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Kicking the habit


Kicking the habit

An enforced break from her smartphone has Leigh Robshaw seeing the light, and pondering a more permanent separation from technology.

The zombie apocalypse is here, people. You see them in the streets, in restaurants, schools, supermarkets, parks, gyms, buses, trains and cinemas. They walk across roads in front of cars without looking up. They’re not the brain-eating, drooling zombies seen in films. They look a lot like you and me. In fact, they are you and me.

We’ve become phone zombies, slaves to our insidiously addictive devices that we carry with us like an extra appendage. Everywhere you look, you’ll see someone with their head buried in a phone, ignoring the person they’re with, who also has their head buried in a phone.

My phone died in the first week of the school holidays, a day before we were due to go away on a much-needed break. It was under warranty and I was told it would take a week for a replacement phone to arrive. The guy at the computer shop asked me if I wanted a temporary replacement phone. I thought about it for second and decided I did not. I wanted to go on a holiday with my kids and NOT TAKE MY PHONE.

It was the best holiday I’ve had in a long time. After the initial withdrawal symptoms dissipated, I relaxed into a slower pace, reading books, swimming, flying kites, playing frisbee and kicking a ball around with my two boys. I was able to be fully present with them and truly relax.

It was an enforced digital detox I didn’t realise I needed. After a few days, I found myself not missing my phone at all and dreading the day I got it back. As I walked into town, I passed restaurants full of phone zombies seated at window tables. Couples glued to their phones, rather than each other. Parents ignoring their kids while they scrolled through Facebook and Instagram (yes, I perved at their screens).

It wasn’t so much that I was judging them – I’ve been a phone zombie too. I just felt sad. Sad at how much of our real lives and the real world we are missing when we have our noses buried in our phones.

The truth is out – the software developers have used brain science for evil. They have ushered in the zombie apocalypse by creating the most addictive devices humans have ever known, tapping right into our brains’ dopamine reward system. We’re complete suckers because we’ve allowed them direct access to our brains, let them infiltrate our relationships, suck the life out of us until we no longer resemble the people we once were.

“Sorry darling, mummy’s doing something really important on her phone right now, you’ll just have to wait.” What a crock. It’s rarely something so important I can’t put the phone down and look at the paper plane my five-year-old just made. Just six days away from my phone made me realise that. I’m even contemplating going back to a dumb phone, because smartphones aren’t making us smarter or happier. They’re hijacking our lives.

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Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

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