I am generally very reticent about offering advice1.
But lately2 the spirit has moved me to pass along two pieces of phone advice that might be essential to surviving the glass age from which there is little relief.
If we all keep saying and noticing we are addicted to our phones, what do we do about it?
1. Remove the colors.
The phone is now a f—ing casino of increasing gamut-rich, lollipop-colors and distractions and little quibblets of noise and crimsons of dopamine. But you don’t have to stay on the casino floor and sit down at the slot machine, pulling your feeds up and down and swiping left and right. You can pull a full-on reverse-Pleasantville and view the phone, as much as possible, in greyscale. On an iPhone, circa 2018, per support.apple.com:
“To turn on Color Filters using the Accessibility Shortcut, follow these steps: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > (scroll all the way to the bottom to) Accessibility Shortcut and select Color Filters. Once you have Color Filters set up, you can quickly turn them on or off, by triple-clicking the Home button on your device.”
Triple-tap to remove the color, triple-tap to turn them back on, if you must. It’s kind of fun. But there’s also an equanimity to the savage constructions and filters of even the never ending stream, unstuck from time, of instagram and snaps and notifications.
2. Remove the phone.
In a recent study, it was observed that proximity to a smart phone, even one turned off and placed face down on a table, has a measurable negative impact on a subject’s cognitive ability. In other words, just being near a thing that is a phone — without any active electrons moving inside of it — that could be turned on and checked, is mental work that taxes the brain’s ability to focus and do brainy things. Possibly with as much negative impact as sleep deprivation. On an iPhone, circa 2018, per support.apple.com:
“Do not do this. Please keep your phone with you at all times. You need these notifications. You need these trivially Googled answers. How else will everyone get in touch with you instantly, how else will you view a feed every time you are distracted or hit a challenging but crucial mental brick wall in your work, or when you are no longer asleep in the morning but just aren’t feeling like or being a human quite yet.“
When I write, or meditate, or do anything in a situation where I don’t need an immediate response from the world, I’ve been putting my phone as far away as possible for at least 25 minutes at a time. Sometimes it goes in another room. But I’ve found that the further away the phone is, the better the improvement. Sometimes it goes outside, on a little ledge outside my studio, where it can think about what it’s done.
Just try it. You might like the results.
- At least, I think I am reticent. Historically, there’s usually more doubt about the ideas than confidence in the wisdom, even in the realm of technology in which I am, by most accounts, full of direct experience.
- Since I spent a dozen days at a meditation retreat away from my phone, the internet, television, writing, speaking, etcetera.