I may have said this before, but I got a cell phone way too early–I was in either sixth or seventh grade and the only other phones that I was calling were probably house phones. Since I got a phone, I haven’t been able to put it down. I realize that I am fully addicted to my phone and I often try to combat that addiction, but to no avail.
Another thing I’m addicted to is television. Fully, truly, hopelessly addicted. I consume episodes like some consume social interaction or alcohol or other unsavory things. My vice is television, though. I love how I can feel completely connected to characters or a story arc or a family for years and years. There’s something comforting about the characters you allow into your home every night. Television is different than movies. It is more personal. It requires a more sustained creativity.
My two addictions almost always coincide. I probably haven’t watched an episode of something without the distraction of my phone since I got my first flip phone that had nothing but Snake and a contact list. I realized, though, that I’m short changing two of the loves of my life. I’m not giving television my full attention if I’m half listening through the screen of my phone, and I’m not giving my phone my full attention if I’m even slightly invested in whatever plot is being played out on screen.
So, tonight, after a day of talking about television in my writing class, and texting my friends, I figured it was time that I separate the two. It was post dinner, and this is usually when I would retreat into my bedroom and choose to watch a show that I’ve watched before or start a new series or just generally waste time. Tonight, though, I thought I might enjoy a little change of pace. I turned on the television and booted up Netflix and flipped on the next episode of American Horror Story. I religiously watched the first season my sophomore year of college. I can remember the exact spot I would sit in at my friend’s apartment and we would stay up way too late and I would walk back to my dorm room and knew it would take a little while before I could get those images out of my head and get to sleep. I started the second season a few days ago when I was bored and realized I’d watched just about everything else available to me.
I had no real intention of not looking at my phone while I watched this episode, but I was about five or six minutes in and realized I hadn’t looked at my phone in awhile. Because I have an over-active mind, I immediately remembered I hadn’t heard my phone buzz or seen it light up or anything of the sort, so I could deduce that there were no urgent notifications I needed to get to. I also remembered that I still needed to write a blog post for the day and started trying to think of a topic that was not horribly boring. I also thought it might be cool to actually fully understand what’s happening in an episode. So, I ignored my initial urge and didn’t press the home button on my phone.
The next forty or so minutes were interesting. I was incredibly anxious. I wear two rings every day and I’m also a very tactile person, so I found myself twirling my rings and moving them from finger to finger. I suddenly noticed the blinds were still open, so I got up and closed them. I remained standing for a couple extra seconds and cracked my back and my knuckles. I looked around some more to see if there was anything I could tend to in the general vicinity. Nope, there wasn’t. I was about twenty-five minutes in at this point. I knew exactly what was happening in the episode. I also knew my schedule for tomorrow and the direction I wanted this blog post to go. If my hands couldn’t be busy with my phone, my mind would sure as hell make sure it was working on something.
Then, it happened. Someone texted me. I was paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. Do I answer and break my concentration? Do I let it go and have it buzz again in two minutes–the iPhone’s cruel, cruel reminder that if you’re not checking your phone at least every two minutes, you are missing things of grave importance. I paused the episode for a total of about three seconds for a couple of reasons. One, if I was going to check this text, I should at least pause the episode so that I’m not technically interrupting the episode with my phone. And two, I could see how much was left of the episode. Fifteen minutes is what it said. I had only fifteen minutes before I reached my goal of not looking at my phone and watching an entire episode of a television show like they did in the old days.
I decided it would be so, so dumb if I checked my phone. So, I pressed play again after those few seconds, turned my phone over so that I wouldn’t see it light up again, and remembered that fifteen minutes is the same amount of time I spend in the shower on average. It’s just the length of a shower, Maria, you can do this. The next fifteen minutes were filled with phantoms lights and buzzes and the belief that that text message contained my life’s direction.
I made it, though. Forty-four minutes without unlocking my phone even once. I can’t say it was a super enjoyable experience, but that’s pretty messed up that I’m that addicted to my phone. This experiment was like my own weird version of aversion therapy–I was, after all, watching a show about an insane asylum and was watching horrible grizzly murders. Maybe it’ll get easier next time. If it doesn’t get easier, it’s just gonna get sadder and sadder.