It was a Wednesday afternoon and I decided I was fed up. I was tired of feeling like I wasn't choosing how much time I spent checking email, scrolling Facebook, searching for random s#*t on the internet.
I knew I wasn't someone with a 'serious' problem, but I do not like the feeling of being a 40 year old woman who often doesn't stop herself from checking her phone even when she wants to.
So I investigated. I knew I didn't have to have social media apps on my phone, but it seemed like my browser (Safari) and email were permanent - there was no 'x' to remove it from my screen. But I figured it out. I placed a restriction on Safari in my settings. I deleted all my email accounts in my 'Mail' settings.
There, it was done.
Of course, I could go to my laptop or desktop if I wanted to get online, but for now, I'd made it a little harder to get to it on my phone.
And here's what happened:
00:02 - Two Minutes
My chest hurt. I felt tension running from my armpits through my neck. I was tight all through my ribs and my breath felt shallow. My arms wanted to reach out. My neural circuitry had been so conditioned to get a reward from checking and scrolling (dopamine and/or other feel good biochemicals), that my body was urging me to do the thing to get the good feeling! Do it, lady! My arms wanted to do it, my adrenal glands wanted to do it, my heart wanted to do it. My brain and body had gotten so used to a predictable pattern of behavior to get a quick hit of satisfaction, that I was in physical discomfort because I wasn't completing the circuit, I wasn't resolving the urge for satisfaction.
My brain and body ached with withdrawal.
01:00 - One Hour
My body seemed a bit more relaxed already, but I was thinking about checking A LOT. I noticed that when I was bored, irritated, in a transition between one thing and the next, my mind wanted to take a break and see what's doin' on the nets. I looked over at my phone. I picked it up, to see there were no blue icons - no mail/FB/Safari. If I wanted to check, I'd have to leave the room and turn on my computer. And then it seemed silly. There was nothing I was waiting for, nothing that couldn't wait.
I wanted the familiar, I wanted to fill in all the spaces.
Instead I did the dishes.
04:00 - Four Hours
The kids were in bed. It was check and scroll time, baby. But I didn't want to so much. I'd had a whopping four hours of withdrawal from mindless phone checking, and it has already lost some of it's potency. I checked on my laptop, and nothing was that interesting. I scrolled a bit more. Okay, that's what I missed. No biggie.
So I read a book.
12:00 - Twelve Hours
My kid woke with a fever. I went to him, gave some medicine, lay with him, then went back to bed. And I wasn't falling right to sleep. I wanted to check my phone. But there wasn't anything to click.
So I went to sleep.
20:00 - Twenty Hours
I worked from home with my sick kid at my side. I was online writing and responding to emails, but it felt intentional; I was working. I was doing the thing I wanted to do and was supposed to do. I was on FB because that's where I facilitate a community, and it feels right and real to engage with them. It's work. It's connection. It wasn't mindless numbing.
I worked online. I did good things online. And then, when the work day was done, I got off.
29:00 Twenty-Nine Hours
Kids back in bed. An evening to myself. Let me sit on this couch with this laptop and relax. I let myself dive deep into the scrolling again. I got to notice what was different this time. I could tell I was tired. I could tell I wanted inspiration, I wanted connection. I scrolled and read some stuff, but didn't find the inspiration, connection, or rest I wanted. After about 30 minutes, I logged off. I had learned something. Just by unhooking from compulsive checking for a day, the reward of doing it weakened.
I wasn't so hooked. I didn't need it so much.
40:00 - Forty Hours
Kids were both back at school and I had a day of work without many computer obligations. I needed to do my bookkeeping for work and home, get a driver's license and get ready for Shabbat dinner. Usually, these days are a blur. Fridays are less structured with client work or meetings, so I can get lost online more easily. But today I didn't. I took a magazine to the DMV. I cleaned the house, and liked it. I found a new recipe for dinner, after weeks of doing the EXACT.SAME.THING.
I was enjoying my free time, and enjoying being productive.
46:00 - Forty-Six Hours
I picked up the kids, and spontaneously went to get Halloween decorations. WHAT? Usually, I am too wiped out and overwhelmed to do these things with the kids. My brain was typically too jammed up with all the things I'd checked and scrolled and clicked during the day. I'd usually get something on my own, and then kind of rush the kids through setting them up.
But I felt spacious, flexible, and creative. We got our stuff, took our time, and created together.
We made sweetness happen.
48:00 - Forty-Eight Hours
Shabbat is here. The day of rest. The time of unplugging and restoring and reflecting. And I was ready. I'm used to disappointing myself by intending to unplug but doing the same damn thing, check, scroll, repeat. But I'd unhooked.
After the kids were in bed I thought about checking email and Facebook. But this time, for the first time, I felt so relieved that I couldn't. That my soft, spaciousness didn't have to be invaded by random consumption of other people's stuff.