Just as it can take a long time to realise that a romantic relationship is unhealthy, it took me a long time to accept that I needed to break up with my phone.
I had begun noticing that I often picked the device up "just to check", only to resurface an hour later feeling unsatisfied and wondering where the time had gone.
What made me feel weird was how often I initiated these interactions without thinking; how many real-life experiences they were supplanting. I reached for my phone to soothe myself, but I often crossed the line from feeling soothed to going numb.
Breaking up with my phone doesn't mean that I traded my touchscreen for a rotary dial. I needed to keep what I loved about my phone and get rid of what I didn't: I wanted a relationship that made me feel healthy and happy and over which I had control.
So as my husband and I sat down for dinner one night, I lit a candle, we gave our phones one final glance, and then we turned them off – all the way off – for 24 hours. .
At first, we were constantly tempted to reach for them, which we convinced ourselves was out of concern that we would miss an important call or text, but, if we were being honest, was actually a sign of dependency. But we resisted our urges and, when the time came for us to turn our phones back on, we were surprised by how reluctant we were to do so. Instead of being stressful, the experience had felt restorative.
Intrigued, I began to make changes to my everyday routine, taking regular "phasts" (phone fasts). I rearranged my apps so my home screen contained only tools, rather than temptations, deleting social media and news apps, which I would only check from my computer. I asked myself what I actually wanted to spend my time and attention on, and took up the guitar lessons I'd long been toying with the idea of.
I also began to research and was shocked to find how phones have transformed the ways we live and love. A US study in 2016 found that people who reported their partner being reliant on a device felt less secure in their relationship; in Britain, a survey of more than 1700 people found that up to 62 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men had checked their phones during sex.
In the two years since I initiated my digital break-up, I've become more aware of the world outside my phone – and of how much of it had been passing me by.
The Telegraph, London
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