Fighting the Urge of Phone Addiction

Awareness of a technology addiction is one thing. Trying to change habits that are so ingrained in your psyche is a whole other beast. I’ve known for years now how dependent I am on technology. I’ve joked about it with family and friends. Joking about it makes it not real. Joking about it makes it a silly habit.

It wasn’t until Apple had a software update called screentime that shows how much time you spend on your phone that I was faced with the reality of what my casual phone habit had become. Once I could see the hours I raked up by numbers and data instead of estimates in my head, things didn’t change, at least not right away. I’d continue my old habits despite the evidence I spend too much had looming in my head several times. A few times, I even took off screentime so I didn’t have to know how many hours I was spending on my phone.

These last few months have been difficult and I found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone at least every few minutes, if not every thirty seconds. I knew I had a lot going on so I thought it was okay to be distracted. That’s how I’ve always coped with unexpected shifts and major changes in my life. It comes as natural to me as breathing.

It’s not until I have distracted myself long enough that I can begin to really process and accept what is happening that I become aware of how much of a time suck a small screen can be. The worst part is being aware of a bad habit and trying to control it instead of allowing it to control me. It’s a battle within myself, my conscious mind trying to step into my subconscious. It takes time and hard work to change bad habits. Trial and error without judgment or criticism of myself are hard. Elimination of it all together only lasts for so long. Blocking of apps cost money. Setting controls and time constraints don’t work when I know the password.

Finally, I had enough of this and I asked my mom put in a passcode into my phone so I wasn’t able to extend past the limits I had set for myself. From 10 pm to 9 am, a lot of the apps on my phone are blocked off. This allows me to begin and end my day by doing other things or using my phone in a more productive way. For apps I use the most (i.e. Instagram), I have a two hour limit within that eleven-hour time span to be on it and when time’s up, I no longer have access to it unless I ask my mom to put in the code, which is surprisingly rare.

Now, a lot of you might be reading this and think, “two hours is a long time to be on an app.” I know it is. I could be doing more productive things with my time. However, I used to spend so much more time on that app, the number is too high for me to want to share it. Two hours is a reasonable and big drop from how much time I was spending on it before. It forces me to balance things in a way I wasn’t able to before. With only having a limited amount of time on an app, I have to prioritize my time if I want to check it throughout the day. Because once time’s up, I have to wait until tomorrow to check it again.

It’s been a real learning lesson for me. It’s better than eliminating it altogether and I’ve had to hold myself accountable for this habit I had unknowingly created. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has a social media/phone habit. Apple wouldn’t have created this screentime feature if only a few people had a problem. There wouldn’t be apps like Forest that forces you to step away from your phone any time from 10 minutes to two hours in exchange to build a tree and create a forest to have you focus and be present in your life. In the Apple app store, it’s said that over 2 million people in 126 countries have used this app in order to control their screentime.

The urge to always be on my phone is real. It’s both comforting and terrifying to know that I’m not the only one who spends too much time on my phone. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I’m trying to break bad habits and find balance in my life. After months and years of struggling with my social media activity, I’m beginning to find balance and change how I use social media.

We’re living in a time where social media and the news cycle is both addictive and overwhelming. How much is too much? When living in a digital age, how do you find balance between using your time online vs. offline? How do you stay focused on what matters? Are you aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone? If you were able to see it in numbers, would you be willing to change?

There’s a real urge to look at your phone whenever you can. You only feel it when you’re trying to fight yourself from looking at it. All of this technology is still very new and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Smartphones are already becoming less exciting with the updates not being extravagant enough for people wanting to upgrade their phones.

I’ve been reading articles about smartphone addiction and I came across this article worth reading. The fact that there’s shame around how much we use our phones is crazy to me. And yet, I don’t want to admit how many hours a day I was on my phone before I really began to find a balance because it’s embarrassing. I once told some people about how much I was on when it was on the low spectrum for me and they were appalled by how much time I was spending.

But then, once some of them started using screentime and began seeing their minutes add up, they began to change their tune. One of them even told me, “I didn’t realize how quickly all that time added up until I actually saw the numbers.” What can we do to fight this habit? It’s different for every person. For me, I try not to have my phone on or around me when I’m around other people. Setting time limits, build a tree with the Forest app, and leaving my phone in another room when I’m trying to not have it around me.

The first step is being aware of how you use your phone and why you gravitate towards it. The next step is to make a change. It’s not easy fighting the urge of a bad habit but if we want our future to be controlled by people and not robots, we need to begin the process now before it’s too late.

What a Year 2018 Has Been.

This year has felt like it has been five years at the same time it feels like it’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For America, we’ve gone through so many ups and downs that I have forgotten much of what has happened because so much happens every single day. For me personally, I’ve gone through some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows I have ever experienced in this last year.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in February. Something I knew was coming but had avoided for much of last year, besides the fact that there were some physical signs that something clearly wasn’t right. That took a while for me to process because it’s a disease you can’t physically see. Acceptance came about a month or so later. Then, in October, after having gained puffy eyes over the summer and seeing double in early fall, I was diagnosed with Grave’s. Most people cannot have both antibodies at one time.

Last week, my doctor told me that I’m a mystery because my numbers aren’t where she suspected they would be at this point. I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations in 2018 and unfortunately, I see this continuing into the next year; though I’m hoping it will be a little less intense. My health has been the majority of my lows this year. It’s not fun not knowing what your body is capable of and finding out long after the damage had been done is a tough pill to swallow.

However, a lot of good things have happened this year as well. I published a short film at the beginning of the year. I got TWO pieces published that I’m extremely proud of and so grateful they have found a home. The essay is about how I found writing and the ways it has helped me with my stutter. The poem is about my stutter and how what you hear is only the surface layer of who I am.

I haven’t said this online yet but I might as well share it because it’s something I’ve worked hard on and I’m very proud of. Earlier this year, I finished the first draft of a story that has the possible potential of one day being published as a book AND last month I finished a fifth draft of said story. I’m very happy with how it’s coming along.

On top of all that, a couple of weeks ago, I graduated from college with a BA in English with honors! I never thought that would happen and with everything going on this year, I thought it may not happen. But I’ve worked very hard and so, so happy with finishing my degree.

I’m sure 2019 will be full of new adventures, hardships, and possibilities. I’m excited and ready to see what the next chapter of my life will be. It will be an interesting year. Personally, it will be a big one. As a country, I’m curious to see how much of this year we will remember at this time next year. I’m hoping movements formed these last couple of years continue to speak up and fight for rights in 2019. I hope you all have a safe and great New Year!

Be kind. Be brilliant. Be you.

The title is a quote from Michelle M. Lucero.

The week before last, I graduated from college with honors, something I never thought I would accomplish. I majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing. A few days ago, I got my final grades for my last semester. 3.93, my highest GPA of my education journey.

I wasn’t the most productive student in high school. I was an average C student. I didn’t care about school. I didn’t see the point of trying hard because I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to go or not. For the record, I didn’t want to go. Classes were too early (7:45am, I’d be there by 7, get a good parking spot far away, and sit in the library for 45 minutes before the first bell rang). I didn’t have a study routine, I was terrible at taking tests, and I barely turned in my homework.

This thinking carried onto the first few years of college. Though the schedule was more flexible, I didn’t know what I wanted to study, therefore I didn’t really care. I got good enough grades to pass. When I decided to study web design (a decision I made because I didn’t know what else to study), I got decent grades, better than I did in my general education classes.

As fate would have it, the summer before I began studying web design, I decided to take an online English class to get a sense of what school would be like the following semester, with all online classes. From that summer class, I would discover my passion for writing. Life works in mysterious ways and puts the pieces together before your able to see the full image.

In fact, the Joan Didion quote currently at the top of my blog is from that English class. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” The first week of summer school, I read that quote in the essay by Didion and wrote a response in an online discussion board. I cannot remember what I wrote but this quote has become a sounding board over the last few years. It’s been a reminder for me to keep writing, that this is why I love writing so much.

The last two and a half years of studying English have been the most fulfilling semesters of my educational journey. I’ve written numerous pieces, two of which have been published (poem and essay). I’ve grown so much as a writer and a woman. These last few years, I’ve come close to the person I can see myself being.

The quote by Michelle M. Lucero was shared in her speech at my graduation ceremony. It’s a simple set of six words with a relatable message, a good reminder in these turbulent times. Be kind. Regardless of how you’re feeling, try to be kind to everyone you interact with. Be brilliant. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or to see life through a different lens. Be you. In a society filled with people constantly chasing trends or thinking of the next big thing, know yourself and follow your own path, marching to the beat of your own drum.

Meeting in the Middle

As many people have stated, we’re living in difficult times. There seems to be a shooting more often than not and nothing is being done to stop these vile people from carrying out these terrible attacks. I was overhearing what was happening on the news the other day since I don’t watch it anymore, and I heard Don Lemon say something along the lines of, “if the gun laws don’t change, if this division continues, this will be the end of America as we know it.” Those words should not be taken lightly.

I go to church to write. I don’t know why but I find peace being able to hear someone speak about something while I sit in the audience writing. I normally never bring my phone in because it’s a distraction. But lately, I’ve been wondering if I should bring my phone in for safety. After what happened last Saturday in Pennslyvania, the next day, I sat in the car in the church parking lot for a good minute or so debating with myself on whether or not I should bring in my phone. Ultimately, I decided against it because it will only be a distraction. But the fact that I even have to consider bringing my phone is jarring.

I don’t have the answers but I have many questions. And as the days continue to bring more uncertainty and terror in this country, the list of questions grow. I don’t understand why our government hasn’t made more of an effort to pass gun control laws to protect the next generation from senseless violence. I don’t understand why we choose to focus on differences instead of similarities. I don’t understand why the anger and divide in this country are so apparent when we have so many obvious problems. I don’t understand why our government isn’t acting on changing laws when innocent people are losing their lives. I understand the Republican party has fundamental differences than the Democrats. I understand that nothing will be done to fix this problem with them being the majority in our government. I understand that our differences are seen as deal breakers.

We can believe in different things and still find a way to meet in the middle.

Stumbles in Speech

I am a person who stutters. I’ve stuttered my entire life. I’ve been in speech therapy. I’ve taken medication to help reduce my stutter. I’ve lied to myself, saying that I don’t have a stutter.

My stutter hasn’t gone away. I’m now 25 and I still stutter. Some people grow out of their stutter. I’m not one of those people. Stuttering isn’t curable. I don’t stutter because I’m anticipating a word. I’m focused on what I’m saying, not how I say it. Repeating words in my mind three times before I say it out loud is unrealistic. There are too many conversations in a day to repeat everything I say in my head three times before speaking. I avoided eye contact for years because I was scared of seeing how people may react to my stutter. That fear is real but taking back the power allows me to determine how I feel about myself and not anyone else.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m referring to the advice Steve Harvey gave a woman who stutters on his show a couple of weeks ago. I find this video from an article posted by the American Institute for Stuttering that highlights the dangers of Mr. Harvey’s advice. While a lot of the speech therapy I had as a kid wasn’t helpful, this was partly because I wasn’t willing to acknowledge my stutter. As an adult, I have begun to accept my stutter and with the help of AIS, I see my stutter in a new light.

Everyone who stutters has a different relationship to their stutter because no two people stutter the same. Many of the people who stutter as a kid grows out of it by the time they reach adulthood. It’s not uncommon for a person to stutter as a kid and not as an adult. I know that for me, my stutter can shift within a moment. Heightened emotions and situations certainly play a part in how I stutter. I know that my story is a little bit different because I took medication as a teenager to have my stutter “go away.” I spent the majority of my high school and early college years not worrying about my speech. At one point, I even thought I had grown out of it. But when I went off the medication, my stutter came back within a couple of months.

There’s no cure for stuttering. Techniques such as repeating the word in your head before you say it can easily fail. Talking to yourself in a mirror is like talking to yourself any time of the day, you don’t stutter because there’s no stress. It’s not all in your head because stuttering can be caused by much more than just anticipation and sometimes anticipation causes the stutter to go away. It’s not about how much confidence you do or don’t have. It’s not about what you do or don’t tell yourself to get through the day.

Again, this is only from my perspective. There’s no one size fits all for stuttering because everyone who stutters, stutters differently than the person next to them who stutters. Applying a one size fits all method, especially from someone who’s stutter went away, is dangerous because many people stutter their entire lives. And that’s okay.

Unexpected Detours

I’ve been blogging for a few years now. And if I’m being honest, some weeks I don’t know what I should write about. I used to plan out what I would say but now I just wing it the day of. I know I should be better at planning things and get back into the habit of knowing what I want to say before I say it.

This isn’t a post about a struggle of blogging or writer’s block. It’s about feeling exhausted and tired after a long day and you choose not to write or post anything on the designated day. It’s about realizing that planning to do something doesn’t always work in your favor. Sometimes, life has a funny way of changing your plans with unexpected detours.

Two weeks ago, I woke up experiencing double vision. Tuesday I was feeling fine. Wednesday morning, I was seeing double and having eye pain. For the last two weeks, I’ve either had eye double or strain in one or both of my eyes. I’ve gone to multiple doctors, had an MRI, and been poked more times than I prefer. And I still don’t have a definite answer.

I think the most frustrating part about it is being told different things by different doctors. The neurologist ophthalmologist says one thing, the endocrinologist says another. It’s a lot of back and forth. Right now, the thinking is this could be caused by my thyroid. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s back in February. The neurologist ophthalmologist is pretty certain that my eye problem is caused by Graves’. I got a blood test to see if this is the case. It’s strange because the blood test I got last month and last week for my Hashimoto’s didn’t show any signs of Graves’.

Right now, I don’t know what’s causing this. The endocrinologist says Hashimoto’s can cause eye problems while the neurologist ophthalmologist says it’s very rare for Hashimoto’s to cause eye problems. Until I get the results of my blood test results, I have no way of knowing one way or the other. On Monday, I was at the neurologist ophthalmologist for a good three hours, which pretty much exhausted me for the day, hence why I didn’t post on Monday.

Writing is therapy for me. It allows me to write the thoughts that have been circling in my head for the last two weeks.  I’ve been reading a lot more, both books and articles. I’ve been leaning on what makes me happy. Playing with my cat, watching Friends and This Is Us. I know I will be okay. If this is indeed thyroid related, it can take six months or longer for this to go away. That’s a long time but I’ve learned that time moves faster the older I get.

#MeToo, One Year Later

One year ago, I was in a hotel room in New York City, about to leave and take the N train from 42nd street to 23rd street to see the Flatiron building, when I got a notification on my phone from CNN. There was a breaking story on Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker. The story was by Ronan Farrow and it broke down many tricks and avenues he would take to manipulate and take advantage of women. I showed my mom the headline and she shrugged, continuing to get ready for the day. I sat down on the bed and scrolled through the story, getting chills on my arm from every account I read.

One year ago, I didn’t know the magnitude this story would have on our society. No one did. After so many years in power of Hollywood, no one knew the significant impact the fall of Harvey Weinstein would have our society. No one had seen a man fall from grace this hard and this fast. No one realized that he was the first of many who would follow in his footsteps. I was too preoccupied with seeing the Flatiron building before the remnants of Hurricane Nate rolling through New York to focus on our society breaking into two. A few hours after receiving the notification, I became overly preoccupied with trying to get home through the shitty weather.

It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting in the hallway, waiting to go into my last class of the day that I understood how this Weinstein story hit a spark in the universe, creating an explosion of women sharing their stories. I was seeing people using the #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook. The more stories I read, the more I felt less alone while at the same time becoming angry by the fact of how common this is and how it took a hashtag for so many women to share their stories public. I was hesitant about sharing my story and after lots of trepidation, I wrote two poems about how the actions of careless boys have impacted my life.

One year has passed since #MeToo spoke to the zeitgeist in a way no one could have ever predicted. We have opened a door we can never close again. One year later, we’re listening to women’s stories and believing what they share, yet we don’t believe them enough to change the old patterns of human history.