“How to Break Up with Your Phone” – Catherine Price (5/5 ★)

While this book is intended to be used as a 30 day plan in order to break up with your phone, I read it in almost one sitting & am more than happy to give it a full 5 out of 5 ★ rating straight away! This book is literally life-changing! I already see it among my top 10 books for the year of 2020 & will surely be talking about it with all my friends for whom I would see it as a useful read 😏

I have already noticed a while ago that I seem to have addictive tendencies in connection with my phone: picking it up during every single moment when I wasn’t doing something – in the elevator, while waiting in line at the supermarket or even for a minute when a friend goes to the bathroom during dinner. The worst case scenario usually happened while picking it up at home though, getting stuck on it, forgetting why I unlocked the screen in the first place, robbing me of valuable “free time” & breaking my good intentions of going to sleep earlier. All of these realisations got even more emphasised during the 2 month lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus, when we were pretty much confined to only our own apartments. It took me almost a month to get back into a healthy reading routine & to stop pointlessly browsing apps on my phone.

Whereas a lot of us are aware that we should be using our phones less, this book is extremely eye-opening in revealing your actual behaviour. It guides you down a personalised path of making you reflect on what exactly you want to change about the way that you use your phone today. Being aware of the fact that I needed to get a grip on how I let myself be manipulated by my phone & the apps that I use, I have tried taking the first steps towards changing my habits multiple times a while back:

  • Buying an actual alarm clock instead of being woken up by my phone & going through all my notifications first thing in the morning;
  • Charging my phone in a different room during the night in order to stop myself from scrolling through it right before going to sleep;
  • Putting the majority of my apps into folders to stop being tempted by them simply by seeing their icon, each time I unlocked my phone;
  • Deleting the Facebook app & blocking the usage of the YouTube app, since I realised that those were my biggest time suckers;
  • Keeping my phone on silent the majority of the time to get rid of all notification sounds & vibrations.

It was great to get the confirmation from the book that those were exactly the steps in the right direction, but even with the best intentions in mind, I have never managed to stick to my resolutions. This is where this book comes in & helps you out by offering you a step-by-step manual that you can follow. The moment when you get compared to a dog responding to cues in one of Ivan Pavlov’s experiments, you know that the time has come to take matters into your own hands 😀

“Notifications use our brains’ natural ability to associate cues with rewards (and our anxiety over uncertainty) to get us to compulsively check our phones. Every time you hear or see a notification, you know that there’s something new and unpredictable waiting for you – two qualities that we are hardwired to crave.” (p. 104)

One of the aspects I enjoyed a lot about the book, was the style it was written in, being sprinkled with a sense of humour all over. What worked as an additional motivator, was knowing that the author went through the same journey herself & writing this book was in some sense an effort to change her own habits. You never felt judged & there was no condescending tone, which I appreciated a lot. On top of that, I feel like the title couldn’t have been chosen better! The main goal is to literally break up with your phone, stop the addictive relationship with it, in order to transition into a relationship of being “friends” with it, enjoying the positive sides of each other. The book doesn’t dictate you to completely get rid of a smartphone & get back to an old Nokia phone without an internet connection but most of all gives you a lot of examples & suggestion on how to change your own behaviour.

The method is presented with the added benefit of providing super helpful suggestions on how to take the people around you along on this ride of a behavioural change to some extent. This is an important part since so much of your own behaviour is influenced by the one of the people around you. The testimonies of the people who have already tried the 30 day method are really reassuring, so I often found myself nodding along in approval while reading through them.

“Checking your phone is like picking your nose: there’s nothing wrong with it, but no one should have to watch you do it.” (p. 123)

“No phones on the table! I will try to get my husband to do this, too. Part of the reason I end up picking mine up is because he’s on his.” (p. 121)

Some useful stats are also provided on the benefits of meditation, regular reading, as well as book suggestions for further reading:

  • iDisorder – Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us” by Larry D. Rosen or
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr

“Ignoring is an active process. It requires our prefrontal cortexes to exert top-down control, suppressing activity in certain brain areas so that the object of our attention stands out. The better we are at ignoring, the better we are at paying attention.” (p. 134)

If you’re a smart phone user (which by now pretty much all of us are, even our 10 year old cousins or our grandparents), I absolutely suggest you to read this book! It is adapted to an incredibly wide audience, so no matter if you bought it for yourself or in order to be able to help out your kids, you’ll be able to find useful tips for every situation. Even if you feel like your relationship with your phone is completely fine, you won’t be losing much by giving it a chance. It’s a pretty quick read, where you would be able to get through it in about 3 & a half hours, while already taking the first notes! I’ll be going through the entire 30 day experience & might add something on to this review later on or also publish a separate article on it, so stay tuned! 🙂

★★★★★ (5/5)

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