My dumbed-down smartphone

My relationship with my iPhone is complicated. The iPhone, of course, makes life easier–I can check on my baby through Dropcam, I can check emails, I can check the weather, the news, scores, etc. Anything checkable can easily be checked via iPhone. But–no surprises here–there are downsides to having all this beautiful technology readily available at the fingertips.

My ever-cyclical relationship with my iPhone plays out predictably. Over the course of a few weeks, I slowly build up a wealth of entertaining and “useful” free apps including, but not limited to, news apps, picture editors, games, twitter, iAlien (for reddit), Zillow, etc. This accumulation of apps eventually evolves into a giant, time-sucking, boredom-devouring monster. As soon as I’m faced with even one second of downtime, I reflexively retrieve my phone from my pocket. I have no agenda–I just know that as soon as I swipe my little finger across that little screen, some sort of prepossessing nonsense (the aforementioned monster) will be patiently waiting to fill my little brain. Which works out nicely, because if my phone isn’t going to fill my brain, what will?

This monster controls every second of my downtime until one day, I snap. Like Truman crashing his sail boat into sky-painted drywall, I suddenly realize that the iPhone monster has done it again. Instantly, my iPhone goes from being a pleasant companion to public enemy number one. I go on an app deleting binge. I delete Twitter, games, news apps. I disable Safari and sometimes even email. I get rid of anything that satisfies boredom. As T-Mobile says, I am taking back the power.

Well, after last night’s binge, this is what I’m left with:

IMG_4387

I have my apps sorted into three categories according to how my smartphone time is allocated:

<1% – Apps I can’t delete (like Stocks and Game Center) and apps I rarely use, but that hold important data (like 7Eleven…I will get that free slurpee!)

20% – Apps that I don’t use terribly often, or use seasonally. For example, I use the Kindle app regularly when I’m reading a kindle book, but when I’m reading a paperback, I consequently have no use for it. Work apps also go here–Pages, Numbers, Drive, and TinyPDF.

80% – These are the apps that I have decent use for–Google Maps, Podcasts, Dropcam (baby monitor), Simplenote, Google Sheets, Music, and Pocket.

As you can see, my 3 apps on deck are Phone, Messages, and, in an effort to meditate more, Calm.

During the first few hours sporting this setup, when faced with downtime, I reached for my phone, unlocked it, found nothing interesting, remembered my little experiment, put my phone away, and did something else. Or just sat and did nothing (brave, right?). I am hoping that once I am accustomed to my dumbed-down smartphone, I will focus on doing more meaningful things during downtime. Rather than mindlessly scroll through Twitter, I will meditate (hence the easy access to the Calm app), talk with my wife, play with my baby, wrestle with my dog, read a book, write, go outside, etc.

Remember, boredom is a great creative catalyst!

It may be a small step, but one that will hopefully allow me to live a bit more deeply.

Do you have any tips in dealing with ADD-inducing smartphones? Please let me know!

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