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📱Letter 103: Friendzoning Your Phone

8 min

How can I have a better relationship with my phone?

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Aloha fellow learn-it-all,

Greetings from Diamond Head, O'ahu 🌺

Beautiful plumeria blooming about the laundry room in my apartment building

So I took the first intentional ‘mental health day’ I’ve ever taken in my life this past week.

I live in what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world with plumeria flowers sprouting left and right year-round. Why would I need to do that?

It's a bizarre problem to have but I've come to realize that I not only need time off from working, but I also need to give myself rest from playing with a play-life balance . Both play and work are vehicles that can simultaneously excite or suck energy from me. Rest is a variable that needs to be proactively factored into the mix, especially with the emotional roller coaster that I’m on with my job search.

What caused me to realize that I need time to spend the day swimming and strolling around is that I doom scrolled on my phone on Sunday evening. I got back from a long day of meditating and volunteering and wanted to rest. But I didn’t exactly do it properly.

That brings us to what was top of mind this week about phones and how I use it.

Now, let’s dive into letter 103 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓Question to think about

How can I have a better relationship with my phone?

🖊 Writing

So I was naughty last night.

I got home from a long Sunday and wanted to get vertical and rest. Instead of napping, I brought my clingy friend into bed. It never ends well.

I always regret sleeping with my phone.

Why did I do that?

I was naively hoping to improve my mood. Starting a new week in my job search brings up dread, so I wanted to take my mind off reality. The time limit kept popping up on my Instagram to kick me off but I kept extending it.  I wanted to escape. I wanted to swim in the sea of purposelessness for a short time at least.

Eight tricks of the trade that I learned to friendzone my phone are:

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

1. Shut off notifications.

Why do I want to feel loved by my phone? It’s like I am seeking attention from a clingy ex-boyfriend.

Turning off my notifications is disempowering them to have power over my attention. Why would I do such a thing? I am trying to move on with my life without him in it. The red bubbles and dinging send me into delirium.  I check my phone for a moment after it lights up with a cat meme and I end up in a rabbit hole in Quora to get to the bottom of whether calico cats are similar to mules or if there actually are males despite their chromosomal abnormality.

With notifications, it turns my attention into a monkey brain. No wonder I used to always think I have ADD without being able to finish a task. Sure, that means I don’t respond as urgently to texts or emails but if someone is actually dying, I’ll get a call. Or if someone like my roommate has Covid, they’ll leave me a sticky note in the bathroom.

2. Sleep in a separate room than them.

The first thing I do when I wake up is looking for my phone, and if I don’t find it, it sends a shiver down my spine of panic. I frantically look for it. When I find it, it’s like I found my long-lost lover but it’s actually an ex who wants to suck all the fresh energy out of my new day.

Starting my day feeding this dysfunctional relationship doesn't set me up for success. It’s sent me in a frenzy and already a feeling of being behind with missed messages, emails, and DMs. My bedroom is a safe space where I don’t need toxic energy to ruin my falling asleep or awakening.

Photo by Logan Nolin on Unsplash

3. Buy an alarm clock.

Hear me out: it costs $10 on Amazon and will stop feeding your addiction. Or get into a consistent sleep routine where you naturally wake up to the chirping birds outside your window. That works for me.

4. Set timers. Avoid dopamine addiction.

You know that feeling where time stops with clarity while flowing through work? That effect also happens on social media but the opposite. Antiflow.

The antidote is to set a timer. Be intentional with how much time you are willing to be sucked into the algorithms. Those beginningless hours of time can never be given back like that first day I downloaded TikTok last summer. Instead, try out an experiment. Instead of feeling perpetual guilt for the dopamine hits, have an upfront contract of how long you’ll indulge with your attention.

5. Delete apps to create more friction.

Out of sight, out of mind.

TikTok for me was like my senior year college roommate who each night wanted me to accompany her to the bar. I had major FOMO for not going to karaoke nights on Mondays or 90s nights on Tuesdays or country nights on Wednesdays. Polly was the drinking buddy holding me accountable for my alcoholic tendencies.

Instead of having Polly or TikTok, I choose JOMO, or a joy of missing out.  Instead of frequenting the latest viral story or local watering hole for adult beverages that I regret tomorrow, I can use my attention more intentionally. This creates an opportunity to find magic in the mundane of life. I can look out the window and go for a walk to hear the birds sing.

For you, maybe this means deleting the time-suck apps during the week and on the weekend. That is what I used to do for Instagram before having self-restraint. Just like hiding the cookie jar months before spring break, if indulgences are out of sight, they’re out of mind. Curate your physical and digital environments.

6. Use the phone as an actual phone.

Build real relationships, not fake ones.

You know how people communicated before they had smartphones? Besides pigeon carriers, they used to call. Yes, believe it or not, our phones are meant for calling. So maybe once in a while use it to call a friend instead of mindlessly scrolling through their social media page. Get off the screen, or the little glass box as my Omi called it, and take action.

I know that’s an extraneous and bold idea, but try it anyway. Muscle up the courage and be brave. I believe in you.

7. Notice how your phone makes you feel.

That aunt you see only once a year at Christmas sucks all the energy from you because she only wants to know the drama. Do you have a boyfriend and have you gotten a promotion? If you don’t, then why not? She doesn’t make you feel great. It’s like a transaction of buying cigarettes with cancerous lung pictures on them that makes you feel gross.

If all you see while using your phone is social media with wedding photos and babys that make you feel lonely and behind in life, perhaps it is time to mute those posts so you don’t get triggered. Since phones are in our pockets or purses most of the day, make sure it’s not like carrying that aunt around sucking your energy out of you like a vampire all day. Keep those relatives to the once-a-year encounters instead.

8. Do a complete and total reset.

You read that right. Go off the grid. Try out a phoneless 48 hours.  Take a Think Weekend to reflect, read, and write. You’ll be surprised by what bubbles up while googling your first brain for answers rather than your second brain in external notes.

I’ve found these tips to be essential to realize that I do not NEED to have my phone to exist as a human.

Whether you’re sad or not, the days of the Razor flip phone are over. Phones are no longer used only to make phone calls.

It’s refreshing to know that I can shut my phone off at night knowing that I am in control of when I receive messages.

Like any other relationship in my life, I set clear boundaries and expectations. I put it on timeout to stop letting it hog my attention an hour before bed and I don’t look at it until after I’ve completed my morning routine. If I misplace my phone, I don’t panic. In the grand scheme of life, a phone is a tool to be used to enrich us rather than cause envy, addiction, or a monkey brain.

We now have computers in our pockets. Let’s be intentional and own the relationship with our phones rather than allowing them to own us. Their feelings are never hurt, so I will be friendzoning my phone for forever.

📖 Reading

To read more about the phone detachment experiments I’ve run in the past here’s a deep dive on:

  1. my Think Weekend Success last year in February
  2. a poem on what it was like to have a Phoneless 48 hours
Wa’ahila State Park has been one of my favorite places to meditate and replenish my mind without my phone

🔎 Word to define

Friendzone: a friendship in which one person is romantically attracted to the other, but the attraction is not mutual.

A particularly aggravating metaphorical place, that people end up in when someone they are interested in only wants to be friends.

🌟 Quote to inspire

“The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” – David Whyte

📷 Photo of the Week

I had the pleasure of meeting up with my lovely Internet friend Becca Olason this past week in Ala Moana to sunset cruise together. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been emailing and Zooming together for nearly two years for Write of Passage calls.

It’s one of my favorite experiences to have my virtual community become tangible in real life. Now that the mask mandate is finally gone today, I’m excited to start to get ‘out there’ more.

This past week I attended two separate speed networking events and I need to whoop my elevator pitch into shape ASAP. Woof. Also, business cards are not out of date people! They can have QR codes on them nowadays and I need to design one. That’ll be a project added to my list for the coming week.

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this! If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. Visit my online home if you forgot who I am. If you want to know what I'm up to right now, check my now page.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


👣 Footnotes

On questioning my personality trait of being agreeable:

On job applications these days:

On my struggles in the Sangha:

On being a lighthouse

On limitless possibilities:


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