Have you ever noticed that everywhere you look no one is looking at you? Instead, they’re staring at those little devices in their hands. Their scrolling, swiping, taking pictures, and all together disappearing into an online world. I’ve certainly noticed this and so has Jedediah Bila, best known for her appearances on The View and Fox News. Her new book, #DoNotDisturb: How I Ghosted My Cell Phone and Took Back My Life explores what she called OCTD: Obsessive Compulsive Technology Disorder and gives us hope for the future where technology will always be present but where we can disconnect more than we do now.
There are countless statistics and studies out there that show how screen time, especially a lot of it, affects us. One study showed the human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. Another found that British kids spent LESS time outside than British prisoners. I know that I’ve seen the way technology not only drains my time but my energy and hurts my eyes. Sure, there are a lot of benefits of the technology we have today, but have we gone too far? Are we addicted to likes and notifications and Snapchat streaks? A lot of people are, unfortunately. Bila, however, talks about how this manifests in her own life and not just about how it appeared in statistical studies. For example, she discovered that a boyfriend had been living a secret life through his phone, the device that was always in his hand. She herself saw how her tether to her phone ruined time with friends and family. Bila is honest in this book that while it is a condemnation of society it is also a condemnation of herself in many ways. She, like so many of us, have experienced OCTD and must work very hard to overcome it.
A lot of this book is aspirational and a bit hokie. She longs for the old days where we went to sock hops and long walks. Not everyone is into that, and that’s fine, and not everyone wants to have the life she has on the weekends. But nonetheless, we can all learn from the steps she took to distance herself from her phone and from a social media addiction. Here are three steps I am trying to take thanks to this book
1. Turn off notifications
I look at my phone constantly because it’s constantly asking me too. A new email, a text, a GroupMe notification, a new match on Bumble. It’s always asking me to come back. I turned off notifications for everything but texts and phone calls and I feel so much better. Now, I don’t feel the constant beckoning of my email, which is always blowing up. Sure, I’ve missed a couple brunch offers in my building’s GroupMe, but overall I feel a little bit better. It may not be a long term solution, but it is a start.
2. Put your phone down at events
I went to a concert last Thursday and left my phone in my bag pretty much the whole time, except when answering some texts. I loved being in the moment, listening to one of my favorite artist’s live and in the flesh. Everyone else,it seemed, was watching the concert instead through their phone, recording every other song. I felt so bad for them. There was something beautiful about living in the moment and I’m so glad I didn’t give in to the peer pressure to record every second and forget where I was in the moment.
3. Don’t charge your phone next to your bed
I’m still working on implementing this because I enjoy listening to podcasts as I fall asleep, but it’s a great goal to have. Your alarm will still work from the other side of the room, and now you won’t be tempted to lay in bed for hours scrolling through Pinterest and feeling both wide-awake and sad about the state of your life.