The mobile phone is currently experiencing a patchy reception. X Factor mogul Simon Cowell has given his up for the past 10 months, which is probably nice work for the poor intern who is likely to be tasked with dictating his missives.
“I became more aware of the people around me and more focused,” he said. “It has been good for my mental health.”
Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has said he doesn’t let his own children on social media. “We have a box in the kitchen where we put our phones when we go into the house,” he says.
At dinner parties, it’s become standard practice to ask guests to hand in their phones, Eton’s headminister confiscates them every evening, and Harry and Meghan banned them on their wedding day. Apple has announced that its next iOS upgrade will include a feature called Screen Time designed, supposedly, to make you spend less time staring at yours.
So, Simon Cowell refusenik or compulsive scroller? Here, two of our writers unpack the digi-detox tribes.
Samuel Fishwick, the mobile monk
I hate phones. Never am I happier than when my handset’s on low battery, blinking helplessly like an arch nemesis clinging on to a cliff edge. Too dark? Nope, definitely not dark enough. Blue light from your phone has been shown to supress the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin if you use your phone before bedtime, as 78 per cent of adults do according to YouGov. I’ve invested in a radio alarm clock, and now leave my phone downstairs before bed. I delete apps like Mail, Instagram and Facebook at 5pm every Friday, and keep dates in a Filofax.
I practice “out of sight, out of mind” — I hide it in a desk drawer, or leave it in the back of taxis, sometimes intentionally. It quickly disappears as I have a terrible memory, a trait I attribute largely to an overreliance on my mobile phone in my early 20s. Indeed, my Luddite philosophy is partly an attempt to restore my brain to factory settings: no more phantom vibrations on my inner thigh, no 3am Twitter holes to fall down. My phone has spooked me. While I feel clean, I’ll probably relapse. But for the moment, my life monastic is fantastic.
Katie Strick, the serial scroller
I fit the dictionary definition of phone addiction. I spend hours on it every day (and night), it diverts me at work, in the gym, and in the pub, and I feel anxious when I leave it downstairs or the battery goes flat. Partly, it boils down to personality: I’m organised, so like to keep on top of emails, and have pathological FOMO, so missing out on group chats panics me. I feel implored to get rid of red icons on my home screen.
Seeing a housemate’s phone with 1,343 unread emails makes me squirm. My thumb now seems to be subconsciously programmed to reach for the Instagram symbol (second row, third from the left), which is my default when I’m waiting for the bus. Sometimes I even do it in the lift to the office, and I’m only going up one floor.
I’m trying to break the habit so I feel a sense of achievement when I make it to the station without checking my phone, which is concerning, but it’s all about baby steps, right?
Which phone tribe are you?
You’re on 8 per cent. Do you?
a. Use your portable charger
b. Charge it behind the bar
c. Leave it to die
d. Forget to charge it then drain your battery on Netflix
You’re owed an urgent email. Do you?
a. Scroll Twitter
b. Email again, then call
c. Pick up your landline
d. Email again, then miss their call
Your fave has left Love Island. Do you?
a. Put a meme on Instagram
b. Send 40 WhatsApps
c. Wait till work the next day
d. Text the friend whose messages you keep ignoring
Mostly as — The Serial Scroller: you don’t even notice you’re doing it.
Mostly bs — The Aggro Emailer: they’re online on Whatsapp — email again.
Mostly cs — The Mobile Monk: if someone wants you, they can send a letter.
Mostly ds — The Hopeless Responder: it’s not personal, you ignore everyone