Monday, 19 February 2018

Ten Years and a Ridged Finger Later...

Last night my Internet was slow and it was a frigging nightmare. 

I have started to take my good Internet for granted. And by good, I mean speedy. When I moved into the house I currently live, the Internet was slow but it didn't matter. I was at work most of the day and apart from a look at Facebook or Twitter for a short burst of time, it didn't affect me. I lived Internet-free, for many hours of the day. When I did venture online, I recognised that it took more than a fraction of a second to open webpages, but they still opened fairly quickly. I could have a quick glance at a couple of sites and then put my phone down for the evening. 

 'Ground control 
to Major Tom...'
It's nine years since I moved here and by now, a couple of things have happened. Firstly, my Internet is loads better. (Apart from the inexplicable blip last night.) At some point along the way, an impersonation of a massive piece of NASA equipment turned up on the telephone table, and from mission control the speed of the whole shebang improved dramatically. 

The other thing that happened, is that the Internet began to take over my life. I'm not even being hyperbolic for comic effect. Honest to God, it's true. The thought of a daily slow WiFi speed fills me with dread. These days, my life is run on a daily basis, by the Internet. Every aspect of it. It wasn't a conscious thing. I didn't seek out this state of affairs. But little by little, it's crept up on me. Now, everything I do is based around logging into something. (Or clicking a button that opens an app or site where my login details are permanently stored for ease of access.) And it is all on my phone too. The majority of my work is still a Word document saved to my desktop, most of the time. It's for everything else in my life that I reach for my smartphone. The facts don't lie...

In the past week I have...

  • Checked cinema times and bought tickets (Cineworld app)
  • Built up my weekly shopping list as items have run out (Shopping List app)
  • Listened to music I own that's stored in the cloud (iTunes)
  • Listened to Graham Norton's radio show (BBC iplayer radio app)
  • Voted in the leadership election of the Women's Equality Party (via emailed link)
  • Bid on a coat (and lost!) (eBay)
  • Watched TV as I have fallen asleep (Netflix app)
  • Checked directions (Google maps)
  • Bought shoes (Dune app)
  • Created and bought a personalised birthday card (Moonpig)
  • Chatted to friends and family (WhatsApp and Messenger)
  • Followed a recipe I'd saved (Pinterest)
  • Read news articles, comment pieces and opinions of others (Twitter)
  • Checked houses in my favourite places on a daily basis (Rightmove app)
  • Booked a taxi and tracked its progress (Britannia app)
  • Kept a track of the food I've eaten each day (Weight Watchers app)
  • Played Candy Crush for reasons unknown (Candy Crush game)
  • Scrolled through (mostly) people I don't know's, posts (Facebook)

Nick Nick and the Neph!
Yes, we're wearing underwear
hats! And yes, my phone
is centimetres from my hand.
And that doesn't even count the stuff that isn't Internet-based. The camera, the notepad and the calendar, for example. One thing I do know is my phone is rarely used for phone calls. (Except for when my two year old nephew rang to say 'Erro Nick Nick' the other day.) I don't really text that much, either. And in pointing all this out, I realise I sound ancient. I don't mean to. Most aspects of the list above have changed my life for the better. The Shopping List app is fab. It builds up over the week as things get added. It's become impossible to run out of milk or Lurpak. Likewise, the ease of buying products online from the comfort of home, cannot be overstated. We all know this. Whether it's shoes, cinema tickets or personalised birthday cards, it's so much easier because of the Internet, coupled with the handiness of being on my phone. The Internet and smartphone combo has been a good thing.

So it was really interesting to read this article by Sali Hughes about this book by Catherine Price. How to Break Up with Your Phone. Phone addiction, it appears, is a real problem. The inability to put it down for more than a few minutes, the multi-tasking of watching TV whilst continually scrolling, the gradual reduction in overall attention span - these are all things I experience. Then there is the amount of consolidated time actually being used. A couple of hours a day, I'd have guessed. At Hughes' suggestion, I downloaded the Moments app. It tracks the time I spend on my phone - daily and weekly. Blimey, it was an eye opener. I have a daily average of 6 hours, 30 minutes. I peaked on Wednesday February 7th with 11 hours and five minutes. I have no clue why that day was so phone-heavy. But once again, the facts don't lie. It also explains the ridge in my little finger.

I don't even realise
 I'm playing Candy
 Crush half the time.
Next month marks my tenth anniversary of being a smartphone owner. (I was an early adopter!) As a celebration of such a momentous landmark, I have decided to make a few changes. I am absolutely not binning my smart phone. (Have I not explained about the awesomeness of the Shopping List app?) but I do want to reduce my use of it. Mainly because I have been reading the same book since Christmas and I need to lengthen my attention span in order to get to the end. I miss reading before I fall asleep. Actually, I do read in bed, but it's my never-ending Twitter feed. I find myself getting riled about American politicians I don't know, or live tweets about that night's All Stars episode being broadcast in the US. It is not conducive to dropping off peacefully. 

My changes are going to be subtle. First of all, I'm going to buy Catherine Price's book. Then I'm going to draw up some rules about no phone periods. (Only for myself. I'm not a dictator.) I was thinking of meal times, the hour before I fall asleep, when I watch TV - stuff like that. I can work within those parameters. I also need to use my phone more fruitfully. Using the map app, sending a message and looking up a recipe are all positive uses. But according to the stats in my phone settings, I spent 7.8 hours last week playing Candy Crush. I could have read a medium sized book in that time! What am I even thinking? No wonder I was fidgety when the WiFi speed went south last night. 

However, don't be misled by my ramble this week. Reading this blog on your phone is exactly right. It's noble and worthy, and you should continue to do it every week. We need to take this one step at a time. If I suddenly end up with zero readers plus a load of empty hours on my hands, it would be awful. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Speaking of which, I should probably stop using my phone in the bath too. Food for thought, most definitely. 

Have a lovely week, folks.


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