Smartphones are the devil.
Okay, bit harsh. Smartphones are undoubtedly very useful. The “I got lost” excuse for arriving late is not valid anymore – a quick few taps in your mobile map app of choice and you can instantly find out where you are (and where you should be).
In terms of good mental health, however, smartphones are one of the fiercest opponents I have encountered. It isn’t necessarily the magnitude of the effect they have on my mood. It is the smartphone’s ability to cling to my brain like a leech. They are almost impossible to remove once latched. The short, sharp and seemingly neverending rewards smartphones offer are intoxicating. And this is putting it mildly.
I spent years trying to think of a method which would separate me from this attention-sucking device. I tried app blockers, minimalist backgrounds, shoving the entire dang thing into the back of a drawer and piling clothes on top.
Its usefulness was always my undoing. I found myself unable to permanently retreat to the dark ages. In a world where everyone else relies on the light of smartphone screens, removing myself from my smartphone felt like removing myself from society.
I got close a couple of years ago. I bought a screenless mp3 player that could connect to the music streaming service I use (manually downloading mp3 files is soo 2008). In combination with an old de-smarted phone, I experienced the blissful freedom of life spent without a connection to the magic brick in my front pocket. It lasted right up until my mp3 player ran out of battery… three hours later.
I was beginning to think that there was no way, no hope, of breaking my connection to my smartphone. Until one day, a few months ago, a strange thought floated into my head “what if I used a smartwatch instead of the mp3 player and de-smarted phone?”
The thought was that, despite the smartwatch containing similar functionality to a smartphone, in order to keep using the watch I would have to hold my arm at an uncomfortable 90-degree angle. The building pain in my arm would act as a natural deterrent and encourage me to look away from the screen. Sort of like “planking” for my forearms. Further, I figured the screen would be so small and the apps so basic, spending any significant amount of time using it would be a chore.
In essence, I was banking on smartwatches being almost useless.
I hoped that a smartwatch would retain a little of the usefulness current smartphones provide. The weather, to-do list, medication reminders, voice note recorder functions to name a few. I could even browse the internet if I really, really needed to (but hoped it would be an awful experience).
Only one concern was occupying my mind. Battery life. I intended to use the smartwatch as a proxy mp3 player (connected to the music streaming service I use). After weeks of thinking and researching, I realised that I would need to buy one of the most expensive models available – almost solely for its huge battery.
Since I take medication multiple times per day I rely on my watch’s alarm to make sure I don’t forget to take it. I didn’t want to spend the day worrying about how much battery I have left, nor forget to take my medication because my smartwatch was charging.
In the end, I just went for it. The first few days of wearing the watch were terrifying. Had I just made a huge mistake? Did I just waste a load of money?
I was more than relieved to learn that the answer was an emphatic no. The large battery allowed me to listen to music whenever I wanted – it didn’t make the huge dent I thought it would. I didn’t even need to put it into any power-saving modes or turn functions off. No matter how much I use the smartwatch each day, there is always enough battery life to last until my 6 am meds – when I put it on to charge and go back to sleep for a couple of hours.
At the time of writing, I am finally free from my smartphone’s grip… mostly. I still need to use it of course. But, most of the time it sits at the back of my drawer, clothes piled on top. My mental illness hasn’t gone away of course. I am still very much hampered by its horrors. But I feel like a little weight has been lifted.
I am free. At least until augmented reality glasses become mainstream. Till then I suppose.