34: Why I Gave My Smartphone a Lobotomy

34: Why I Gave My Smartphone a Lobotomy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Why I Gave My Smartphone a Lobotomy

Your cell phone has already replaced your camera, your calendar and your alarm clock. Don’t let it replace your family.

~Author Unknown

I prided myself on being unattached to any device. Then, I got a smartphone.

It’s not a very fancy smartphone. My son figures it is the last iPhone 4S that Apple ever made. I bought it for ninety-nine cents at a Verizon store. It has eight gigabytes of memory, two-thirds of which the operating software needs to run. I figured there wasn’t enough memory left to make this phone all that important to me.

I was wrong.

An early warning sign was the water-resistant, rubber-coated, shock-absorbing, plastic case I bought for the phone. Clearly, I intended to carry it with me, not leave it in the glove box.

That first night, I logged into our family’s Apple ID and ferreted out my favorite apps: Gmail, Google, MLB at Bat, the Enquirer, the Free Press, NPR, Michigan Radio, Audible, Kindle…

These apps used hardly any memory. A few downloads, a few passwords, and ta-da! All my self-control issues with the Internet were now in a portable box.

Getting lost online wasn’t just for procrastination anymore. It was for commercial breaks, the line at the bank, the three minutes it takes for popcorn to pop. I even checked my phone while on the phone with someone else.

I broke the most sacred technology rule I have with my kids — no devices in the bedroom. I didn’t just take the thing in the bedroom. It charged there.

Soon that device was the first thing I grabbed after waking — checking the weather, the news, my e-mail, my messages, all before going to the bathroom or letting out the dog.

Eventually, it moved from my purse to my pocket. I knew its weight and I knew when it was missing.

There is a lot of sporadic downtime as a parent. I used to keep a book with me for these times; now I kept the smartphone. Some apps I opened without conscious thought — swipe, tap, tap, refresh, refresh. Remembering to move up in the pickup line or look up on a sports field became a challenge.

Recently, I was waiting for my youngest child’s soccer game to start, trying to answer e-mails, text my husband, and update a website. The phone lost its signal, but not before I made a mistake updating the website.

I couldn’t correct it until I had a real keyboard and reliable Internet. Knowing that didn’t stop me from refreshing the screen throughout the game.

I drove home and made a beeline for the laptop. Coat still on, I started troubleshooting. My oldest sat across from me.

It was the first time we had been together since breakfast. I asked the standard Mom-questions half-heartedly, half-listening as she responded. She was talking about some music opportunity, something she was excited about….

I glanced up from my screen and saw her looking right at me. My fingers froze. An awful feeling crept over me. I realized it was the first time I had looked at her.

I started apologizing, but she just laughed.

“My friends are much better at multitasking online.”


The next morning, I did something that was more painful than I’d like to admit. I deleted my apps. When I finished, my smartphone was just a phone again — something I could forget in the car.

Hopefully, I remember how to do that.

~Nicole L.V. Mullis


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