroom (or asking my husband to move it if he comes to bed later than me, that way I can catch up on social at night).

    Maybe it’s a function of growing older, and experiencing quite a bit of loss in recent years. But I don’t want to look back and think, “Man, I wish I’d been paying attention to ___ instead of checking my phone.”

    So maybe there’s hope for me yet…

  • Pingback: Feedly post from {grow} | Silence the Mind()

  • Brooke Ballard

    Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Shonali! I love David’s idea, too. Last weekend — much like you do — I left my phone in the bedroom all weekend. I looked at it (“checked in”) once, maybe twice a day. And you know what?
    Nothing collapsed. I didn’t miss out on anything worth missing out on. And this week I feel incredibly relaxed and rested! I think a phone detox on the weekend just may be a perfect solution. 🙂

  • Kevin C Hartman

    Just catching this post. Excellent breakdown of a common tech concern. I have friends switching back to brick phones to distance themselves or who bail on certain social media platforms to encourage less smart phone time. I can’t say what will “work” for everyone, but for me it’s a couple things.

    1) I recently unsubscribed from nearly everything and turned off Push Notifications so my quiet times aren’t interrupted as frequently (that tweet can wait).

    2) I try to plug my phone in and turn on the ringer when I get home and treat is like a house line. I actually need my phone for work (so no brick phone for me) but I don’t need it in my hand when I’m bathing the kids or eating dinner. Those aren’t just times to exist, they’re experiences with family that should be treasured.

    There’s my two cents.

    Thanks for the post!

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