What’s the first thing you see in the morning? Is it your spouse or your pet? The sun? If you’re like most people, you’re probably awoken by a phone, vibrating within arm’s reach, its alarm blaring at you that it’s time to wake up. For you, and many of us, the very first thing our eyes will adjust to is that small screen and all of the shiny new treats it has to share. But if this is indeed the relationship you have with your phone, then ask yourself — How healthy is it?
Author and journalist, Catherine Price, believes it's time we think hard about establishing a healthier relationship with our phones. Her new book, How to Break Up With Your Phone (Ten Speed Press), comes on February 13th, just in time for Valentine's Day. The book is packed with practical tips around ditching your bad relationship for a new one, which is why Price doesn’t want you to abandon your phone altogether. “It’s like breaking up with a boyfriend,” she says. “It’s not like you are never going to date again — it’s because that particular relationship wasn’t working for you. You need a better, more mindful, and healthier relationship.”
Catherine Price's new book is coming February 13th, 2018
Price says the catalyst to begin writing her book came after becoming a mother. “I noticed my baby girl looking at me while I was looking down at my phone — that was kind of my wake up moment," she says. "This is not what I want her first impression of her mother to be.”
With that, Price began her journey to redefine her relationship with her phone and form her solutions in a book. Here, she summarizes five key learnings that she believes all of us can benefit from. “If you follow this plan, it will help you with other areas of your life,” she emphasizes, “instead of distracting you from your true desires.”
Decide what you want to make your priority. “Your life is what you pay attention to. If you're paying attention to your phone, your phone is going to be your life," Price says. She suggests that instead of using your phone unconsciously out of habit, take steps to become more aware of your decision to use your phone. "Get into the habit of asking yourself, What do I want to pay attention to?"
"Your life is what you pay attention to. If you are paying attention to your phone, your phone is going to be your life."
Take a minute and pause before checking notifications. “Create speed bumps for yourself,” Price suggests, which is exactly the kind of nudge Flipd provides its users. She describes a pause as a moment that stops you from falling into a notification-checking spiral. “I started calling them zombie checks, because you just pick up your phone and you don’t know why you are doing it.”
Assess and evaluate what it is you like about your phone and what you don’t. “Social media is specifically designed to keep you addicted and trigger brain chemicals that teach your brain to associate checking your phone with getting a reward," she says, arguing that this leads to the familiar loop of checking and scrolling.
“Social media is specifically designed to keep you addicted and trigger brain chemicals that teach your brain to associate checking your phone with getting a reward."
4. Get Help
Ironically, tech can fix what tech has broken. “Get an app to help you reinforce positive habits such as Flipd,” she suggests. “Create a schedule for yourself in order to stick to the habits that you want to have." While some would argue it's silly to use technology to help yourself use technology less, there are many positive things technology should be doing for you that you can take advantage of. “If you’ve got a tool that makes you stick to your habit, why not use it?”
"Get an app to help you reinforce positive habits, like Flipd. If you’ve got a tool that makes you stick to your habit, why not use it?"
Price says curbing your digital appetite is a matter of control. “If you don't give yourself access to ice cream, you won’t eat ice cream," she explains.
Acknowledging that it's easier said than done, the author has practical suggestions to keep your phone from tempting you, beginning with the home screen. “Your phone's home screen should only have tools on it, not temptations," Price recommends. "Don’t have social media or email on the first page of your phone. Only have things that are practical and that don’t suck you in.” She lists essential apps like Uber, maps, contacts, and your camera.
"We must be mindful that push notifications are there to benefit social media sites, not the user. Start from a place of minimal notifications and work your way back up."
Price also suggests modifying notification settings to what makes the best sense for your own benefit. "We must be mindful that push notifications are there to benefit social media sites, not the user. Start from a place of minimal notifications and work your way back up.”
She emphasizes that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with your phone, and still use it frequently. “It’s great that companies like Flipd are creating tools people can use to help them live the lives they want to live, and have the relationships they want to be having with technology," she says. "A lot of people think it’s all or nothing. But the whole point of Flipd and my book is that it’s not all or nothing. You need to work at it, just like you need to work at any relationship. It’s doable.”
"It’s great that companies like Flipd are creating tools people can use to help them live the lives they want to live, and have the relationships they want to be having with technology."
Price wants her upcoming book to help you discover what is most important to you. "When someone reads the book, I hope they have an experience where they connected with a real person, noticed someone on the street or had some kind of experience they wouldn’t have had. My hope is that their life is richer," she says.
Catherine Price is a journalist and author of the book How to Break up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Best American Science Writing, among other publications, and her other books include Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food (Penguin Press, 2015), and Mindfulness: A Journal (Clarkson Potter, 2016).
Visit phonebreakup.com for more information about the book, as well as resources including an online 30-day "Phone Breakup Challenge" and an invitation you can share with others. Catherine will be running a #PhoneAwareness campaign from Feb 13 till March 14, 2018 featuring Q&As, exercises, giveaways and more. To participate, follow @catherine_price on Twitter or search for #phonebreakup.