I recently got rid of my iPhone–something I wrote about today at Motherboard.TV. Changing the behavior behind my smart phone addiction was not unlike the kind of problems that arise in training a dog. My method of iPhone abandonment was similar to the sort of plan of action I might suggest to a dog owner trying to break a dog of an annoying habit.
Part of good dog training simply involves managing a situation in order to increase the chances that your dog will do what you want. Usually, this means limiting the choices. Just like if you want your kids to only come in through the mud room, you’d just keep all the other doors locked.
Say your dog likes to chew. He’ll chew a toy if it’s around, but if the choice is between a toy and a shoe, he’ll always go Manolo. You’re never going to stop a dog from masticating: Chewing is an important part of being a dog. Unfortunately, dogs do not innately know that shoes are not supposed to be chewed but raw hides are okay. So, the best way to keep them from your shoes is to make sure he has lots of access to appropriate chewy things and zero access to footwear. Problem solved. If you need to, you can hire a dog trainer to come and put your shoes in your closet for you. I charge good money for that kind of work.
So how did I use this approach to keep myself from compulsively checking my iPhone?
First, I put the iPhone in the proverbial shoe closet: I canceled AT&T service. The WiFi receiver on the phone didn’t work, so without cell service, it was no longer such an attractive gadget. It was unusable in all the ways that I used it most: texting, emailing, playing Scrabble with my mom. Important stuff. Losing the cell service turned out to be a smaller hardship than I’d imagined, especially financially: I really liked not having that bill come every month. And sticking it to AT&T was also kind of rewarding. You know what else is rewarding? Not having shoes all around your house.
I eventually gave the phone away.
Then came the replacement portion of this equation: I opted to get an iPod Touch, which offered me something to do with my brain and my hands during the down moments when everyone else at dinner is checking their email. But it’s comparative lack of functionality meant that it had a considerably smaller hold on me than its AT&T-connected predecessor. And it’s just as fun to chew.
I’ve been considering other things I could take up that would busy my mind and hands without resorting to any kind of Apple product. At Motherboard.TV, I discuss the virtues of other habits that could replace my iPhone/iPod Touch crutches. Specifically, cigarettes.
But please, do not let your dog smoke. Better he stick to shoes.