Some time ago I posted the following status update on Facebook:
The three things I love most in the world:
- My wife
- My children
- My iPhone
(Not necessarily in that order)
I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but it proved to be a turning point in my understanding of:
- The relationship I have with my phone
- The relationship my wife has with my phone.
Simply put, my wife is jealous of my phone, and it’s probably not entirely unjustified.
You’re spending too much time with her
The root cause of my wife’s jealousy is the sheer amount of time that my phone and I spend together.
In the last few months particularly, it has been in my hand constantly and now the mere sight of it is enough to trigger an argument.
I recall reading somewhere – Lifehacker I think – that you should apply the ‘crossword puzzle’ scenario to phone usage. If it would be acceptable in a given situation to sit and do a crossword puzzle, it is probably acceptable to use your phone.
I wouldn’t do a crossword puzzle in the supermarket, mid-conversation, whilst cooking dinner, during a nappy change or in bed but I have used my phone in all those situations.
You don’t look at me the way you look at her
So what exactly am I looking at? Well it’s got worse since I started this blog. Before I was limited in the things I could check regularly – news doesn’t change that often and emails tend to trickle, rather than flood, into my inbox.
Since I’ve been on my productivity drive I’ve found many more things to grab my passing attention, not least running updates on my blog stats and a raft of new informative articles/feeds via RSS and Twitter.
Do I need to be checking any of these things hourly/half-hourly? No? Can they wait? Yes.
What do the two of you talk about for so long?
My wife isn’t a Luddite. She has an iPhone herself and is a regular user of text, Facebook and email. I think what she struggles to understand is why my usage differs so significantly from hers.
In her view what is socially acceptable, what is normal, what is appropriate differs wildly from my definition.
It’s not you, it’s me
For quite some time I have been stubbornly resistant to any notion that there might be some validity to my wife’s complaints. Recently though I’m starting to realise that my behaviour is somewhere outside of acceptable and the impact that has on her and others.
I think we should see other people
As a test, this weekend instead of unplugging my iPhone from the bedstand and trailing it around with me like an extra appendage, I left it behind and went about my daily routine.
Even with my recent experience of quitting smoking in January I was totally unprepared for the withdrawal that even a short span of time "sans iPhone" would generate.
I found myself jittery, hands twitchy, my whole self generally unsettled. I would unconsciously reach for my pocket like Frodo reaching for the One Ring, drawing back once I realised what I was doing.
Is this the reaction of a rational human being? Nope. This is a good indication of an unhealthy relationship; a lack of balance requiring restoration.
The ‘cold turkey’ experiment has been useful in highlighting how an incremental creeping up of phone usage can reach a tipping point where it has essentially become a dependency.
‘Going without’ has made me realise two things – just how much I have been using my phone, and how frustrating it must be to see me with it in my hand every five minutes.
I have been selfish. I have allowed a little box of wires and glass to establish itself at the top of my household pecking order. In doing so I have unwittingly reduced the rank of my wife and family, taking focus from them and failing to give them the respect and attention they deserve.
It stops. NOW.
I am a new person
I am ending this affair with my phone. I will reset the relationship by taking it out of my pocket and defining a physical resting place for it that will make the decision to use it a conscious one.
‘Acceptable usage’ gets redefined. I will let my feeds go unread, my stats go unchecked. phone/computer time will become more defined and will satisfy the ‘crossword puzzle’ check.
It’s going to take time for these changes to permeate into the household, and to repair the damage it has done to the relationship with my family.
But l suppose much like the errant husband, by ending the relationship and coming clean I hope I have taken the first step towards redemption.