“I’ve been thinking about getting a phone that’s just a phone. One you can only make phone calls on,” I tell my daughter.
“You never make phone calls. You don’t like the phone,” she says.
She’s right. The only thing I hardly ever use my phone for is talking to people on the phone.
“Whenever your phone rings you immediately look worried,” she adds.
“That’s because nobody ever phones me so I assume it’s bound to be bad news.”
My digital detox has been a slow burn.
Having successfully avoided Twitter for several months, other than when an excellent thread about “Pandemic MVP” is suggested to me, I have also resisted posting inane and pointless opinion on Facebook having realised that a thread about my friend Jason Clarke soiling his trousers in the 1980s was my social media highlight never likely to be bettered.
TikTok has laid dormant too, although hovering my thumb over the shivering icon as I boldly went to delete it earlier this week proved a bridge too far for some reason.
Instagram still has me staring at other people’s bread, and the weird concoctions of George Egg, but other than that I’m clean.
Data about how fast you’re walking, the number of typos you make (in my case closely related to how my brain works much faster than my fingers), speed of typing (in my case related to how excited I get about a thought I’ve had that I’m fearful of losing because my fingers can’t keep up), and sleep patterns (often disrupted by apps that tell us we’re sleeping badly) will be collected through smart watches and phones, and then send signals to those devices warning the user that they might be in need of support.
Feeling certain that this is one time my daughter and I will agree about smartphones I tell her about the article and say,
“What if I’m feeling fine, and then my phones tells me I’m depressed? I’d start overthinking it and feel anxious as well,” she says before returning to watching a constant loop of “Friends” while painting her nails.
Then, a day later, I read another piece about another new app that not only tracks but “rates” the amount of time we spend outside.
Doesn’t the way we feel already tell us what we need to know about being outside?
In fairness, having read about the potential uses of the nature app it does appear to have some potential, but it still leaves me with a feeling that’s both familiar and a little bit tragic.
If people have lost touch with, forgotten or never really grasped the benefits of leaving their phone behind and going outside, or need “a prod from their phone” to tell them when they feel depressed it’s surely complicit with the problem rather than doing anything much to solve it.
In the end, I decided not to buy a new phone that’s just for phone calls, not because I never talk to anyone but because without a camera I couldn’t take pictures of the joy I experience at being outside which also help me to avoid feeling depressed.
* This piece is called “Appy talk reprise” because I used this title on the very first piece I ever wrote on my blog in 2012.