My Smartphone and I

I currently have a problem and it looks like this:

My Problem
My Problem

This is stupid. I am wasting more than a whole day per week on my phone. It’s even worse from a proportional point of view: A quarter of my waking day is spent on things I don’t like to spend that much time on. I don’t even know what I do during that time. It does tell me right below, but the gray area making up a large portion of the day is YouTube, Twitter, and other sites I didn’t install an app for, and apart from some exceptions I can’t recall what I watched or read.

The Problems

While reading “Wasting Time” by Marcus Buffett, I felt like someone had put my feelings into words. I actually did all the things he described before, ultimately even finding the same “solution”: screen time and throwing away the key was especially useful during exam time, but it was still a bandaid.

Now, I do think it is important to let your brain relax for a moment, but, let’s face it, I did not work so much that I deserved breaks totaling 4 hours, and even if I did, I could have spent my time relaxing better than watching some video. I basically have 3 problems:

  1. Using my phone because I want to relax my brain for a bit.
  2. Using my phone per default.
  3. Using my phone when there is an offline alternative.

These are all in different areas of life and impact me differently:

The first problem occurs mainly during work or while I’m studying. When I am at my desk for a bit, I might glance at my phone or use a natural break (Compiling!) as an excuse to pick it up. This leads to problems though, like forgetting parts of some solution I wanted to try, and having to rediscover it. It also doesn’t relax my brain, I’m still using it.

The second problem is a bit worse: If I don’t know what to do, I will look at my phone, and more often than not there is a fix for my boredom. This happens frequently when I’m waiting for a bus, while eating, or before going to bed. Being alone with one’s thoughts is a good thing though, and I do enjoy just sitting outside and letting my mind wander, but it seems like I conditioned myself to not let that happen sometimes.

The third problem is almost philosophical: You have all the entertainment and information you could ever want in your pocket. Would you use it? A good answer would probably be: sometimes. It wouldn’t be very smart to never make use of such an opportunity. Life, on the other hand, is rarely perfect, yet the limitless possibilities a smartphone offers enable you to fulfill your every dream, therefore setting an unrealistical high standard for the analog world.

All of this is not sustainable. The main thing that bothers me is that I am constantly distracted by some weight in my pocket that promises a world of fun, but makes me care less about the physical environment I am in right now.

The Solution?

Solving this problem boiled down to one thing for me: Just not using a smartphone. That, however, is pretty much impossible, since a lot of my social life is organized via group texts. Therefore, the idea is to use my phone less: Either by virtualizing my phone and just using it if I have access to a PC, or just leaving it in one spot where I can access it, but only there.

Virtualizing my phone seems like a good idea, but I do want to be reachable when I go on vacation. Therefore, I will keep my phone powered off on a shelf in the corner of my room. It is there if I want to use it, but I have to stand around and it’s not a great feeling. If I want to send and read messages, I can use web apps for my messengers. Before I go to bed, I can pick up reading again, something I neglected for some time.

Now, there are two things I don’t like about this approach: The first is that I might just go on YouTube and those other sites on my PC now. This is not a problem when I’m not at home, but I do want to monitor my behavior in that regard. If it gets out of hand I have to set a fixed window for digital entertainment.

The other problem is communicating when I am going somewhere. I might run a bit late or want to ask which snacks to bring. For this purpose, I will carry a feature phone. I can still send SMS or call someone, and that’s enough for my purpose.

Now, I do realize that this is not a solution for everyone. My social media presence is basically nonexistent, so I don’t have to worry about taking pictures for Instagram or Snapchat. You might be able to take your smartphone with you, but without a SIM card, therefore disabling at least online distractions.


To sum it up, here is my plan for next time: Keep my phone in one spot and use a feature phone when on the go, therefore simplifying my digital life. If I am bored and don’t have anything else to do, I want to pick up a book. I hope I can regain control of my time again and be more focused on my environment.

I will write a post in a few weeks or months and report back. If you have any additions, my email is in the imprint.