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"Spend three seconds contemplating addictions more harmful than naughty snacks, and — if you’re like me — you’ll witheringly remember your smartphone."

Five extreme ways to break your smart phone addiction for Lent

Think you can't go a day without your phone? We've got some ideas.

By Pieta Woolley

Lent isn’t just for Christians anymore. It turns out that a late winter detox has become entrenched in secular North American culture. But spend three seconds contemplating addictions more harmful than naughty snacks, and — if you’re like me — you’ll witheringly remember your smartphone.

And I love mine so hard — that sleep-wrecking, conversation-muting, child-placating suck-hole of time and money. Eric Pickersgill’s chilling photo collection, “Removed,” says it all.

In February’s Observer
, Rev. Tricia Elliott serves up an enticing challenge: regain control of your smartphone use for the Lenten season. She even offers six “painless” strategies to help. Of course, these may only work for more disciplined people. So here are some strategies that have worked for my own family.

1. Destroy your device by accident

After I dropped my original smartphone and broke the screen, my husband ordered me a no-name, non-destructible device from China. It was huge; it looked like you could take it into battle. Instead, I took it into the quarry on Texada Island, B.C. to take videos of our kids cliff-jumping into the water (it wasn’t water-resistant!). After that, I didn’t care to replace another smartphone, and I lasted nearly a month without one (Lent-like!).

2. Destroy your device on purpose

For Christmas, two years ago, against our better judgement, we bought our kids tablets. Our daughter: no problem. Between losing it and forgetting to charge the batteries, she was rarely on the device. But our son constantly fought with us about his own usage. One spring night, at about 2 a.m., I caught him wandering around, looking for his tablet. We were all on vacation, staying in one room. I told him to go back to bed, but he refused. Instead, he rhythmically kicked the wall until his sister woke up – that’s before getting out of bed and switching the lights on and off. Needless to write, my rage and exhaustion level ran high. So I grabbed his tablet and broke it over my knee, sending the little wires and microchips flying everywhere.

3. Have someone else destroy your device (by accident)

We were late adopters of smartphones. Until 2011, we just had cellphones, and unless you really, really liked pressing numbered keys, they didn’t have much entertainment value. One day, our Kindergartener placed a phone in his lunchbag before leaving for school. By 3 p.m., it was soaking wet and non-functional, and for the next three days, we didn’t have a cellphone. Bam!

4. Lose your device

I once left my smartphone at a relative’s house in another city. She called, offering to mail it to me. But I said: “no, thank you. I’ll pick it up next time I’m there.” For three blissful weeks, I didn’t have a phone. If I wanted to send an email, check Facebook, read the news or find out what the weather was like, I would have to sit down at a computer and use both hands to type. By the end of the three weeks, though, I had a laptop plugged in next to my bed, prompting my husband to respond: “What? Seriously? Just go pick up your phone. Please.”

5. Use boast-y titles

Eating a non-traditional diet takes loads of discipline, and it seems that self-definition seems to go a long way in buttressing that discipline. “I’m a vegetarian.” “I’m keto.” “I’m paleo.” “I’m freegan.” “I’m a level 5 vegan.” “I’m a carnivore.” So why not label the kind of smartphone-user you are, whether you seldom look away from your phone, refuse to use your phone in bed or at the dinner table, use your phone to make calls, send texts and take photos, or turn your device off between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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