When My Phone Owns My Time

I fit neatly in between two generations, that of Millenial and Gen-Z. I tend to identify much stronger with the Millennial generation in that I feel I have been a witness of technology taking more and more control over our lives.

I am only 23, but I remember the first time my dad ever used a GPS. It wasn’t on his phone. It was a piece of technology that only had one purpose–to get you places. 

I remember when phones didn’t have cameras and when the only game you could play on them was Snake.

I remember when you would only call people after 8pm because it was cheaper, and often we would call landline to landline because that was more cost-effective. I remember “tlkng lke ths” so I could get as few characters into my text as possible so I didn’t have to pay for two texts. 

Now my phone is my GPS, I use the internet to call people, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger are how I text people, and I can type up an entire book in those message boxes if I feel so inclined. I use my phone as my camera, my Bible, my Kindle, my way to learn things, my torch (flashlight), my library, my spending tracker, my planner/calendar, my CD (Spotify) and DVD (Netflix)… and sometimes I call people. 

Honestly, there isn’t much my phone can’t do anymore. And honestly, I’m grateful because it has made life so much easier. 

But I find myself longing for the days when technology was far simpler and didn’t have such a hold over us. 

I’m beginning to hope someone will take my phone away. 

My Phone Fills My Time 

I don’t know about you, but my phone goes everywhere that I do. 

There are some good reasons for this—like the GPS which ensures that I don’t get lost, or the fact that if I get caught in some kind of trouble I can call my parents. 

But at the same time, my phone goes everywhere I do because I can’t live without it

When I am bored, I take out my phone. When I am in a queue, I take out my phone. When I am tired, I take out my phone. When I wake up, I take out my phone. When I am watching TV, I take out my phone. I take out my phone a lot. 

Does this sound familiar to you?

I hope that it doesn’t. I hope you have better control over your phone habits than I do. 

My Phone is Habit Forming

Recently I realised that I was going onto Facebook more than I wanted to. I don’t even like Facebook; I used to go on there only very occasionally. There isn’t even a Facebook app on my phone; I use my browser to access it. Yet, I was still going on Facebook far more than I should.

So I decided, “AJ, Facebook is wasting your time. Stop going on Facebook.”

But this weird thing would happen: I would pick up my phone, and without even realising, I had started scrolling through Facebook. 

Out of curiosity, I moved the browser app on my phone and put my Bible app where it had once been. And something happened… over the next few days I found myself opening my Bible app without knowing what I was doing. 

I wasn’t opening my Bible app because I wanted to read my Bible right then, I was opening it because it was where my browser had been and clicking that location to scroll through Facebook was a habit. 

That opened my eyes to how much I needed to get control over the habits I was too easily forming in regards to my phone. 

My Phone Takes Me Away From Other People

Having a phone becomes an easy way to check out of the world. If I didn’t really feel like talking to someone who was right there with me, I could just take out my phone. 

This was not the kind of person I wanted to be. 

My Phone and Quarantine/Covid-19

The problem is, with the Coronavirus wreaking havoc through our lives, we have found that the only way we are able to communicate with each other is on a screen. 

While I already knew that these things were all real problems in my life, what really got my attention was when the only way I could communicate with other people was to use my phone. 

I have hated that. 

Talking to people via a screen for the majority of the time, really stressed me out. I became a grumpier, angrier, more sullen individual. 

My words to other people were not uplifting or edifying, but filled with complaints and irritation. Both online and offline my behavior changed because of the amount of time I was spending on a screen. 

There may be all kinds of scientific or psychological reasons why—I am not sure. But personally it has opened my eyes to how unhealthy this kind of communication is and how I can change it moving forward. 

While I may not be able to spend time with my friends in person during this pandemic, it has taught me what kind of person I want to be moving forward.

No One Will Take My Phone Away, So I Did This

I have turned all notifications for messages to silent on my phone. Except for my parents and a few other important people in my life, my phone will not buzz if I get a message–only flash on the screen. 

I have also started leaving my phone in another room far more often. I want to get away from my phone being automatically reached for when I have a few seconds of downtime. 

I turn my phone off on Sundays from 8am-8pm.

I have kept my browser app and other social media apps in less convenient locations on my phone. That way when I open an app it is a deliberate decision to be on that app. 

I am trying to limit my screen time to less than 3 hours a day. In a lot of ways I think this is still too high, but I am taking baby steps.

My Phone Shouldn’t Own Me

At the end of the day my goal is to get to a place where I own my phone and my phone doesn’t own me.


  • Koketso Setlhodi

    I think this is something we all ought to be doing. We can also benefit from spending time with the people around us and being present more.

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