All of us know what it feels like to be uncontrollably scrolling or watching videos on our smartphones. As a former Apple employee and certified Digital Wellness Educator, I know firsthand how our smartphones are designed to keep us engaged.
But it doesn't have to be this way! There is no need to give up your smartphone and buy a dumb phone. You can become untethered, overcome distractions, improve your attention and increase your happiness without giving up your phone.
"It is easy to blame tech for our troubles, but Untethered goes beyond the clichés and helps us do something about the problem of overuse"
- Nir Eyal, Bestselling Author
(Audible Version Available in October)
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“U.S. adults spend 12 hours
and 21 minutes per day
connected to media”
Nielsen Research, 2020 research
A NEW REALITY
Imagine waking up one day and choosing to alter your reality.
I have a friend who decided, after a lifetime of sobriety, to experiment with alcohol. After decades as a committed member of the Mormon Church, Adam (not his real name) wanted to try something that was taboo in his community yet normal for most Americans. He was ready to step into the unknown and explore this mind-altering substance for the first time.
What changed, you might ask? In his early thirties Adam had started to question the belief system of his church. He thought that trying alcohol might help him better comprehend the rationale behind banning it and revitalize his belief in Mormonism.
Adam had never been to a liquor store or bar. He didn’t know what types of liquor existed. He’d never heard his family or friends talk about how to mix a good drink. He didn’t even know that many alcoholic drinks were mixed to begin with. So he drove for forty-five minutes until he reached a liquor store far from his community. He asked one of the store’s employees for recommendations, which he followed: whiskey, bourbon, vodka, absinth, and of course tequila. He didn’t ask for mixers, and the employee didn’t recommend any, assuming Adam would know how to drink.
Back home, Adam poured himself a glass of vodka—straight, no ice—and started sipping it like water. Five minutes later, he’d finished the glass. Another fifteen minutes later, he was tipsy. For the first time in his life, Adam was experiencing an altered state of mind!
Adam enjoyed the new perspective alcohol was providing him with and decided to continue experimenting with different types of alcohol for a few weeks. Glass after glass, he chugged them like lemonade while trying to hide his experimentation from his wife and kids. Some of the tastes he enjoyed, while others disgusted him, but either way, the newfound state of mind was exciting.
Suffice it to say, Adam had no idea what he was doing. And how could he have? His education and upbringing hadn’t included the lessons that most American college kids, and even high schoolers, typically experience at a young age. Nobody in his community knew what drinking responsibly even meant. At the end of the day, he became a husband and father of two children before he had his first glass of alcohol!
About a month into the experiment, after a grueling day at work at a tech startup, Adam’s colleagues suggested drinks. They invited Adam, although mostly out of courtesy, knowing that he’d declined their offers in the past. But this time Adam was ready, and he told them he would join, for just one drink.
Adam had never been to a bar or ordered a drink before, and boy, was he excited! The bar atmosphere, the loud chatter, the cool bartenders mixing up drinks. All of this was new to him.
Because it was his first time, he let his friends order a drink for him: gin and tonic it was. Adam watched the bartender with fascination as he mixed the group’s drinks. He enjoyed the bartender’s fancy moves and handling of glasses but he was disappointed with the result. Adam noticed the bartender poured just a tiny sip of alcohol into the glass before filling the rest with tonic water. He couldn’t believe what was happening: “Fifteen dollars for tonic water with a tiny bit of gin? Outrageous.”
So Adam asked his colleagues: “Are we getting screwed over? Why did the bartender pour so little alcohol?” His colleagues stared at each other in confusion, but realizing this was new to Adam explained it was a normal mixed-drink ratio. Hard liquor was supposed to be drunk responsibly, in small quantities!
That day, during his first ever social drinking experience, Adam was shocked and a little embarrassed to find out that drinking an entire glass full of hard liquor wasn’t normal or healthy. Adam realized that he had been an uneducated drinker, getting wasted at home every other night without knowing. His family and friends never drank, alcohol was not part of the culture, so how could he have known any differently? He could have damaged his body and mind if he had continued drinking responsibly! Luckily some of his friends were able to educate him on responsible alcohol consumption.
The crazy thing is that in some way we’re all like Adam, at least when it comes to our smartphones and other digital technologies. We consume information and media every day with little awareness or regard to the consequences on our well-being. Digital technology is so new and evolving so rapidly, that it is hard to know how exactly it is influencing us. Should we be allowed to drive if we spend an entire day scrolling through Facebook or binge watching Netflix?
"87.8% feel uneasy
leaving their phone
REVIEWS.org, 2020 survey
A NEW BOOK
I believe that we have to develop ourselves and our smartphone habits to get to a place where tech misuages occur less frequently. And this book is just about that, figuring out how to live a fulfilling life untethered from our smartphones. Untethered means being able to disconnect from our devices and enjoy the beauty of life without needing our smartphones to be present. Being untethered also means being in control of our well-being, rather than allowing our smartphones to dictate it. It does however not mean untethering or giving up on technology. Our goal is to develop a mental state and utilize tools that help us be fulfilled when we use tech as much as when you don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, this book won’t keep you from unconsciously scrolling at all times. The tools and techniques will help you be more conscious about your tech usage. The alternative is what we have right now: most American fill any type of void in their life with tapping their smartphones. Being untethered means being able to go for a walk without bringing your phone and still feel complete. Isn’t it strange that I even have to highlight the ability to leave your house without your smartphone as being something special?
Sadly, as of 2020, ~88% Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home...
Untethered is a book about knowledge, mindset changes and tools that will support you on a path to developing a healthy relationship with yourself and the devices in your life. I want to show you what causes our captivation by tech, how to upgrade our minds to enable this change and share concrete tools that will help have more control over your tech usage, live a more fulfilled life and most importantly have a better relationship with yourself.
Instead of being downgraded by the systems around us, we can ignite a new light within us and break free from feeling hooked. We can create a truly untethered life! And understand that nobody will do this for you. You are fully responsible for your destiny. Luckily, you carry all the power to do it within yourself. I trust in you and I hope that this book will help you not only uncover some of the forces affecting your relationship with tech but also recognize some truths that you already held within your own body and help you on your path towards an untethered life.
check their phones
on average 150 times a day"
Qualtrics.com, 2017 study
MY OWN KRYPTONITE
During the five weeks I played online games in my 30s, I felt unfulfilled, empty and out of control with my own life. I started to feel sadness, maybe mild depression creeping in. I couldn’t keep a schedule, I constantly made excuses for why I wasn’t able to make progress on projects, and my sleep schedule was completely out of control. It became clear that I had to recommit myself to a life without online games. I promised I wouldn’t touch them again if I wasn’t able to have a healthy relationship with them. Not because I didn’t enjoy them when I played them casually but because I am unable to limit myself to casually playing games. I easily get hooked to the feeling of flow and excitement that online games provide.
I needed the excitement, the dopamine rush, and even the disappointments associated with gaming. Studies have shown that I am not alone in desiring achievement, escaping the real world and immersion. About half of Americans play video games and share similar desires for doing so.
Although I had mentally decided to give up games, my body had gotten used to the dopamine rush it experienced while gaming. I soon found another way to replicate this excitement outside of the gaming world.
I started watching tons of video content on YouTube and tried to distract myself with social media feeds but it just didn’t provide me with the same rush my subconscious mind and body desired. But with the stock market all over the news and people reportedly making tons of money, I thought about investing my money as well. I liked and subscribed to several Youtube channels and thought that I was learning by getting expert advice on investing from Youtubers. The Youtubers shared their investing know-how, their favorite platforms to invest on and made it seem so easy. “You too could make a million bucks” they would regularly shout out. So I ended up opening a trading account on Robinhood and started investing on my smartphone. To me investing soon just felt like another game but with even bigger real life consequences.
Although I had studied behavioral economics with a focus on finance and investing, I did not expect that even trading platforms had become gamified over the years. It turned out that I was getting hooked to Robinhood in similar ways as I had to online games. Maybe because their developers share the same incentive structure, to keep you on their respective platforms for as long as possible. The more time you spend the more likely you are to spend more money with them...
I got into day trading, which was the most exciting and stressful way of playing the stock market and soon unconsciously discovered that it provided me with the same rush gaming did. After a while I was gambling with bigger and bigger amounts...
Some trading days were great and I was able to make thousands of dollars. At one point, I made $45K in a single day! Insane! My risk appetite rose, and I thought I could make a living doing this. Until it went bad, quickly. First it was $10K, then $20K of losses. I started to fear not being able to make it back. But I was hooked by all of the game-like experiences day trading apps like Robinhood provided to me. I wasn’t making rational decisions. I was playing a game. I was gambling my life savings away. Until I lost half of my savings… $100,000…