Melissa Schmalenberger, Published March 17 2012
Schmalenberger: Confessions of a smartphone addict
How did I know I had a problem? The message I received could not have been clearer: a fall in the bathtub. This was no ordinary fall. This was a hard fall, one that left three-quarters of my leg black and blue for three weeks – and one that landed my cellphone in the bath water.
I knew I had a problem when I was more concerned about my phone than my leg. Here I was hopping out of my bathtub on one leg to my bedroom wildly pulling my smartphone apart trying to dry it out, throwing the battery onto my bed while screaming in pain and crying out for help. Yes, I am a mess!
Many of you will say, “What was she doing with that smartphone in the tub with her in the first place?” Yes, that was the first problem. I guess I couldn’t be away from that possible email or text message for more than an hour. So that is when I knew something had to change.
I had every excuse for being so attached to my phone. The first being I own my own business (several, in fact), and I could miss an important email or phone call. The second being we got rid of our land line, and my cell is where those calls are going to arrive. And, finally, I love how organized it makes me look. I can answer emails and text messages within minutes of receiving them, showing people how on top of it I am.
But this is what I was missing: living in the present with the people who are right in front of me. I was missing conversations with my children. I was missing a look from a friend that says she needs help but is afraid to ask. I was missing giving someone all of my attention.
I started with baby steps. I turned off the email notifications. Once I did that, my brain started to relax, and I no longer crave hearing that sound.
My second step was to stop charging my phone in my bedroom. This has resulted in one problem so far, when my son called for a ride and I didn’t answer my phone because I didn’t hear it. I proceeded to ask why he didn’t call his dad and he said he didn’t know his dad’s phone number. See, I am too available.
So now when I go out with my husband, we do the cellphone game, where we both put our phones on the table and the first to grab it has to pay the bill. Yes, I lose when I hear a text message come through. I always pull the mother card, and it works every time. I look at him and say, “It could be one of the kids.” He can look at it for me and tell me if it is one I need to look at or not so I can still be in the game.
So now when I go downstairs to watch a movie with the kids, I leave my smartphone upstairs charging. If I miss a call or a text it is now OK as the really important people know my husband’s phone number and can get in touch with him in an emergency.
When I go to the gym, I don’t take my phone with me to yoga class. Instead I will take it on the treadmill with me only to listen to my music on my phone and to not check my email – scout’s honor.
So if you try to email, text or call me, I could be busy taking a bath or at yoga class. Please wait a couple of hours, and I will get back to you because I am busy living in the here and now, having real relationships and having these things called conversations.
Melissa Schmalenberger is a professional organizer.
She blogs at mssimplicity.areavoices.com.