I tried to break up with my phone


I tried to break up with my phone. It didn't go that well.

In January, having read somewhere on the Internet that the first hour of the day defines the rest of the day, I decided to not spend that first hour on my phone. In terms of atomic habits, the second hour of the day I spend in the forest or walking so am doing fairly well there. It's hour one I wanted to fix - the one I usually spend drinking coffee in bed and scrolling.

The goal was to spend that time meditating and writing instead. I read Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy in December, and was inspired by her instruction to consume less in order to create more and experience the world more fully.

So, in late December I began.

For the first two weeks, I managed the meditating. Get up immediately on waking, walk to a different part of the house, sit down, meditate. I am extremely lucky in that I was taught meditation as a child by my grandmother, so the actual act of sitting down and tuning in is not hard for me.

After a couple of weeks, I added the writing.

I have written two novels, the second of which I wrote while in a full-corporate role at SAP and a parent to three medium-sized humans. My writing time was 4 to 6am. I can get up early in the morning to write. I have seven or eight diary entries from January so the writing was a partial success. I read Alison Jones' Exploratory Writing and did some six-minute writing sprints.

On the days where it worked, I felt great. Almost too good. The combination of meditating, writing and then walking in the forest made me feel slightly saintly. And also very calm.

I read the 10 books in the picture during January, so my brain switched successfully from digital to analogue. I was focusing better. While the internet was alive with ChatGPT, I had my nose in books. It felt great.

Then there was a cold snap. I stayed in bed with coffee, didn't get up, scrolled.

My eleventh book has taken me two weeks to read and I'm only on page 110. I'm logging phone hours again. The slope to the empty calories of dopamine hits is so slippery. The internet is so shiny.

But I like the feeling of my brain when it's cranking analogue. It's harder than scrolling, but it feels like it's working. Like an old athlete getting back into training. Muscle memory.

Jenny Odell says it best: 'But the villain here is not necessarily the Internet, or even the idea of social media; it is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy and distraction.'

It's as if commercial social media is inflammation. The right amount can be useful, but too much is unhealthy for us.

My attention experiment is not over. I'm plunging back into the cold pool of resistance.