A few weeks ago, right after I finished producing this Life Kit episode on how to take a break from our screens, I passed a mom and her daughter on their way to the park. The mom stopped suddenly. Patting her pockets frantically, she turned to her daughter and said, “Sweetie, we have to go back to the car. I forgot my phone.”
Her daughter, who was already making a beeline toward the swings, turned to her mom and said, “Why?”
My ears immediately perked up: Here was a perfect example for our episode. Even someone who had grown up around smartphones and iPads didn’t always see the point in having them around. The mom explained that she wanted to keep an eye on the time, and while her daughter couldn’t understand why that was more important than being next in line for the swings, she eventually followed her back to their car.
We wanted to hear more stories about people untangling themselves from technology. So we asked our listeners to share some of their favorite tips and tricks on how to ditch the device and stay in the moment. Here are some of our favorite responses:
Getting rid of apps and distractions
I removed the apps for Facebook and Instagram from my phone and enabled two-step authentication on my Facebook account. Now I have to access those sites via a web browser, and it’s a nuisance. This helps me because before it was too easy to get to the content. Now I think twice if I want to go through the pain of verifying my credentials. —Rob Wittman
I unfollowed nearly all non-family Facebook friends. Now I still see family photos and keep in touch with long-distance friends, but spend a small fraction of the time I used to on Facebook. —Mary Biddle
When I make a plan for [true] human face-time, my phone isn’t invited to join. It stays on silent in my purse. We eat, we walk, we go to the movies—we don’t need a third wheel. — Talora Michal
I noticed a pattern of friends and family posting things online, and then us not having much to talk about when we would visit each other in person. You’d already seen all their vacation photos, where they were, who they were with, what they ate, right? So I went cold turkey and got rid of all social media platforms entirely. I experienced some serious FOMO at first, but now I don’t even notice the difference. It’s an opportunity to reach out more personally to family and friends to see what’s new in their life, and for them to reach out to me more, too. —Taylor Seale
Hiding your phone
For years I used to wake up in the middle of the night to look at or answer a text or email. I realized my quality of sleep and quality of life were being affected, so now I keep the phone in a completely different room when I go to bed. — Stuart Sutton
I’m starting to keep a list of random things that come to mind throughout the day that make me want to run to the computer to find the answers. So rather than running to the computer throughout the day, I save it for one session. — Charlene Gaubis
If I want to be untethered, I leave my phone and a note that says where I’m going by the front door. That way, my family is aware I don’t have my phone and has an idea where to look if needed. — Linda
As I teach my teenage daughters how to drive, I test them on landmarks and street names in our neighborhood. Rather than dangerously reaching for a phone to search for directions, hopefully, they will instinctively know how to get around phone-free. If they take a wrong turn on the way to the mall, it may add 10 minutes to their drive, but they will learn not to take that route the next time. — Greta Bailey
Finding non-internet activities
I keep envelopes addressed to my favorite friends ready to go. That way I can send some letters to brighten mailboxes for no reason whatsoever. — Staffordwood
I keep a small stack of 3-by-5-inch notecards on my desk with a pen, pencil and a little wooden carrying tray. Any thought, no matter how wild or rational, is written down. Any emotion, whether good or bad, is written down. It helps keep me focused and engaged with the writing medium, and if I need to draw something or sketch, it’s right there! This helps me keep tabs on my feelings without being fully distracted from whatever I was doing. — Nathan Venturini
My husband and I are trying to decrease phone and internet use. One strategy we’re using is to wear watches. (He wears his grandfather’s and I wear my mother’s). We were always tapping our phones to check the time, and then it was insanely common to find ourselves on an unintended trip down a rabbit hole. — Charlene Gaubis
Build activities you enjoy with analog technology. I have hundreds of vinyl records I still play in the background. I love cooking every day while listening to NPR’s All Things Considered on my old analog radio. Jokingly, I tell my wife, “I need to start cooking with Michel Martin or Maria Hinojosa.” — Sergio E. Serrano
Find a service plan that only offers talk and text. When I’m out running errands or spending time with friends, I have no other option than to stay engaged with my surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, I got the plan without internet service because it’s WAY lower cost (another side benefit), but I really do feel a modicum of relief when I’m out somewhere that I’m not able to connect to Wi -Fi because it allows me to focus on what I’m doing and giving the people I’m with my full attention. — Taylor Parnell
See the comic by Malaka Gharib that inspired this round-up.
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