Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch before bed? Do you frequently pick it up “just to check,” only to look up forty-five minutes later wondering where the time has gone? Do you say you want to spend less time on your phone—but have no idea how to do so without giving it up completely? If so, this book is your solution.
Award-winning journalist Catherine Price presents a practical, hands-on plan to break up—and then make up—with your phone. The goal? A long-term relationship that actually feels good.
You’ll discover how phones and apps are designed to be addictive, and learn how the time we spend on them damages our abilities to focus, think deeply, and form new memories. You’ll then make customized changes to your settings, apps, environment, and mindset that will ultimately enable you to take back control of your life.
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About the Author
A graduate of Yale and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, she's also a recipient of a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Reporting, a two-time Société de Chimie Industrielle fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, an ASME nominee, a 2013 resident at the Mesa Refuge, a fellow in both the Food and Medical Evidence Boot Camps at the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, and winner of the Gobind Behari Lal prize for science writing. You can learn more about her and her work at catherine-price.com.
Read an Excerpt
Let’s get something clear from the start: the point of this book is not to get you to throw your phone under a bus. Just as breaking up with a person doesn’t mean that you’re swearing off all human relationships, “breaking up” with your phone doesn’t mean that you’re trading in your touch screen for a rotary dial.
After all, there are lots of reasons for us to love our smartphones. They’re cameras. They’re DJs. They help us keep in touch with family and friends, and they know the answers to every piece of trivia we could ever think to ask. They tell us about the traffic and the weather; they store our calendars and our contact lists. Smartphones are amazing tools.
But something about smartphones also makes us act like tools. Most of us find it hard to get through a meal or a movie or even a stoplight without pulling out our phones. On the rare occasions when we accidentally leave them at home or on our desk, we reach for them anyway, and feel anxious, again and again, each time we realize they’re not there. If you’re like most people, your phone is within arm’s reach right this very second, and the mere mention of it is making you want to check something. Like the news. Or your texts. Or your email. Or the weather. Or, really, anything at all.
Go ahead and do it. And then come back to this page and notice how you feel. Are you calm? Focused? Present? Satisfied? Or are you feeling a bit scattered and uneasy, vaguely stressed without really knowing why?
Today, just over a decade since smartphones entered our lives, we’re beginning to suspect that their impact on our lives might not be entirely good. We feel busy but ineffective. Connected but lonely. The same technology that gives us freedom can also act like a leash—and the more tethered we become, the more it raises the question of who’s actually in control. The result is a paralyzing tension: we love our phones, but we often hate the way they make us feel. And no one seems to know what to do about it.
The problem isn’t smartphones themselves. The problem is our relationships with them. Smartphones have infiltrated our lives so quickly and so thoroughly that we have never stopped to think about what we actually want our relationships with them to look like—or what effects these relationships might be having on our lives.
We’ve never stopped to think about which features of our phones make us feel good, and which make us feel bad. We’ve never stopped to think about why smartphones are so hard to put down, or who might be benefiting when we pick them up. We’ve never stopped to think about what spending so many hours engaged with our devices might be doing to our brains, or whether a device billed as a way to connect us to other people might actually be driving us apart.
“Breaking up” with your phone means giving yourself a chance to stop and think.
It means noticing which parts of your relationship are working and which parts are not. It means setting boundaries between your online and offline lives. It means becoming conscious of how and why you use your phone—and recognizing that your phone is manipulating how and why you use it. It means undoing the effects that your phone has had on your brain. It means prioritizing real-life relationships over those that take place on screens.
Breaking up with your phone means giving yourself the space, freedom, and tools necessary to create a new, long-term relationship, one that keeps what you love about your phone and gets rid of what you don’t. A relationship, in other words, that makes you feel healthy and happy—and over which you have control.
Table of Contents
An Open Letter to My Phone vi
Part I The Wake-up
1 Out Phones Are Designed to Addict Us 20
2 Putting the Dope in Dopamine 24
3 The Tricks of the Trade 28
4 Why Social Media Sucks 39
5 The Truth about Multitasking 47
6 Your Phone is Changing Your Brain 50
7 Your Phone Is Killing Your Attention Span 54
8 Your Phone Messes with Your Memory 59
9 Stress, Sleep, and Satisfaction 64
10 How to Take Back Your Life 69
Part II The Breakup
Week 1 Technology Triage 76
Week 2 Changing Your Habits 102
Week 3 Reclaiming Your Brain 128
Week 4 (And Beyond) Your New Relationship 143
Recommended Resources 169
About the Author 181