Peter McGraw invites Christina Martinez and Brandon Patrick back into the Solo Studio for a new book club. They discuss Catherine Price’s book, How to Break Up with Your Phone. It’s a fun, inspiring conversation that may help you live a more remarkable life by spending less time on your phone.
Listen to Episode #191 here
Solo Book Club: How To Break Up With Your Phone
Solo celebrates single living, but the show is also designed to help you live remarkably. If you are one of those few people who don’t find your phone distracting, congratulations. This episode is for the person who feels that their phone is getting in the way of their happiness, productivity, or peace of mind. I invite Christina Martinez and Brandon Patrick back into the Solo studio this time for a book club. We read and discuss Catherine Price’s, How to Break Up with Your Phone. It’s a fun conversation that I hope spurs you to consider new habits with your phone. Thanks for reading. Let’s get started.
I asked both of you to read the book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, and we are doing this as a book club. Neither of you brought a copy of the book with you, which I have here in my hand.
It’s in my nightstand
I did it on my phone.
You read How to Break Up with Your Phone on your phone. Welcome back, Christina Martinez.
Thanks. Good to see you guys.
Welcome back, Brandon Patrick.
We did it. The trio is back.
I needed to wait a while because there was a little bit of Brandon fatigue.
I knew it was Brandon.
I was feeling spinoff vibes, but you are saying that it was the other one.
That’s a fun idea. You mean like you are going to have the Christina Patrick show, but it wouldn’t be about single living. It would be about two awkward roommates.
Not for long. It wouldn’t.
I wanted to bring in some Millennials for this talk. I’m a proud Gen X-er. I think that we needed some Millennials to talk about breaking up with their phone. I asked both of you to read the book, How to Break Up with Your Phone. Did you read the book?
Where did you read yours? Did you read it on your phone?
Yeah, in the bed. I have the worst phone habits. Drew was like, “You do this.”
I was like, “We are reading about it. We are not doing this challenge.”
We are going to get to that. Let’s talk about why it’s so hard to break up with your phone. Not why you need to break up with your phone, but why it’s difficult to break up with your phone. I’m going to start with a broad umbrella, which is phones are so important. There are so many benefits.
They are ubiquitous now. I learned some words for this one.
What are some of the benefits of your phone? Where do you begin? Christina has two phones.
I use these like they are one phone. I hold them together. I put them in my pocket together.
It was one business and one pleasure?
Like the song 2 Phones? One is for the bitches and one is for the dough.
Who sings that song?
Although, I’m not a drug dealer. My dough is my business.
Let’s digress for a moment because you have two phones. Does it make it worse or better? On the one hand, if you have them with you all the time together, it doesn’t matter. They function as one phone, but if you set your business phone aside, then you get the benefits of having a business phone because now, it’s not with you all the time.
Yes. If I’m going to go out or do something, I usually leave my work phone behind. I love it when I travel. Even for personal because they are two different service providers and double the battery. You can probably get service with one of them, and then if one dies or something, you have the battery of the other one.
Is there a particular reason you need a work phone? What prompted this second phone?
I had one at my prayer companies too. I know a lot of people will combine them, but I have a very fun life and I don’t need to be sending that over a work device.
She’s got some stuff on her phone.
I’m saying I’m young.
There’s no pushback on that. When you said, “I have a fun life,” I’m like, “Yes, Christina has a fun life.”
I’m almost more shocked when people combine them. I’m like, “Even if you have been married, I hope something spicy is happening that you are scared of someone at work seeing.”
I have a personal phone that I use for work rather than I have a work phone that I use for personal.
I would do that and I have done that at one company. I had two phones, and then I had a company that reimbursed us for part of our own and then now, I have another one. It’s nice because like you said, you can leave it behind. Honestly, I will probably get into this. What I end up doing is using it to leave my personal one behind, but still be reachable when I need to.
Let’s return to that. You have two phones. You use them for everything. What is your most common use of your phone?
I seriously use it all day. I was thinking about it. I was going through my phone. I pick it up and I don’t put it down all day.
A lot of your work is happening through the phone.
Yeah. My job is all through Microsoft Teams and my teams chime through there constantly.
You are very Millennial because my life happens through my laptop. I will crack open my laptop to do things and most of my work and my email.
I can text faster than I can type.
I feel like I split the difference. I use my computer and my phone.
You are in between.
I’m age-wise in between.
Christina, the question is what do you not use your phone for?
I don’t use it to shower.
Do you watch TV on a TV?
Yeah, but if I’m in a hotel room or on a plane, I would watch it on my phone. It depends on the day, but I use my step counter on my phone. I don’t wear a watch. Having it in my pocket, I use my alarm. I use my camera for my Airbnb on there and my lock for the Airbnb to reset things on there every day. I use my Nest to control the tip. I have my lights on there on an app and my watering schedule. It’s all there.
You are texting. You are doing email and phone calls. You listen to podcasts and music. When you are dating, you are using dating apps on there.
I have put that in my past, but yes. I at one point was on the apps.
I’m going to make a case for why Christina’s life isn’t as horrible as it may sound to the reader. Christina also has a very vibrant social life, and so she’s not living through her phone. She goes out a lot. I have known you for many years now. You are very present with people when you are out.
I use it more for all the tools on it. Don’t get me wrong. I get out of the shower in my robe, get on the couch, and scroll through social media. I have those moments, but I use it for all the gadgets.
All the utilitarian stuff and then some hedonic stuff, but you also are a handy person. You have restored this van. The Airbnb is a cabin that you renovated yourself. It’s not like you are a couch potato. You are chopping wood.
Her wood stuff is tremendous.
She does stuff with wood.
She has a she has a workshop in her garage. I want to paint a picture of someone who has some balance.
That doesn’t sound like I’m just living.
How about you, Brandon?
I’m on the other end. It’s a problem.
I like how we went right from benefits to a problem, but you are quick to respond with text. I regularly text you at weird times because I’m up early oftentimes and stuff like that. You have notifications on, so it says when it’s red. You are very good about texting back. You are highly available on your phone.
The red receipts are a reason for that. If I’m ignoring you, I need you to know that you are being ignored. That’s a true choice, but it’s also if I don’t respond immediately, I will respond in a month. It will be forever.
It’s either right away or good luck.
You use your phone. You are an Uber driver. You have a book. Let’s let you plug the book.
Direct to consumer.
Use promo code SOLO. Get free shipping. “Are you serious?” That is true.
You didn’t even know you had a promo.
I had no idea I had an impromptu sponsor.
We can work out the financial stuff. I’m highly available. My phone is a problem. It’s always with me. It’s always on because I used to feel like I was not available for people. Now I won’t make that mistake.
While you are sleeping.
If it goes off, I’m on the phone and I will deal with whatever.
When do you sleep? He has available weird hours. I couldn’t sleep one night and I turned and opened Instagram and you were the only person that was on.
I don’t sleep very often. I sleep about three hours a night, 3:00 to 5:00.
That’s not healthy.
That’s what they say.
During those three hours, you are sleeping. Are you getting notifications and stuff? If someone calls you or texts, you will wake up. I’m going to give you a paper copy of this book to take with you when you leave.
It’s a problem.
I’m glad we chose Brandon.
We are the best contrast, us two.
I do love this. It’s the double act. It’s the classic crazy strait. I will point out some benefits. I have written a little bit about this. There are all these inventions that make life easier, especially benefit single people. I say the apartment building benefits single people because it gives singles a chance to have their own space and share the common.
You all share the pool, gym, and concierge. You have a small footprint. It’s more affordable than home ownership. I feel like the phone disproportionately helps single people because it allows you to go out in the world alone. It allows you to travel alone. It allows you to do a lot of things alone, but yet remain connected in a sense.
There’s a trap in that too with social media and I’m guilty of it. Sometimes you feel like, “These people are so real that they are present,” and they are not. They are on your phone. If I were to ever lose my phone, I would lose those people.
Here’s the question, would you miss them?
Yeah. I would miss the dopamine. I would miss the likes. I would miss those who saw my story and how quickly.
I’m very proud to say this. I don’t know how to figure out who looked at my story in the six times I have ever done a story.
It’s a nightmare. You don’t want to know.
Don’t show me. I don’t want to know. I did a fireside chat with my students. Maybe 6 or 7 of them showed up and we were talking about professional issues and life. We wandered into this conversation about phones. They are such a part of our connection. We keep in touch with people we wouldn’t have otherwise kept in touch with.
One of my favorite things to do is when I’m on a drive, I call friends and then whoever picks up, I have a conversation with them. That never happened in a world where you had landlines. You had to be at home and you had to reach the person at home. You both had to be at home in order to have a phone conversation. Now people are out walking their dogs. They give me a call. It has increased the connections that I have.
When I was talking to these undergraduates, I felt like I was in a smoking cessation group. They all knew their phones were killing them, but they couldn’t give them up. They seemed resigned to dealing with the damage to their phones. When I asked them, I was like, “Why is this?” They were like, “My entire social life runs through this device.”
With the exception of maybe a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or a roommate, their entire social lives were connected. The degree that they gave that up, gave part of it away, or stepped away from it, they were then adrift to your point, Brandon, without social connection. The bad guys in this story have us trapped in part because we are enough social creatures. This is important enough especially during college, which is such a social time that even though they know these cigarettes, these phones are killing them, they can’t give them up.
I got pickpocketed once. I got my phone stolen and I realized how abandoned I felt, which was funny because I was in a different city, but I had a meeting time the next morning. It was late. I went back. I was in a hotel where I knew my coworkers and friends were. I wasn’t abandoned in any way. I could still meet up with everyone at the right time and stuff, but it felt pretty lonely.
Let’s go through some more things. This communication thing. It eases everything. Brandon was late.
I didn’t know that we were going to even talk about that.
What did we get? We both got a text that said, “I’m going to be late,” and then what I asked was, “How late are you?”
It wasn’t that bad at this time.
He gave us an exact time according to the navigation you use for 5-star driving in the 3-star world. You are using your phone for navigation and communicating with passengers. Information. At the tip of our fingers, we can answer almost any question.
It’s such a problem. It seems like a benefit, but it’s a problem.
It distracts you.
No, because you don’t get to learn.
As someone who’s slightly gullible, I have been able to fact-check.
It’s good for on-the-spot fact-checking, but if you want to learn something.
Like, read this book.
You don’t get to learn any. There’s a comedian Pete Holmes who has a great bit about, “Where’s Bruce Springsteen from?” You don’t know until you meet someone that knows, and then you know. Now it’s like you can look it up. There’s no journey. There’s no knowledge path. There’s no, “I read it in a book.” It’s just, “Google says it’s Jersey.”
Also, you don’t have to commit it to memory because you know you could look it up.
Einstein would disagree with you. He would say like, “You don’t have to memorize all these facts because you can look them up.” What you need to do is be able to have mental models and an understanding of how the world works. To your point, it makes you lazy. The last benefit and this is one that runs counter to the concerns about social media, is that our phones are often a platform for creativity. There’s a lot of scrolling on TikTok, Instagram, and so on, but there’s also a lot of creation. People are using artistic muscles to take good pictures, to do editing, create stories, entertain, and educate.
I did the cover of my book on my phone.
The original cover is good. This one is much better.
I did that one on the phone too.
His skills are getting better.
I got better. The first one was pretty awful. Looking back, it would have never sold.
It’s hard to break up with your phone because of its vast benefits and because of this interconnectivity. If you give up your phone, you are giving up a chance to be connected to people. You are giving up convenience. You’d be giving up a lot of things. How to Break Up with Your Phone is hyperbolic because this book and this show are not intended to get people to break up like they might break up with a partner.
Unless you linger.
It feels more like moving a partner into friends with benefits situation. Does that seem about right? If you are married to your phone, you’d be better off having friends with benefits with your phone. Is there a better analogy?
You could marry being present in the world and cheat with your phone.
That’s another way to do it. Make your phone your mistress.
There we go or not your primary if you are polyamorous. It’s your secondary.
It’s not your primary. I get it. Have you heard the term super stimuli?
This is like an artificial stimulus that provokes a stronger response than some natural stimulus. This is a concept popularized by an anthologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. Junk food, for example, is a super super stimulus. Fruit tastes good and rice tastes good. Food tastes good, but junk food is designed by these diabolical food scientists. They have this concentrated fat, salt, and sugar, which biologically we crave and want. That is so intense that it’s much more pleasing than natural food. That’s why you find people who will crush an entire bag of Cheetos or something like that.
DutchBros Green Apple Smoothies.
It is certainly like a big gulp. It puts the super in super stimulus because it’s not only super tasty, but it’s super large also. It hijacks. There’s your dopamine. Phones seem to have this element. They can be exhilarating, stimulating, or reinforcing, especially all the pinging or the notifications. “What might it be?” Social media is also one of these super stimuli and where is social media located? On your phone.
It’s a greater dopamine hit than social interactions because everybody is beautiful on social media. Everybody is interesting in social media. You have all these creative folks plus the diabolical engineers figured out exactly the right things to give you by creating these algorithms. I’m not on TikTok, but I have heard how amazing TikTok is at giving you what you want. It figures that out by how long you linger on things. It’s unbelievable. My friend Ethan Decker tweeted this. I’m sure he’s not the first. He said, “Scrolling is the new smoking.”
I can see that.
You isolate yourself in the same way too.
People are going to be like, “I’m going out on my scroll break.” At least everybody’s teeth are still going to look nice then.
One of the things that make this so difficult is beyond its benefits, these contraptions are engineered and then the apps that are on them are engineered by people who are way smarter than you and way more motivated than you to capture as much of your attention as possible.
They are not smarter than me.
Not you, Brandon.
Not me specifically, but yeah.
It’s not a fair fight is what I’m saying. I have to imagine people are reading right now and they are saying, “Tell me something I don’t know.” The thing about these phones is the adoption rate is almost everyone has one. Now that it may be a problem to varying degrees or not, it’s probably safe to say that in all but a few situations, there are opportunities to improve your life by using them more judiciously. Let’s talk a little bit about Catherine Price’s approach to this. She has a 30-day plan to break up. That’s a misnomer. She starts with preparation. What does that mean?
She starts with setting a date you are going to start this. Build up which shows you how emotionally attached we are and that we need that much more time.
You are not like, “I’m going to do this starting right now.” It’s like, “In a week, I’m going to start the process.”
In the beginning, she was like, “Look at your calendar. Pick a date. Can you bridge a Saturday or Sunday?” This whole thing and I was like, “That’s how dependent we are.”
You need a plan. With any breakup, you want to go into it with a plan more generally. What else?
She then goes into using a tracking app to start assessing your use.
Where’s the problem? On iPhones, you can turn on screen time, which will measure how much time you are on your phone and also what you are using your phone for. Brandon pulled this up. He’s been on his phone for 5 hours and 30 minutes and it’s almost 6:00 PM and that started at what time?
6:00 AM. My daily average is eleven hours. Is that a lot?
Does that count if the music is running or that’s like you have to be looking at it?
It is down 17% since I started reading the book.
Way to put that into practice.
Mostly YouTube. Twenty-nine hours of YouTube.
Should we keep going through his stats?
No. It gets depressing after YouTube.
I’m way better than this, so that makes me feel better.
What is your number?
I don’t know. I don’t even know how to look it up.
Mine is not on, so I don’t know, but I’m a low user. I’m pretty proud of how my phone doesn’t rule my life, but I have done a lot of work around it. Get a sense of what you are using this stuff for.
Yes, or at least start tracking. She has you go back a couple of days later, but she says that to start tracking is the first stuff.
That makes good sense like if you are going to try to stop smoking. How much are you already smoking? When are you smoking? What are you doing? Is it social stuff? You have to have some information.
She says to pay attention to how you are using your phone and how it makes you feel. That’s when you figure out the dopamine thing, you are like, “I am using this to feel something. I’m bored. I will watch two and a half hours of Nerf gun cartoons or Nerf gun advertisements in the ’90s.”
Is that what you are doing on YouTube?
I have some time on my hands.
I do think that there’s this default behavior. You are like, “I’m bored and anxious.” This happens a lot when you are doing a creative task that’s challenging. You hit a snag and rather than being patient and breathing into this, you pick up your phone. Check Instagram or text messages. Maybe you are frustrated with something and you are trying to soothe yourself rather than sitting, breathing, and meditating. You go to your phone and maybe you are texting someone or you are venting. Recognizing not the amount of time, which might be shocking to some people because you don’t know how often it is to know what you are using it for, and as you said, Brandon, the triggers.
I picked this up from another book. It said to wrap a rubber band around your phone. Horizontally. Not vertically. The rubber band makes it hard enough to open it if you are not using your face or to scroll things. You suddenly realize how often you are on your phone because it makes it unpleasant enough that you are like, “Ugh,” thing. That would be another way that I would suggest you get a sense of how often you are on your phone because so much of this is automatic behavior. As we sit here, Brandon is lying back and he’s got his phone on his chest. It’s like a sleeping boy.
It’s a resting baby. It’s got to be close to my heart. Also, no case on the phone like a total psycho.
I don’t know about that. I dropped my stuff way too often.
Building this awareness. Planning for it.
It’s time to do the social media, deleting the apps.
That’s a big start. That’s like the cold turkey or almost as close to cold turkey as you are going to get because we all agree. You can’t throw it in the river. There are stories of alcoholics emptying bottles of alcohol into their sinks and taking all the alcohol out of the house. That most of us cannot live that way so you have to do this differently. Removing apps. I want to ask this question. Did either of you do this? Are you going to?
I have done it before and it’s the most helpful thing other than when I say I leave that one phone behind because, in my work phone, I don’t have any of that stuff. It’s the same feeling, but I did it during COVID because I realized I was on it a lot more. I was like, “Every time I’m opening this, every scene and everything that there’s to see.”
There’s nothing new ten minutes later.
I deleted them from there and only checked it on my desktop when I wanted to see something and it did drastically decrease.
I’m the poster child for this. My phone has no social media on it at all. It has no dating apps at all and has no email. That’s not true. I can check my email in case of emergency through a web browser but it requires me to put my info and password. It’s so annoying. I rarely ever do it. I have to be like, “I need to check my email.” I need to be desperate to do it. Once you remove your email, your social media, and in the case of someone who dates, dating apps, it removes so many reasons to be on your phone. It’s 75% of the reason that a lot of people will do it.
It’s revelatory to delete dating apps, but still be single.
When I do the dating apps, I have them on an iPad that remains in the house. It remains in a cabinet and so I have to take the iPad out. I have to power it up, do that, and then put it away. Wiping these unnecessary apps. You can say you have apps that you like to have and apps you need to have. To me, Spotify is a need-to-have app because music and podcasts are so much a part of my life. I don’t feel they detract very much. They don’t get in the way, but it’s nice to be able to, wherever I go if I want to listen to something, I can listen to it. For me, I’d say that’s a need to have.
I go the opposite way with music. I try to be more present. I have Apple and Spotify, but when I’m trying to deliberately listen to something, I like to put a record on it because I have to be present with it.
I have a caveat to that. When I’m at home, I prefer vinyl. The problem with using music on your phone is that then you are subject to the whims of everything else going on your phone. The text messages and phone calls. You are like, “I’m going to change to this different Prince album,” if I’m Brandon. You see there are four text messages and then you feel compelled to respond to them. When I’m home, I often turn my phone off, especially at the end of the day, but having a record play allows me to continue to listen to music. I listen to the Everclear album that Christina gifted me.
He never listens to it.
Let’s talk about my gift.
There are these other things that are nice or distracting to have. A lot of the social media fits to that. Unless you are a content creator, your life is not worse off without TikTok on your phone. It’s less entertaining, but you are going to find other ways to entertain yourself. I would say get very ruthless with this experiment. Remove as much as you can and see how it goes. You’d be surprised how much you don’t miss things once they have been gone for a while. What do you need to take off your phone most? What’s the most important thing to take off your phone?
I don’t even know which one.
It would be Instagram, but it’s not coming off.
You are one of these smokers who’s smoking cigarettes going, “I know this is killing me but I like it too much.” At least you have that self-awareness.
Mine would be probably social too. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Is your LinkedIn social or is it more work-related? You are such a nerd.
Who’s on LinkedIn still?
I am. That’s where I keep up to date on stuff in my industry.
I’m teasing you, but that’s a very Christina answer. I have never heard someone say, “I’m on LinkedIn too much.”
I have slid in some LinkedIn DMs and that feels filthy.
You should. Let us do our research. I open LinkedIn every morning. Whether or not I spend as much time on it as my other apps, I usually check it first. I would say my other one is food ordering apps because I do have groceries. It’s the convenience. They will send you, “There’s 20% off.”
They get you with the deals. This is so nasty. I use Uber Eats and GrubHub on occasion. I have gotten better about it because I have been cooking more for myself. Christina is a good cook and she doesn’t mind cooking, and the fact that she’s lured into Uber Eats, GrubHub, or whatever it is.
I have a coffee app that you can order from local coffee and go pick it up, and I’m like, “I am fine with the coffee. I’m at home,” but it will be like, “Double points.”
They get you with this stuff. We didn’t talk about this, but Price talks about this to turn off notifications. It’s a lot easier to not look at your phone when it’s not yelling at you, “Look at me,” buzzing, beeping, or vibrating. When you order food, you want the notifications. The food deliveries are the only notifications that are on my phone. I don’t even get text message notifications but continue to send you notifications when you don’t have food orders.
That’s where I get sucked in. They are like, “20% off. Double points.” Being added from your favorite restaurant.
They are way more motivated and smarter than you.
They are and I’m in for it. I’m like, “Give that deal. I do have room for dumplings right now.”
It’s a real problem.
It is. At one point, I deleted the food apps because I was like, “I saved so much money.” That was when I was going through like, “I’m training for something. I don’t want to be getting my comfort food when I should be staying on this diet of getting a certain amount of protein.”
You are giving me an idea that maybe I should move my delivery apps to the iPad. Here’s the only thing against it. There are times when I’m on my way home and I want to have the food meet me there because I don’t want to spend the extra time making it. That’s a pretty compelling case study because that’s probably only 10% of the time at most.
Living in an apartment has made that a less exciting prospect for me. When I lived in a house, I ordered food all the time, but now it’s like, “I got to go downstairs. I have to let them into the building. I have to do all this.”
Versus it coming right to your doorstep.
By the time I get downstairs, I might as well go to my car and go get food.
A different one that I have a time suck with is real estate apps. I can’t help it. I know I’m not the only one.
It’s real estate porn for you, isn’t it?
It’s all of it. I want to know. I want to know what’s out there. I want to know what my neighbors are doing.
This is why you are on LinkedIn too.
I know I’m not the only person that Zillow cruises.
This is very real.
I like to know what’s out there. Maybe you fantasize through it about what other things or lives you could have. I look at random places. Not here all the time.
You are like, “What would it be like to live in Shreveport, Louisiana? How far would my dollar go?”
I have done that. I was just in Lake Charles, Louisiana and I was on Zillow. It’s my favorite thing. If there’s anything I’m going to app like I’m not a big texter and driver, I do Zillow and drive and that’s a problem because I will be trying to see what the thing is that I’m all the time when I’m traveling.
I wonder what that house is worth.
I’m in the middle of nowhere and I’m like, “How much this land out here? Where am I?” I do it all the time.
I do that with Tinder like when I’m nowhere. It’s like, “Who else is here? Who’s around?”
I know there are some dating apps that allow you to do travel mode so you can check out what’s happening in another place.
Great for touring.
For you because I’m sure you are turning it on before you get there. Keeping it warm. What are some other things that Price talks about doing? Stripping the notifications and unnecessary apps. That’s basic. One of the other things that I have tried and backed out of is there’s a lot of talk about moving to black and white on your screen. I don’t know if you have ever heard this. Instead of having a color screen, you have a black-and-white screen. Black, white, and gray is the way it goes. It strips away a lot of the stimulation there. I tried that for a little time. I found this too good. It was almost like, “Ugh.” If you want to push yourself, you can go to settings and change your screen to it.
Honestly, if you are getting that far, go buy a non-smartphone.
They have smartphones that have Kindle paper displays.
There’s a bunch of these dumb phones.
You can still text but you can’t download apps.
It stripped away most of the functions there. Those are usually designed to be second phones. The idea is that if you are going out on a date or you are going for a walk, you have this basic phone that does text navigation calls and so on. Those are completely appropriate to do because it’s like you taking your work phone. It would be you take your dumb phone out. You could get home and you could take an important call if you need to, but there’s almost nothing else on there. What other advice does she have?
She says to set up a charging station that isn’t in your bedroom.
Amen to that.
That’s the one I did.
How’s it going?
It helps. Do you know what I did? I don’t have any chargers in my apartment.
You lost it. That’s what you are telling me.
No. I got them but they are all in my car.
I have this image of Brandon setting up his charging station in the living room, but he has a 25-foot cord that goes into the bedroom.
I’m getting so many flashbacks of other things he said to me.
My charging station is in my kitchen and so my phone is in the kitchen overnight and off. I know not everybody can do that because they may have loved ones or something in case of an emergency or something.
I haven’t turned my phone off in two years, I don’t think.
You should reboot it.
I reboot it sometimes.
Where’s your charging station?
I do have one on my nightstand. I plug it in there at night. I have one at my desk. Usually, if I’m cooking or if it’s running low, I will leave it on my desk. Normally, it’s near me. I have a charger probably everywhere I go. I have one in my car. My place is not that big. Having two stations is more than enough.
Now it’s in my car and it made a big difference.
I want to ask this. Are you in your car most of the day?
Let’s not worry about that.
Let’s say I believe it would be fully charged because you are in it plugged in the whole time and you are in your car most of your day, but then you go home and it dies. Do you let it sit there until you get back in your car?
It motivates me to drive more.
You won’t let it die.
It rarely dies, but I don’t Uber all the time. I don’t Uber every day.
You do big chunks of time.
I will do the weekend and I will do maybe a couple of mornings, but I don’t do every day, but that’s where my phone gets charged.
If you are sitting on the couch scrolling and it’s at 10%.
It’s a good time to go get something to eat. It inspires me to get out of the house and do something.
I’d say that I would give you a C+. It’s a passing grade but there seem to be some major flaws with this model.
I used to have a charging mat on my nightstand and that’s the worst. You can set it there in any position and it charges.
I will say I don’t think the charger in my bedroom is an issue. Maybe spoken like a true addict or whatever they say, but I’m pretty good. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom. Once I go in there, I’m ready to go to bed and I keep my phone on do-not-disturb. I won’t ever check it. If I check it, it’s like I check the time because I woke up at a weird time and thought like, “If it’s ten minutes before my alarm, I’m going to get up,” thing.
Do you check your phone first thing when you wake up?
Yeah. Unless it’s a gym day because usually then I don’t have enough time.
You are up and out the door.
I have to go get dressed or I’m not going to make it.
I’m going to set aside my smug self-satisfaction of how good I am with my phone for a moment to say that I do look at my phone first thing. I need to change it because there’s only one reason I do that and that is I have a sleep app that I turn off and get the score. I’m so competitive and obsessed with sleeping well. The problem with that is that any text messages, now I have a text message I feel compelled to, but I’m getting up at 6:30 in the morning. It’s not like anybody is expecting a text message response at 6:30, but it calls my attention to this to-do thing immediately.
You have no moment of solace when you open it.
As I talk about it, I’m embarrassed to say that I am on my phone right away. I could let that wait thing. Most people reading this would say the same thing. The first thing I do in the morning is turn on my phone or look at my phone thing. If you ask them why, some of them will say, “I have a job that I might have urgent emails or text messages,” but for most of the people, it’s like, “It’s my habit. It’s what I do.” It’s super stimulating. Hence, the super stimuli label that these phones and apps have been given to us.
Let’s go on to the next one. The next thing she focused on was being mindful. There was a lot of noticing when we were reaching for our phones, and that is intentional.
One of the things that is especially useful is the easier it is to get your phone, the more likely you are to reach for it. When it’s on the table and you can see it, or it’s in your pocket and you can reach in there and grab it, you do that more often versus creating a tiny bit of friction where you have to go to the charging station in the other room, you have to reach into a bag, or whatever it is.
If I put it in the zipper pouch probably of my bag versus the open, it probably would drastically change.
It might cut your reaching for it in half.
I love these chocolate pretzels that my grocery store carries, but the container is too big to put on the shelf where I normally put my snacks. If I see them on the counter, I will grab one every time I walk by. I have to hide them for myself and I have never tried to hide my phone for myself.
The saying is, “If you binge it, don’t buy it.” We have already established that we can’t go phone-free at least not for long, but what you can do is if you binge it, don’t make it readily available is the analog to this.
The other one that I noticed was she said to focus on concentrating, which I thought was funny because or maybe not funny, the point of all of this because even when I’m using my phone audio-wise, two songs will go by and I will be like, “I thought I put whatever song on.” The only thing I’m doing is trying to listen to my phone. She spent a lot of time talking about how we have trained herself to jump around.
Some of that is you are doing this task. You are reading this book and you go, “I wonder about X,” and then you pick up your phone to check on X. One of the things that I started doing is when I’m doing a creative task that’s challenging, I will often have a sheet of paper. When I have those thoughts like, “Check on this date for Solo Salon,” I will write that down. Rather than, “I’m going to go check on this date,” which is the tendency for us to want to do. I will have some questions or something, but it’s not urgent to answer. I will write it down and then I will take a break and I will go through that list of things. That allows me to stay much more present on that important task.
Her whole thing was us working that muscle then translates into us not getting as distracted by our phone too because we are more with it.
I, as a psychologist, don’t believe in willpower. Not so much and here’s why. I joke that I have world-class willpower and I’m terrible at willpower. You can train your willpower and you can muscle your way through a lot of things, but what you are much better off doing is creating an environment and a set of habits where you don’t have to think about it at all.
The idea that your phone is there and you have to think, “I’m not going to reach for it. I want to stay present.” That’s hard work and even the most willpower people or super willpower people get worn down. It’s hard to maintain. If you binge it, don’t buy it. If you can not have the temptation, you are much better off. That’s there. To the degree you can develop your willpower, that’s good, but for the most part, you are much better off creating a context that removes the temptation so you don’t have to exert willpower.
I agree to a point but I also think I have superior willpower because I can quit anything. I quit drinking and I’m around alcohol every day. I can quit nearly anything if I want to quit it.
Do you have alcohol in your house?
There is a bottle of wine in my house. That’s another story.
I’m checking because if you didn’t have any alcohol in your house, you are suggesting you don’t want to have to use your willpower. I’m not saying that we don’t have willpower or we don’t have that ability, but it’s taxing.
I don’t have willpower. I was telling you what my chocolate pretzel is.
It’s tough, but it’s also like you are focused on eliminating the temptation, but then you go out into the real world where no one else is doing that, and then how do you balance? You go to any restaurant, bar, or wherever, you are going to see people on the phone. It’s like, “Now I want to pull mine out.”
It is distracting when other people are on it. She also talks about what to do instead of being on your phone.
A lot of it is exercise-based or being in something physical.
Being in nature, being social, and moving your body and all of that is great because let’s be honest, when you are on your phone, you are usually sedentary. You are lying in bed or sitting down. Maybe you are driving or you are one of those knuckleheads who’s walking with their head down. That’s as close as you get to often moving that’s there. That is like, “What are you going to replace this time with that’s going to be good for you, that’s still stimulating, and that’s healthy?”
It fills that boredom gap.
I asked the two of you. Let’s do a thought experiment for let’s suppose willpower or not, you are going to be on your phone half as much. We don’t have to. Would you take a magic pill and you are going to be on your phone half as much? What are you going to be using that time for? This is worth anybody thinking about doing that thought experiment. What would you suddenly use? You have been on your phone for five and a half hours. Now you have more than two and a half hours. What would you use that time for?
It’d be music-based. I’d either be practicing an instrument or listening to music.
Is that better?
Not for my neighbors.
How about you, Christina?
I’m going to say clear my mind. I do go on long walks, but I always have something in my ear. I don’t ever do it without noise.
You’d be alone in your thoughts. For some people, that’s a terrifying endeavor. They might get to know themselves. Let’s wrap. She has more in there. It’s a slim book for anyone. I would say that the book is probably more motivating than anything else. It has some good tips in there and so on.
It’s a good jumping-off point.
There are lots of these available. There are lots of these things. I stumbled on that one. For a parting thought, what piece of advice would you give to a reader who’s inspired?
What do you mean?
When I pick up my phone, I like to think, “What am I doing? What am I hoping to accomplish on my phone at this moment? Do I want to look at a video? How far am I straying from that when I’m using it?”
There’s an element of intellectual honesty to this, which is like, “I am doing this because this is going to be a sugar rush for me.” At least acknowledging that that’s the case.
It’s not bad to acknowledge that if that’s what you are doing.
Also, a lot of people will be like, “I don’t know if I feel proud of that.”
Mine is going to play back into my lack of willpower probably, but I was going to say go somewhere without service. I was thinking of the easiest times or the times I’m on my phone the least, and then where it’s gradual that I ramp back up and use it. It’s like after I go camping or something.
People call it a detox of sorts.
Go out and have fun somewhere where it’s not even going to be buzzing or you’d have no WiFi or service even if you want to pick it up. It’s like, “I can’t get anything out of this.” After a couple of days without it and you come back, it doesn’t seem so urgent to touch it.
You break a little bit of that routine or those habits. Mine is a variant of yours. I have already mentioned making it a little less accessible like putting it in a bag. Sometimes if I am at a coffee shop and I have driven, I will leave the phone in the car. If I have got to get up, I got to go find the car. I got to unlock the car. I often turn my phone off so I do a lot of that. To your point, Brandon, there’s no picking it up and checking it. I have to turn it on, wait for it to boot, and put a passcode in. The biggest one I do and I do this with both that iPad and my phone is I purchased a kSafe off of Amazon. Are either of you familiar with kSafe?
Is that the thing with the timer?
Yes. It is a plastic box that has a timer and lock on it. It’s designed for tempting things. You could put your chocolate-covered pretzels in there for example. You spin it so you make it as short as one minute. You could set it for days if you wanted to. I don’t know what the limit is for it. That’s the thing. You set it for the time, you press the button, and it counts down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Do you have a moment to react?
Yes, and it closes and it locks the cover on. Anything you put in there, you cannot open it. The only way, once it’s locked, to open it is you have to break it. The thing about the kSafe is it’s expensive. It’s not an expensive piece of machinery. It’s pretty basic, but they sell it for $50, $60, or $70.
You feel bad about it.
You have to be like, “Is this worth $50 or $60 to get into?” I bought it to use with my consumer behavior class as a lesson, but now I use it.
What did you make your class do?
I talked about self-control.
You didn’t make everybody put one thing in the case.
No, but I have done this on the day I teach it, I invite the students to put their phones in there and then I set the timer for the duration of class. I always have 2 to 6 students who walk up to the front of the room and put their phone in. They tend to be my best students.
They are like, “I wasn’t going to touch it anyway.”
Christina would be like, “Let’s go.” She would have been all for it. You don’t have to do a kSafe but turning your phone off, putting it away, getting it away, and there is this feeling, to your point, Christina, when it was when you can’t have it, you don’t want it.
I need a moment to forget about it.
It’s not like I’m tempted to look at my phone right now. I’m highly stimulated. It’s on airplane mode and it’s out of my consciousness. Being much more intentional about picking those moments and making it that much more difficult. In some cases, nearly impossible to do it. You’d be surprised how it has just gone.
Is that Peyton Manning?
No. Book Club, how did you feel about it?
That was fun.
In places, it was inflated. It was a good article that she was like, “I can flush this out.”
It is a classic book problem. Most books are overwritten.
Do you know what book isn’t?
No wonder why.
Thank you for coming back to the studio for reuniting. It brings back good memories. I appreciate your time.
Good to see you.
- Christina Martinez
- Brandon Patrick
- How to Break Up with Your Phone
- Driving Myself Crazy: My Life as a Five-Star Driver in a Three-Star World
About Christina Martinez
Christina Martinez is an outdoorsy DIYer living in Denver. She holds a degree in Marketing and HR from the University of Colorado. Christina spends her free time with her dog, cooking and restoring her 1968 Dodge A-108.
About Brandon Patrick
Brandon Patrick is a stand-up comedian, storyteller, and author of Driving Myself Crazy: My Life as a Five-Star Driver in a Three-Star World