Put the phone down

I’m listening to Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, for the second time. I think it’s good. I recommend it.

In it, he references this picture:

And, of course, we all know instantly what’s going on. Everyone’s missing their own life except for the sweet looking lady in the front.

What habits have developed to help keep yourself from being a slave to your smartphone?


I can’t really claim to have developed any habits that diminish my smartphone’s tyranny. Nature seems to be doing that all by her Royal Self, as in . . .

Progressive hearing disabilities

The smartphone can’t rule you if you can’t hear its demands for your attention, right?

“Honey, have you seen my phone?”

“What dear?”

“My phone! Have you seen it?”

“Speak up, honey. I can’t hear you.”

“Never mind.”


“Now just where did I put that thang, anyway??”

“Speak up, Dearie. I can’t hear you.”

“Never mind.”

Life, then, presents myriad times and places where one may mislay, forget, lose, bury, leave behind, and otherwise get separated from the smart phone. My sweet Bride’s favorite place is her purse. Replete with more cavities, each deeper than the Black Hole of Calcutta, there’s no way she’ll ever find her phone in a week of trying if she should put it somewhere in there.

My fave is to set the phone down in some unconventional place, and then to lay things on top of it during the day. Sometimes a whole week will pass before it turns up; or, rather, gets uncovered while I’m tidying up stuff.

The Color Black

[. . .the sound of a smart phone chirping plaintively from somewhere in the room . . .]

“Answer the phone, Sweetums!”

“Where is it? I don’t see a phone!”

“Speak up, Dearie. I can’t hear you.”

“But, you can hear the phone! Can’t you see it?”

“Speak up, Lover Boy. I can’t hear you.”

“Never mind. It’s stopped ringing.”

Black is the most popular color for a phone. It is also the color most apt to blend in with all the other smart-colored surfaces in your home or office. The irony here is that the phone itself contributes to its own camouflage! Woot! Woot!

Progressive dementia.

“Sweet Thang, what is this?”

“It’s your smart phone, Dearie.”

“What’s a smart phone? Do I have a stupid phone too?”

“Speak up, Dearie. I can’t hear you.”

“Never mind.”

Again, smart-phones augment this protection against its tyranny by updating its operating system about once a week. The resultant changes in how it works insures that you can’t figure out the new ways, or remember them if you do.


For me, it appears to be all about dumbing down the phone.

  • Having an older phone helps. Besides fitting in a pocket better, it’s less tempting.
  • Generally keeping the sound completely off.
  • Being very selective on notifications.
  • Not installing a weather app, or anything else I’d be tempted to check on unnecessarily. (Though I have installed a weather app during the first few months of dating relationships.)
  • Find a way to allow special people to buzz your phone when it’s in silent mode. That way, you can feel comfortable putting it in silent mode more often. Most folk have very few people who need to actually be able to reach them at a moment’s notice.
  • Not carrying chargers around. Just thought of this one. My old phone has noticeable limits on talk and screen time. It’s has changed my habits for the better, especially when enjoying nature. If I need it to last for a long day, I will bring spare batteries.
  • Keeping the bedroom charging cable too short to comfortably use the phone in bed but just long enough to grab it for alarms and important incoming calls.
  • Remembering that old lady’s facial expression. And your own favorite memories. My most vivid vacation memories are from a trip where I left the camera behind. I certainly enjoy describing them more than I used to enjoy showing off “rolls” of digicam photos.
  • I bet a properly configured Android watch would be less disruptive to life than a fully functional phone.
  • They still make non-smart phones. Use those and keep a laptop nearby for the “smart” stuff. You can still tether your laptop to a non-smart phone for internet service.

That hit my funny bone hard. If the prediction is rain, do you bring a handkerchief so she can wipe her eyes when she’s done crying? And then there’s the perennial question of what to do if the weather is frosty. Lol

I doubt that. The whole point of smart watches is notifications and the ability to respond immediately. Properly configured in my mind (if following the rest of your principles) would be the same as wearing a Fitbit.

Anyway, I like your strategy, though I haven’t taken it myself. I have and do consider it though.

When Lucas first posted this, I said I thought the best way to relegate our smartphones is to answer them when someone calls us. Joke. Sort of.


I’ve been of a mind to transition back to a “function phone” of some kind. Has anyone here had a smartphone and transitioned back to a dumb one, especially if your work “required” you to have a smartphone?

My work provides a small allowance and requires that we possess a smartphone. I’ve never once needed a smartphone to complete my work. Everything my phone does for work boils down to texts and phone calls. The only reason I’ve not forgone my iPhone is out of respect for the rules of my employers.

Delete all of the other apps. Set notifications to only what work requires. Done! (Not that I’ve done this myself …)


I used a Pebble Watch for ~6 months until it malfunctioned. I found it quite freeing: I could plug my phone in when I got home and the watch would notify me of appointments, texts, etc (I get few, as a rule), but having the phone farther away than. My pocket helped me to focus on other things.