Are we being ruled by our phones?


When my daughter was a baby I didn’t have a fancy phone. Just three years ago, I survived with a brick that had limited internet access. Back then, my time was devoured by a beautiful baby who cried for milk on-demand and constant entertainment. My phone just lived on the kitchen counter, occasionally ringing when someone wanted to talk to me. Some days I didn’t even answer it.

But then, in 2012, I got a new iPhone. It was a revelation. Finally, I could check my emails on the go! Log into Facebook whenever I pleased! I even joined Instagram, eagerly taking snaps of cups of tea and putting trendy filters on them before sharing them with the world. I started to see my phone as a lifeline to the outside world, wondering how I had never lived without it before.

Fast-forward two years and I’m starting to loathe my phone. It’s like having a newborn baby in the colic phase, forever. The baby needs supervision, reassurance, attention. Lots and lots of attention. I even find myself taking my baby phone to the toilet, lest it gets lonely without me. 

Time was, I would sit down at my computer, log into my emails and work would begin. When I finished, I was safe in the knowledge no one could reach me unless it really was an emergency and they needed to call. And you know what? They rarely called.

These days things are a bit different. The thing I used to love about having that instant connection has become the very reason I sometimes dread looking at my phone. Facebook groups and emails and tweets… constantly.

I love my job. I’m lucky enough that I get to mainly work from home around my daughter. But there are times when work (and that blasted phone) butts its way into those moments with my daughter. A notification on Facebook that I need to respond to. Or perhaps an email that needs to be replied to. And even if it doesn’t need to be replied to asap, I still know it’s there, waiting for me.

Just like that, whatever conversation I’m having in real life, whatever task I’m trying to do, is instantly derailed. I need to see to my demanding phone and put everything else on hold. The newborn baby is crying again, but this time it’s not even cute or cuddly.

I wrote about Phubbing over at The Motherhood recently. While my argument for that piece still stands – I’m sick of being made to feel guilty by experts saying mums who pick up their phone in front of their kids are BAD – I do recognise that maintaining the right balance is a tricky one.

For example, I still like the fact I can check my emails on the go. It makes working as a freelancer that bit easier, juggling motherhood with paying the bills. But it’s oh-so-easy to lose sight of what’s important when you’re checking your phone – those things that need an immediate response and the bits that can wait until later.

When was the last time you picked up your phone to check your inbox, only to find you’d been tagged in a conversation on Facebook?

The scenario goes like this: tootling over to Facebook to see what’s being said, an interesting article catches your eye, shared by one of your Facebook friends. You read the article and watch the accompanying video – something promising to be The Best Thing You’ll See All Day! and BOOM. You’ve just lost ten minutes of your life. That’s ten minutes that could have been spent unloading the washing machine, cooking tea or – *gasp* – playing with your child. I’m not pointing the finger here, I am more than guilty of falling into this trap myself.

Recently I’ve started leaving my phone downstairs when I go to bed. It’s just a little act of rebellion against the phone dictatorship, but it feels kind of liberating. Instead of letting my demanding phone sleep beside me, waking me for night feeds with its angry flashing, I now turn it off and put it in a drawer. If I wake up at 3am I don’t have the urge to check my phone. I just go back to sleep. Simple.

I’m not sure what the answer is to the rest of the day though. I try to stay away from my phone as much as possible at the weekend, although that’s not always easy – especially if I’m expecting an email. I sometimes wish I could have two phones, one for work and one for real life. But then, I know I’d end up just having them both on all of the time and it would be like having newborn baby twins, rather than just the one.

Do you ever feel like you’re being ruled by your phone? How do you manage the balance?


[Photo credit: Caroline Gue at CP Photography]



  1. Kate W says

    The trick that works for me is to leave it on silent/vibrate and to switch it off overnight!

    It does mean that occasionally find 12 missed calls and a series of increasingly panicked texts from my Husband who seems to think i might be lying in a pool of blood somewhere (at which point I point out that if he’d rung the land line like a normal, non paranoid person I would’ve informed him that I was, in fact, alive and well…..), but on the whole it means I remain the boss of it & not the other way round!!

  2. says

    This is so true, already my seven month old always wants to play with my phone, which says to me that he sees me on it too often, I’m now trying to limit my time on the phone / internet to when he’s napping or in bed.

    • says

      Scary how young it starts eh?! Seriously though – I know I’m guilty of going on my phone in front of my daughter. I try to minimise it but sometimes it can’t be avoided. If I have a work email that can’t wait til she’s in bed after 7pm to respond to, for example. Tricky though.

  3. says

    haha, love the twins thought! You’re right, phones are evil, they’re taking over the world! I secretly long for mine to break. On the other hand, I love how much knowledge and power it has given me… oh ok, it’s not exactly things I NEED to know, but lots of it has made me happy and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

    I do fear my eyes are going oblong (screen) shaped though. And unless I follow your lead, I will prob end up with one working eye, as I often lie in bed with one eye covered by pillow, trying to squint at my mobile with the other….

  4. says

    You didn’t have an iPhone until 2012? Where you living in rural Peru?? Wow.
    Secondly, there is no such thing as an Facebook notification that you need to attend to. It’s a vacuscious social networking site. Nothing there is truely important. Note to anyone posting truely important things – that the wrong platform. Send an email, make a phone call.
    Anyhow, switch your notifications off and never use your phone in green spaces unless instagraming. Then only for a second.
    I switch mine to airline mode at night, it’s my alarm clock. Nothing ever happens on social media at 3 am. Oh and I never watch YouTube videos shared on FB 90% of them are rubbish. Finally, before sharing on SM think: do I really need to share this? And then check back every 20 minutes to see if anyone cares. Eating poo would be an example of over sharing on social media. But who’d actually do that and share it?

    • says

      Thank you for the words of wisdom Gem. Insightful as ever. Especially regarding over-sharing. Eating poo? Who on earth would share that kind of thing….?

  5. says

    Hah ha love the eating poo comment – seriously who would do that 😉 I only got my iphone in 2013!!!! yup really!

    I have never taken it to bed ith me but I am guilty of taking it to the toilet!

  6. says

    I hate when I am having a conversation with someone and they pick up their phone becuase it beeps and they start typing. Its bloody rude like having another converstion with someone else whislt you are already in one. I know many MANY people who do this (specially bloggers!!!!!!)

  7. says

    When you realise your daughter is trying to tell you something really exciting but you’re looking at your phone it’s time to cut back. I started to get to that point so now make a conscious effort not to look at my phone when with them or leave it somewhere else.
    We seem to have started to train ourselves that any beep or vibration needs attending to NOW, but it really doesn’t does it? Unless it’s for work it’s unlikely it’s urgent.
    Definitely a balance to be had, on the flipside having a smartphone can stop you feeling isolated or lonely when you’re on your own for a long stretch with a little person.

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