It was this simple fact: I got an iPhone.
Having survived for longer than any human should on phones with no internet, I felt I was due my portion of connectivity and technology. I’d served my time.
If only I had known the impact this teeny tiny device would have, as I eased it effortlessly from its perfectly formed case. So naive.
What has ensued has been nothing short of a disaster (in a #firstworldproblems sense). I have become ‘that’ girl. The girl who wakes up and immediately scrolls through every kind of social media and email site going - with one eye still firmly glued shut on my pillow. The girl who nearly gets run over while looking intently at a picture of someone’s new shoes. The girl who sits with their phone on the table in meetings / on lunch dates / during social occasions, turning it over approximately every thirty seconds. The girl who can no longer live life without thinking about how great all of it would look on Twitter, and who even feels tempted to do things for the sole purpose of tweeting / facebooking / instagramming / vine-ing all about it. Perhaps worse than all of this - I have become the girl who cannot help but check their phone during youth group, just in case someone has said something on Whatsapp.
I hate this girl. I don’t want to be her. If any of you remember - I used to blog about my annoyance at all this social mediarising. I was the girl who would take a week to realise they had a tweet (let alone reply), and who would blissfully miss numerous calls from friends and loved ones - because their phone was turned off in the deepest darkest corner of their room for days on end. I almost long to be that girl again.
Is there a middle ground? Can I be a new kind of girl who lives in a post iPhone era but who is somehow not obsessed with it?
I have decided to set for myself five rules for iPhone living - to arrest this situation and stop my iPhone obsession in its tracks. If I do not succeed in implementing these over the next thirty days (I am saying this so that you, the youth work world, can hold me accountable) then I shall return to the pre iPhone era. I shall keep the iPhone for work purposes only, and return to my non-Internet enabled device. Gulp.
Rule number one: I will not turn my phone on before leaving for work. There is really no activity or contact that has to be made before 8am. As a closet introvert, mornings are precious; they are the only times of real solitude in my days. Looking at pictures of rabbits with stuff on their heads is not important enough to sacrifice this sacred mental space for.
Rule number two: I will not be on my phone as I walk. This is simply common sense. People walk into things when they aren’t looking. The text / email / tweet can wait until a stationary moment presents itself.
Rule number three: I will be like my mum. A constant annoyance of mine is that my mum will text or call and then turn her phone off immediately. And yet now - in light of my iPhone obsession - this seems an incredibly smart and forward thinking move. There will be times, during youth group, when I am with friends, or on specified phone-fast days perhaps, when I will willingly turn my phone off (as opposed to when it has run out of battery - iPhones seem to do that a lot). This simple act conveys something meaningful to me and to my phone: I am in control of this relationship. The phone may get the better of me sometimes, but ultimately I have a brain and button pressing fingers. I win.
Rule number four: I will not tweet my life away. I will deliberately not splurge the best parts of my life all over the Internet. My gut reaction to great stuff will not be to get out my phone, but to enjoy it for what it is. Some things will just be for me - not for the whole world. I know we need to be authentic online and real and share our lives and blah blah Twitter blah but I will not lay my life, soul and well-being on the altar of being ‘relevant in this digital age’. I’d rather be irrelevant and deep, than relevant and shallow.
Rule number five: I will know my limits. I am the kind of person who loves to do one thing at a time. As a completer-finisher it’s important to me to focus on one task, and keep going on it until it is done. The multi-channel living insisted upon by social media does not sit well with this: it wants me to be something I’m not. To operate on multiple levels all at once. By the end of a phone and social media heavy day - on top of the regular demands of an already wide-reaching and diverse job - I feel utterly exhausted. My beloved journalist Jamie thrives on doing lots of things at once. I do not, and cannot. It leaves me feeling fragmented and unhappy. I will not try to live this multi-platform existence.
If you, like me, feel slightly out of control in your relationship with your smartphone - then I invite you to join me in implementing the above for the next thirty days.
I’d love you to tweet me about it - @phoebethompson_ - but bear in mind: I may not respond.