Why can't I stop looking at my phone?
Listening to the hungry dogs inside of you that all want different things
I have a problem. That problem is my phone. I can’t stop looking at it.
I want to do more creative work, to write, to read tarot for people, to make a blog that people want to read. But instead of doing those things, I look at my phone.
A while back, I read a Medium post by someone who said her kids knew she had a problem when she logged 4 hours of screen time. 4 hours! I’m doing well if I get below 7.
And it’s not just when I’m alone that I’m looking at my phone. It’s when I’m with my daughter. My precious toddler, who just wants my love and attention, and here I am, reading Reddit when she is asking me to read her a book. Or scrolling through Facebook while she’s in the bath.
I worry that I’m missing her childhood. That when I think about these years, I will remember my sparkly gold phone case more than I will remember her at this age.
When I put my phone in the other room, when I walk away from it and focus on my daughter or on the dishes, or really anything else, I am so much happier. And yet. Those times are rare. I always, always come back to it.
-Frustrated Phone Addict
Dear Frustrated Phone Addict,
I am going to start by pulling a tarot card for your question.
(This card is from the awesome, inclusive tarot deck, This Might Hurt.)
What card is coming forward as your teacher and guide in this situation? Five of Wands. The card about messiness, and conflict, and struggle. Feels fitting.
Your relationship to your phone is like the dogs fighting over sticks on this card.
You want to put down your phone, but at the same time, you really don’t. You want to be present in your life, doing creative work and playing with your daughter, but you also want to be lost in the online communities of Reddit and Facebook. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
You have (at least) five dogs inside of you. They all want different things. I don’t know what those things are - maybe love, maybe connection. Maybe acceptance, or learning something new, or entertainment…the list is endless.
Your phone probably feels like a one stop shop that allows you to accommodate all of your dogs - or at least get them to stop fighting for a little while. Feel lonely? Scroll through social media and read about other people’s problems. Want entertainment? Thousands of cat videos are waiting for you on YouTube. Do you want to be creative but feel afraid of what people are going to think? Read about other people being creative instead.
This predicament you’ve described isn’t just you - your phone is designed to suck you in. And it’s not a black and white thing, either. Sometimes, looking at your phone is a healthy, positive choice. Sometimes it is a way to check out or escape.
Your relationship with your phone isn’t a problem. It’s a nuanced, complex relationship. And relationships take work.
Notice when picking up your phone feels good and when it doesn’t. Treat this as an opportunity to get to know those ferocious, and sweet, and hungry, and deeply needy dogs inside of you.
When you reach for your phone, use it as an opportunity to see and honor yourself. Listen to your inner dogs. Keep doing this, and, over time, you may find that you need your phone less and less, because you will be giving yourself what you need in other ways. Or you may find that you’re able to enjoy your phone time more, because you’re doing it intentionally and without guilt. Or a bit of both.
And when you’re not in the mood for self inquiry, when you just want to zone out and scroll, that’s okay too. Do it with self love and compassion. And give your inner dogs lots of treats. They deserve it.
Did you enjoy this letter? Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Leave it in the comments below! Please make sure it is detailed and gives me and the readers a clear sense of your story.