April 25, 2023

Some more smartphone musings.

I got my first iPhone in 2011, and then I had various other smart devices until 2021.  I had an iPhone when my son was born in 2018 and my daughter in 2020 and I remember sometimes my screentime would be 8-10 hours a day.  I always said it was because I was feeding and watching TV and awake with a baby (which I certainly was) but I also know in retrospect I was trying to escape from feeding and being awake with a baby.  

My friend once commented that my shoulders must hurt because I'm always scrunched over my phone.  There were WhatsApp and Reddit groups for new moms so I felt like I was making connections and bonding with people. However, I don't look back at that time as particularly social or bonding.  I doubt many people think of the newborn stage as social or bonding, but I find it weird that my constant phone use kept me from realizing how isolating and exhausting (and special and life changing) that time was.

Maybe the distortion of the phone is a distortion of the experiencing self vs. the remembering self? Often times, we experience things far different than we remember them.  Most of my outdoor pursuits are experienced with pain and discomfort, and remembered with joy and excitement.  Somehow, smartphone use seems to reverse the trend. I experienced things with an entertained numbness and remembered them for the hard times they were.

What really sent me down this path was the Pandemic, when the world said "It's okay, just do it online!" and I thought "it's not okay, I don't want to do it online" and somehow no one was able to acknowledge that it was generally so much worse than before.  I didn't want to do Zooms.  I didn't want to have all day group chats.  I didn't want my two year old in front of a screen watching a librarian reading a book. I just wanted to be around people. 

Johan Hari argued in Stolen Focus that the Pandemic gave us a glimpse into the world that Silicon valley (ie smartphone app central) was moving us towards.  It happened very quickly and jarringly and hopefully many of us decided we don't like that world, that we value people and places and things that are real.  

However, Hari's book came out in 2021, and I feel we are already forgetting how much screen overuse sucked.  How much better real life is.  

For a while, when restaurants opened and people were out and about, I saw fewer phones.  I saw parks with parents playing with kids, and paying attention to them.  Parents chatting at the school gates. More and more I see parks filled with adults on phones.  Restaurants of children on ipads.  Parents waiting in their cars at school pickup, heads buried in phones.

When people were taken away from us we turned to digital.  

I sometimes wonder, if digital was taken away, would we all turn back to people? 

April 24, 2023

Abstainers vs. Moderators - some GR thoughts

Gretchen Rubin has just published her next book - Life in 5 Senses - and is on a publicity tour.  I've read a few GR books before, and she definitely has some interesting ideas and some thoughts which have helped me understand my own decision making better.  For instance, her clarification of a Satisficier vs. an Maximizer really resonated with me, and I decided to go down the satisficier path and never look back.  I've taken her personality test and I am fairly sure I'm a questioner... it's always interesting for me to remember that other people have different motivations for their own decision making processes.  

However, one of the stories GR seems to be retelling on this tour is her decision to cut out all sugar and carbs from her life.  Kae has a great post on this, and the comments are fascinating as well.  When I first heard GR tell this story it seemed really restrictive to me - I love lots of different foods, I love sugar but try not to eat too much of it, I love bread and pasta.  I also like going out to eat with people, I like eating lots of different kinds of food, and I like being generally unfussy when I'm invited over to someones house for dinner.  I like eating dinner family style, and eating the same foods as my kids (although with added flavour, and I do allow my foods to touch on my plan).

Cutting out an entire food group seems nearly impossible to me, and very extreme.

But then, somehow, I cut out smartphone, which may seem equally extreme to others.  I wonder if other people think "Well yes smart phones are not ideal but I like having internet when I'm out and about" the way I think about carbs?  I mean eating sugar is not ideal but I also like eating cake at birthday parties.

I also think there's a difference between "quitting smartphone" and "quitting sugar" in that I still have a device that does podcasts and photos and dulingo.  It just doesn't do it easily on the go.  It doesn't do communication, it does the features of smartphone without the smart.  

Maybe I'm equivalent to a person who quit sugar but still eats fake sugar?  I don't think my transition away from social media and whatsapp is as extreme as a transition away from whole food groups... but I might only think that because I'm the person who did the transition.  

Maybe GR would consider life without Instagram unnecessarily limiting, but life without carbs is fine?

April 23, 2023

Weekend plans, weather, food and some rambling.

This morning, amongst the cold air and threatening rain, I told Andy that this would be some ideal February weather.  I didn't move to Wales for the sun, but it feels like it has been raining or freezing or freezing rain since November.  Even the joke "how about this global warming" is not really a joke - I'm just cold.

Normally we try and only heat the house from October to March, but I'm still putting the heating on in the morning as the house is 59 degrees and I have decided we can heat it to 63.

This weekend we were excited to attend a friends camping birthday party.  It is a bit early season, but as long as it wasn't too cold or wet we were going to give camping a go.  We haven't been camping since the kids were born - we bought a big (for us) tent when I was pregnant with Isaac and intended to do a lot of camping in summer of 2020... but obviously that didn't happen.

Last weekend we (Andy) got the camping kit out, checked it all worked, and started packing and planning
The weather forecast was mixed, but we were still keen on Friday and aiming for a midday Saturday departure.

Unfortunately, Saturday started to look a lot worse, and on Saturday morning the forecast called for heavy rain.  I was still keen, but Andy was the voice of reason and said we probably shouldn't.  When it started raining later that evening, while we were eating dinner in our warm house, I was very thankful I wasn't trying to stay dry and warm outside.  

Of course, this left us with an empty weekend, so this morning we enjoyed the wholesome activity of feeding ducks at the local pond
I am going to a camping festival next weekend (Alone! WOW!) and I am so hoping that the weather changes before then.  This is tiring for April and will be exceptionally tiring in May:
Besides complaints about the weather we have a generally low key week planned with a generally low key meal plan:

Sunday: roast potatoes and ??? meat that I need to buy still
Monday: Slow cooker beef curry (Andy)
Tuesday: Pasta and roast Mediterranean veg (Rachel)
Wednesday: Jacket Potatoes and Beans (Rachel)
Thursday: Cheese sandwiches and soup (Andy)
Friday: Pizza (Andy)

Neither Andy or I feel particularly energetic for cooking at the moment, and I think it shows in our meal plan.  I'm half tempted to order some ready meals from Cook one of these days just to give us a break from food prep.  

I am also having a major Indian food craving but I am not good at cooking Indian.  My favourite is Masala Dosa, which I looked up how to cook and which I have zero ingredients for.  The kids wouldn't eat indian takeaway, but I am half tempted to just buy takeaway for Andy and me and feed the kids leftover spaghetti and meatballs.  It would save the effort of buying a meat for dinner.

Did your weekend plans go as planned?  Is there a food you love but don't/can't cook?

April 20, 2023

Trains and screens - a weirdly introspective journey

I found my train ride today to be more depressing than usual.  On the way out, there was a young (7? 8?) girl and her mum(?) clearly on a holiday/adventure.  Instantly after departure the mum was on her phone.  The daughter stared out the window a bit, then tried to ask the mum questions. The mum stayed mostly mute and didn't really engage.  Eventually she pulled out a series of ipads and tablets which she gave to the girl, and the girl stopped watching the birds and the trees and stared at the screen instead.

On my return, there was another kid (this is somewhat unusual because I am on a commuter train) who was about three, with her mum.  The mum plugged in her phone and started at it, while the child again tried to engage.  Eventually the child sat on her mum's lap and the mom played her videos on her phone.  

Next to her was a man, watching videos on his phone.

Behind him was a man, scrolling on his phone.

In front of me was a man, watching tik-tok.

I am not immune - I am tired after work and I just want to escape.  I didn't want to read.  I wanted distraction. I connected to the (slow) train wifi and read some blogs, then stopped because I knew the fact that everything around me was bothering me meant I needed some headspace of my own.  I started out the window a bit.  I tried to lean into the discomfort of wanting distraction.

Eventaully the train stopped, and I couldn't stare at nothing anymore.  I started listening to a podcast. I am not some emblem of perfect attention and satisfaction with my own thoughts.

I have not read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman but I think of this line often.  Maybe its perfectly fine for everyone on a train to be buried in devices.  It doesn't look fine to me.  It looks obsessive.  It looks addictive.  

Remember dystopian future movies where ads jump off billboards and interact with characters? How invasive this concept seemed?  It turns out, we didn't need billboards. We pick up the ads and stare right at them, for hours.

I know, in the modern world, I'm not supposed to judge other parents, or other people.  I know I'm supposed to exist with compassion and understanding that everyone is doing the best they can.  But the thing is, I don't think we are doing the best we can.  I think if I asked someone "hey, why does your 5 year old have a tablet?  Is this in alignment with your highest principles and values?" they would probably say no.  They would also probably hit me. 

I wish I could take a snapshot of the train and share it with everyone.  Ask them all if this is what they want to do with their time.  

Children are amazing.  Humans are amazing.  For whatever reason, today I was sad watching the subdued amazing in a train full of screens.

April 18, 2023

And now for something different... Laundry.

This is a random one, but I was SO interested in this laundry post from NGS.  I thought I would write my own laundry summary.  I know, it's all parties on this mom-blog.

I used to do all the laundry.  And then one day I said I couldn't do it all anymore, and for about two weeks my husband did all the laundry, but he couldn't really manage it either, so eventually we agreed a split which I think is 70/30 me and he probably thinks is more 50/50.  Either way, it's working for us.

We do about a load a day of laundry a day.  We have two mucky kids, we both are into sports, and we seem to make a lot of laundry.  We have our washing machine in the kitchen, which is normal in the UK but completely against my American sensibilities.  Why couldn't I have a dishwasher in the kitchen and laundry somewhere else?  We dream of a utility room someday... but dreams are dreams.

I wash most things on 30 (which I guess is cool?) and my husband prefers a 40 wash.  Some things have become smaller since he took on laundry.  Unfortunately I am not one of those things, so there have been a few pieces sacrificed to the laundry gods.  The 40 wash takes 2 hours so I usually either do a 40 quick or a 30 regular, because I am not made of money.  With my smart meter I can tell that laundry costs about £1 a load, so I try for the quickest/cheapest cycle.  I usually put an extra rinse on a short cycle because in my mind that makes up for the 1 hour less of washing. 

We have two laundry baskets.  The big one is "things that can go in at 40" and the small one is "things that need to be 30 or things that need to be cold delicate" which means I mainly take charge of the small basket because how is he to know which of my things are delicate?  Also, there are things that can be washed at 40 which can also be washed at 30, but there are not many things that must be washed at 30 but can be washed at 40... so when I do a 30 wash I tend to scoop through the big bin to find more pieces which can go in at 30.

We also have a bag by the kitchen door which is for mucky kid clothes and things that need stain spray.  Usually this is whatever shirt the two year old was wearing when we had beans for dinner.  This stuff goes in at 30 or 40 but the stain spray is key.

We don't have a drier so everything hangs dry in our loft landing space, next to a fan, a window, and a dehumidifier.  When it's not raining (rare in Wales) we can use the drying line outside.  

(Fun fact: The red door in that photo leads to the coal storage attached to the garage.  We use it for gardening things now)

I love hanging laundry outside.  Someday I would like to get a drier.  In the UK many people have Washer-driers but I do not trust these things.  First: they take 5 hours.  Second: would you buy a fridge-oven?  Clearly not.  Why is a washer-drier any different?

We wash sheets once every 3-4 weeks in the winter, mostly due to indoor drying space.  We used to do it every two weeks when we had cleaners who changed the beds, but now our cleaners do not make up the beds and we are lazier than we thought.  Two weeks is the right amount for bedsheets.  I wish we had a better routine about this.  I would say that my husband is probably fine to sleep on the same sheets for 6 months at a time... but he might object to this assertion.  It's not an experiment I'm keen to run.

We wash towels and kitchen towels every two weeks, when the cleaner comes.  Same with the bath floor mats.  

We use cheap detergent and I started using fabric softener recently.  My husband doesn't trust fabric softener and I do think it probably wears down clothing faster BUT it smells nice and makes clothes soft.  Sometimes I add oxy-clean to the very dirty kid cloths.

We don't separate colors.  We do use small bags for delicates and sports clothes.  And we leave the washing machine door open after a wash to air it out.  Every 6 months or so I do a super hot wash with baking soda to clean the machine.  

About a month ago the handle of the washing machine broke. Andy did some engineering magic such that we can now use a spoon handle to open the door.  Apparently a new piece is £60, which seems insanely expensive.  At first I thought this meant it was time to get a new washer, but now I'm getting used to using a spoon:

Spoon stuck in the place the handle once existed

April 16, 2023

Communication and Constant Contact

Cal Newport's recent Deep Life podcast had the interesting (and somewhat sad) question "How do I convince my husband that the “deep life” isn’t an excuse to ignore me?"

This question got me thinking on communication strategies, and how "hyperactive hive mind" has become a somewhat defacto way of organizing daily life for couples and families.  I can completely understand how a wife would be annoyed that their husband blocks out "deep work" time and doesn't respond.  For so many reasons I think the whole concept of "deep work" is easier for men to attain than women.  Men's time has always been protected in a way women's hasn't (see all work by Eve Rodsky).

Cal Newport often gets accused of being a standard productivity-bro and not understanding how the situation is different for women - accusations which are not entirely unjustified.  However, his answer to the above question basically said "Partners need to agree on a definition of a deep life.  If you're not in agreement, then nothing will work."

This, to me, is very legit advice.

When Andy was on Whatsapp I used it for the general stream of chatter about my day, the kids, the garden.  Pictures of the kids or of things I saw.  If something was urgent, I would text or call.

When Andy left WhatsApp I was in the house one day and wanted to tell him about something weird the neighbors did (please keep in mind, this was when I was on maternity leave during Covid, so there was literally nothing to do and I was bored out of my skull).  When he got home he said "could you please only text me things that are important?"  At first it felt odd being out of communication with my husband for 8 hours a day.  

Now, I can't imagine what we spent all that time messaging about.  I know there is a modern philosophy that random texts throughout the day is supposed to be nice.  A sign your thinking about your partner.  However, what I think is nicer, personally, is that when Andy and I are together he is not getting/reading WhatsApps from groups and people.  When we spend time together, as a a family, we are only together.  There are no bleeps or blips.

There is so much commentary about phone usage rules, alerts, check-in times, etc.  Mostly pushed by the large tech companies and their lackeys.  My rules are simple.  My phone rings when I get calls.  It doesn't ever make any other noise.  

It's hard for me to remember sometimes that people use so many forms of communication equally.  How do you rate the importance of Instagram vs. WhatsApp vs. Text vs. Call vs.... Tik-Tok...? I don't know.  It's been an adjustment for Andy to realize that I don't get texts right away anymore - but I don't miss the sacrifice of constant availability in the name of not missing a potentially important text.  

It turned out, when it came to availability for constant communication, barely anything was as important as I thought it was.  We almost all survived the 90s... we almost all survived landlines.  When we moved to constant contact, we didn't give up "nothing" [landlines] in pursuit of "something better" [constant contact].  We gave up "something" [our own time? disconnection?] in pursuit of "something different" [constant contact].  

April 12, 2023

Kids and phones - some thoughts.

At some point, when Covid started to subside and parks began to fill up, I took Isaac to a park play and noticed almost every parent was on their phone.

There was a dude pushing a kid in a swing, while looking at his phone in his other hand.

There were two moms on park benches, texting on their phones.

There were teenage girls doing Tik-Tok (or whatever teenage girls do).

There was kid noise, and otherwise weird adult silence.

During Covid times I really missed people.  I like talking to people. I like community.  I like talking to parents at the park.  Life, for me, is vibrant when people are involved.

It looked like everyone else was getting their vibrant through their screens.

I only have young kids, but I have already been told "Oh, my ten year old just won't get off their phone/tablet!" or "I wish I could get my kids out to the park but they're just on screens all day".

If Isaac (4) or Lilah (2) get hands on a smartphone they will want to play with it.  It's amazing to me how little hands swipe so quickly.  They have seen me swipe through photos on the smart camera and they want to swipe through photos.  We don't let the kids have phones.  But we also don't let them watch us play on phones.  

I struggle to blame a ten year old for being on his phone when that's what he's seen the adults around him do.  I know that a ten year old is probably not doing a grocery app or headspace or responding to a work email... but I'm so painfully aware these little people are watching us.

Here's a diversion off topic. We always wear helmets when we ride bikes.  A friend of mine once told me he doesn't wear a helmet because he knows how to ride a bike, as he told his kids to put on their helmets.  A few years later, his kids were not wearing helmets.  I want to be a family of people who all wear helmets, I want my kids to wear helmets, I want them to see us wearing helmets, so we wear helmets.

I know the phones and kids thing gets harder when they get older, and everyone is navigating this as best they can, with the resources and time and knowledge they have.  But I'm hoping if we can keep using our basic phones, the kids will not feel persecuted when we say no to the smartphone (or chip, or google glass, or whatever the technology is in 10 years).  If we can get by without apps and mobile internet then they can get by without apps and mobile internet.

And even if they do feel persecuted by our luddite technology rules, I can take comfort in knowing parents are always lame and unreasonable, right?

April 6, 2023

Chose your own seat adventure - train thoughts part 2

In February I wrote about my train seating conundrums and how I felt men sat down next to me more than next to the men I often sat across from.

Recently, Andy saw someone we knew (but didn't care to speak to) on his morning commute.  I asked if they saw each other and he said yes.  Andy and I both take the same train, on different days, so it's quite likely this person has been on my train before.

I realized, I never look up.  At each stop, I stare straight ahead, or into my book.  I try to take up extra space, and I sometimes leave my bag on the seat next to me (if there are other seats available around me).  I never look at who is getting on the train, because I know that if I look at someone, they will likely sit down next to me.

Andy told me that he stares at everyone as they walk onto the train, warning them to stay away.  I asked how often people sit next to him and he said rarely ever.  He told me that looking at people with a warning stare means they don't sit next to him.

Now, I do have to note here that Andy is 6'6 and I am 5'5 and most sensible people would rather share a train seat with a 5'5 person than a 6'6 person.  There is arguably more room next to me than next to Andy.

But still, I started to ponder what a fully different experience we are having on our train - mine is based on ignoring everyone around me, his is based on engaging.  He expects to have a free seat, and generally does.  I consider a free seat a great victory.

Someday I would like to poll people on the train about their seating choices.  Does anyone else think about it as much as I do?

Recently I was on a London train, on a table seat.  I was sitting next to the window with an open seat next to me.  Across from me sat a middle age man, on the isle, with his bag on the window seat.  A youngish man got on the train, walked up to our table, and asked the man if he could take the window seat.   It felt like a victory.

Do you make eye contact on trains? Ignore people? Put your bag on the seat? Eat smelly food?

April 5, 2023

April Notes

It's April!  I think I'm supposed to have a burst of energy, review my Q1 goals, set some goals for Q2, and get ready for our awesome summer...

However, that's not the headspace I'm in at the moment.  I'm going to consider April a "Planting" month.  I will do small things that will plant a better May and June etc.  For instance, rather than goals and adventures, I have decided to just have a Q1 tick list:

  • Finally do Will (appointment booked)
  • Eat more Fruit. (helps it's now 3 for 2 at Morrisons. I love fruit season!)
  • Declutter (ongoing, forever)
  • Visit 1 National Trust Site (Planned for an Easter Egg Hunt)
  • Continue Monthly Budget
  • Continue Time Tracking
  • Continue Kids photo albums
I got overexcited with my library book ordering and have ended up with this:
The library stopped doing fines during Covid, which is cool, but also they will make your books "overdue" if someone else wants them, and I feel bad keeping a book someone else wants to read.  I need to give "The Idea of You" back because someone else already requested it.  I started Babel, which I have been waiting 6+ months for, and am really enjoying it but it's LONG.  I need to carve out some bigger reading chunks.  I'm also listening to Stolen Focus which is GREAT and I think under appreciated because of the time which it came out (Covid-times people were not super into the idea of using technology less, although Hari will probably argue we really should be.)

After two weeks of somewhat chaos meals we returned to meal planning this week.  It's going OK.  It's not particularly inspired.  I wish I was a better cook who could make vegetable dishes and quick delicious meat free things.  I can make quick delicious things of meat (like chicken sliders) or quick meat free things (like my decidedly average red beans) or delicious meat free things (which are not on the list below because I don't have patience for cooking right now)
We have started eating family style so the kids can serve themselves food at the table.  This is how I ate growing up but my husband's family always plated up in the kitchen.  We had been plating in the kitchen but were starting to have food struggles and "I don't like this" yelled by both a 2 and 4 year old.  So far, dishing up at the table is going well, the kids are enjoying it and eating more and not resisting dinner immediately

On another food note, the kids tried waffles for the first time:
I did not get an after photo, but OMG were they messy and happy.  Isaac ate... 10? (quarters, so 2.5 waffles).  Coincidentally, it was also the first time they had tried chocolate spread.  

There is a 100% chance I will be owning a waffle maker soon.

Did you eat family style growing up or was your food plated up for you?  Do you own a waffle maker?

April 3, 2023

March - Month in Review

This month is the kind where my current state (tired) seems to override my feeling on the month.  If someone said "What was March like?" I would probably say "Wet, cold, tiring".  But then I look at my calendar and my goals and realized... it was busy.  I did a lot.  We went for a 4 day holiday in The New Forest (tiring), I also got citizenship, went out to dinner with my friends, went out to lunch with Andy, went for two work overnights... no wonder I'm tired.


  • Update Family and both kids photo albums for February (Done!)
  • Visit 1 National Trust Site (Done - for a very short lunch picnic)
  • Visit St. Fagans museum (Nope - it did not stop raining)
  • Go on a Holiday! (Yes!)
  • Write Will (No. Ugh.  I feel like if this was any other goal the fact that I've not done it for SO LONG means it should be removed from my to do list but I'm aware I can't do that for this goal)


  • Barre3 (Just 1!) (No.  But, I will cancel my membership now because even though it's a cheap-ish yearly membership I just don't use it at all.)
  • Track Time (Yes!)
  • Eat 1 Fruit a day (No.  Why can I track my time but not my food...?)
  • Blog 3x a week (Nope)
  • Do a parkrun (Yes!)


  • Networking on March work trip (Yes, a great trip)
  • Two work trips this month - making the most of each. (Sometimes "making the most" means "attending".  So I'll give myself credit here)


  • Dinner with former colleague friends (Yes!)
  • Yoga with Yoga friend (Yes!)
  • Writing Club (Unfortunately scheduling issues precluded this one)
  • Bike Park Wales mountain biking trip with Andy and all MTB friends! (Yes! I forgot about this one.  I had a great day of biking and did a red-black trail which I was totally not good enough for)
  • Dinner with NCT friends (Yes!)
  • Get second quote for mouldy toilet room (nope - it's spring so I'm going to just let the mouldy toilet unmould naturally)
  • Declutter 2 bags of things on organization day (I did manage to get some stuff to the charity shop)
  • Do that wall decal (No - this goes back on the yearly goals list.  Maybe October)
  • Frame and mount the poster (Yes! Finally!)
March Professional Development Book: Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu (Read!)

I read 6 books in March. Station Eleven was probably my favourite.  I read Better than Before but I'm fairly sure I've read it before, but wasn't sure enough to not spend 8 hours on the Audiobook.  Quit Like a Woman was an interesting read that I'm still pondering, and I do wonder whether alcohol today is the same as smoking in the 1970's.  I'm really enjoying the somewhat trashy American Royals books and have just requested the third book from the Library.  
Lilah and Isaac enjoying our Holiday adventures

Did you have a good March?  Are you looking forward to April?

April 2, 2023

Smartphones: the right tools for which jobs?

The smartphone is the worlds biggest multi-tool.

When I go riding, I need a multitool in case my bike has any issues.  These are compact little tools for fixing various bike things.  Multitools are limited by their size - they need to be small enough to carry on a ride.  Sure, it would be great if I could bring a full size pump and a track stand and some chain cleaner... but I can't fit that in my backpack.  So, I have a limited multitool.

The smartphone has gotten smarter and smarter without taking up more physical space - it's become a tool for any job.

In order to consider leaving my smartphone, I documented what I was using it for, and if this was something I needed, wanted, or hated.  I made a list of all my apps and decided how much I valued each thing, and what could replace it.  Here is a snapshot:

Making CallsHighNokia 105
TextingHighNokia 105
News Applow
Grocery Store AppLow
QR Code scannerlow

For me, the real sticking point was the Camera, Maps and Podcasts.  I considered getting a TomTom or a Garmin, and I looked at a fancy camera, but what I loved about the iphone camera is that it uploads straight to the cloud, and photo editing is so easy.  

I also wasn't sure if they made TomToms or Garmins anymore.

After looking at price points for Cameras I realized that Apple had already made what I wanted.  I just wanted a version that didn't have the whole world inside it.  

[edit: this bit has been updated after a comment from the very astute NGS] I realized what I wanted was an ipod.  Back in the day, ipods were great - they had music, they had a camera... they did everything! And they weren't a phone. So I went to Apple and... they stopped making them.  Ugh.

I emailed Apple and asked for an iphone without the phone. They never got back to me.

[I should also note that one of the reasons I was looking at phones at this juncture was due to leaving my job, where I was provided a work iphone which I used for many not-work things, like photos. So it was the right time to investigate phone problem and camera problem together]

I ended up pricing up a Cannon powershot (£600) vs the iphone SE (£450) and even I couldn't avoid the truth that it wasn't worth an extra £150 to escape the i-economy.  So, we got what we call the "Family Smart Camera", a sim-less, data-less, iphone.  

Yes, I realize the irony of escaping my smartphone by having a smartphone.  But for me, the important part was separating my "phone" from my "everything else".  

When I leave the house, I take my phone.  

When I want to take photos, listen to podcasts, or get directions, I take the Smart Camera.  The smart camera doesn't have everywhere internet or WhatsApp, and it will never blip with an incoming text or call.  It also doesn't belong to either Andy or me - it's a household utility like our TV or computer.

If I'm out and about and just want to check the weather or my email... I can't.  If I want to take pictures my kids, I can.  If I want to send those photos to friends I have to wait until I get home and do it on the computer.    

Clearly the process was not a purely "Digital Minimalism" endeavour.  For me, as it was about finding the right tool for the job, and the right time for the tool.  With a smartphone, there was no better or worse time to do anything. Everything could be done anywhere.  

By separating my "smart" from my "phone" I've enforced my own rules for when and how I do things. For now it's working well enough for me.

April 1, 2023

On not using a Smartphone: The Why

I've been pondering recently - how did I get here?  Why am I the weirdo with a Nokia 105?  Even Cal Newport, of Digital Minimalism Fame, says the phone is fine, but it's how we use it that's the problem.
I think my main issue with that argument is that I feel it's the same as "it's not junk food, it's that you eat it" or "It's not alcohol that causes the problem, it's how much you drink".  Very true - but I am more likely to eat too much junk food if presented with a buffet, and I definitely notice overconsumption increases at a free bar.  

One of my nicknames is "All or Nothing Rachel".  It could be that everyone else is better at controlling their screen time than me.  I found, when I had a smartphone, I looked at it a lot.  Screen time was 4+ hours a day. If someone texted me I would text back... and check something else.  I would spend 20 minutes on a single WhatsApp chat back and forth - and when I was pulled away I would come straight back to see if I missed any messages.

I would be at the park with my kids and think about a quick thing I needed to know/do, and out would come the smart phone.  Maybe this is innocuous to some - adding groceries to a list or checking the weather - but for me this meant I diverted my attention from what I was doing and onto something else.  For my simple little brain I could never just focus on the moment I was in.  For a person prone to overthinking anyways I don't think constantly switching and optimizing with the entire world, from reality to screen, was good for my brain.  

Like most people, I would get my phone out when it was boring.  The train, or a queue.  If I started to feel anxious or scrambled I would grab the phone to sink into it's warm oblivion.  It didn't make me feel better, really.  It just made me feel different.  I didn't have other things "to do" with that time.  But maybe there is value in doing nothing, in giving you head some blank space.

Why was a I filling every moment with thoughts and actions, accelerated by my phone, to the point that I needed the headspace app on my phone to try to unclutter all these thoughts and actions I had spent all day doing?

So yes, I could try rules to use it less - I started by only checking WhatsApp in the evenings.  Or not going on BBC all day.  But then, the Analogue August idea hit - and I thought that instead of working backwards from where I was I could just give it all up for a month.  Maybe I would hate it and go straight back after a month.  People can do lots of things for a month.

I didn't hate it though. If I hadn't tried it for a month I never would have done it.  Maybe this is how people who cut out sugar or coffee feel.  Maybe I did the "Whole 30" of technology.  If, at some point, I think my life will be better by using a smartphone I'll certainly go back.  For now, I am embracing Gretchen Ruben's Satisficer mentality.  My life is not worse than it was, so that's good enough for me!