I’m convinced that in a few decades, if not sooner, my generation is going to develop tumors or other exotic-looking things on our hands that are the exact size and shape of a smartphone.
This past weekend I woke up both mornings with stiffness and pain in my right pinky finger and some numbness on that part of my hand. I clenched and opened my hand as a stretch, with each finger cracking and hurting as I did so.
I realized the location of the pain stemmed from the way I hold my phone — in my right hand, thumb on the right near the volume, three other digits holding the left, and pinky at the bottom.
I also use my pinky to text, since the rest of my fingers are kinda wide for the letters.
Because of the finger pain, eye strain (even with my glasses on) and the amount of time I can waste on social media and surfing the Web, I decided to try an experiment and put myself on restriction. For this week, the laptop could only be out for work, the phone if I was working or had something I needed to do with it. Otherwise, things were staying off and put away.
I won’t call this past week’s experiment tough, but it was an adjustment.
Monday: I wouldn’t let myself check my phone first thing when I woke up, and gave it an hour before turning on some You Tube during my treadmill jog. Afterward, as I was getting my makeup on, I decided to watch some reruns of The Anna Nicole Show on YouTube.
(Say what you want about her; Anna Nicole was a trailblazer for reality TV.)
Weirdly enough, I had more time in the afternoon when I wasn’t playing on YouTube, Facebook or any of my apps, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.
Tuesday: I didn’t play on my phone as much today. In fact, I didn’t have the urge to do actually do anything with it. I did however find myself reaching for my phone and holding it just to hold it.
I don’t think people who have “addictions” to technology have any interest in the technology as much as they have the need to hold something. I’ve figured the thinking is not too far off from a few of the former smokers I know smoking e-cigs because they’ve gotten so used to the motion of smoking and can’t break the psychological need to mimic a previous, comforting action.
Wednesday: At Mom’s request, I did check out Facebook to see the photo she uploaded. Stepdad Bill is a surveyor working in Virginia and is now working nights. He sent Mom a picture of himself and a few of his coworkers, who are glowing in the dark from the safety vests they’re wearing. Mom uploaded the picture and wanted me to check it out.
Later that night, I decided to watch some scenes from The Prince of Egypt on YouTube before falling asleep. The last three evenings I turned my phone off an hour before bedtime to prevent myself from staying up an hour to an hour and half later playing on it and screwing up my sleep pattern. That night I decided to treat myself from a rather interesting day, and then turned the phone off around 9:30.
Thursday: Feeling confident, I decided to leave the phone out to see if I could have it out, on and in front of me without the urge to waste time playing on it. Leaving it alone wasn’t the breakthrough though.
The aches in my right hand went down. A lot.
I still have some tension in my pinky area, so I’m babying that, but otherwise, the stiffness isn’t near as severe.
And I’m not all that interested in the phone anyway.
Friday: So I’ve made it through the week without wasting hours playing on the phone. I’m rather impressed with myself, considering that the previous week, I probably did spend the average eight hours a day staring at a screen, without accomplishing anything important in the time I was doing so.
I don’t consider myself to have an addictive personality type, but I am a creature of habit. When I do (or don’t do) something for a few days, after about three days it starts to feel like second nature to the extent of where I don’t think of doing it any other way.
As I’m finishing this column up, my phone is out in front of me. This time last week I’d be running behind from checking Facebook, watching something on YouTube or reading one of my favorite informative time-waster websites.
In fact, I’m actually so on schedule that I can actually focus on the task at hand, which happens once in many moons for me thanks to my scatterbrained-ness.
So to those of you who are addicted to technology, try turning the phone off overnight or for several hours at a time. I won’t lie — I didn’t know what to do with myself the first time I turned my phone off for an evening, and it was driving me crazy. But by Day Three, the feeling of needing to be on the phone and checking it goes away, and the feeling of neediness leaving is the most liberating thing to experience.
Old habits die hard, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be broken.
You can reach Allison C. Gallagher online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Troydailynews.