Here is something we all realize: cell phones are distracting. REALLY distracting. They’re also addictive. When I say cell phones, I really mean portable computers. Smart phones have infiltrated daily western life in an extraordinary way and they don’t seem to be going anywhere. Developers and manufacturers know this and are selling us devices and plans that promise new found flexibility, boons to our social lives, with more money and time saved. The funny part is, in Canada we pay $50 – $$$ a month to save money, and we are far less social than ever. Staring at a screen is not being social, being with people and listening to and talking to them is social. Furthermore, many people do not know how to be alone, draw on patience or wait for something. With the internet providing instant access to stimulation, people turn to this whenever they would be alone normally, especially if they are “alone” in a crowd such as a bus, in line for coffee or in the doctor’s waiting room.

Researchers are now finding that access to your cell phone is addictive, with lack of this access causing anxiety. It’s somewhat ironic that it’s fear of losing connectivity that drives us to use our cell phones constantly, which disconnects us from real life. Caglar Yildirim and Ana-Paula Correia, both social psychologists at Iowa State University, created a questionnaire of 20 questions designed to self-diagnose nomophobia. Their research “Exploring the dimensions of nomophobia: Development and validation of a self-reported questionnaire” appeared in an August 2015 edition of the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

Are you addicted?

1. I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.

2. I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.

3. Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.

4. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.

5. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.

6. If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.

7. If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.

8. If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.

9. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I did not have my smartphone with me …
10. I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.

11. I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.

12. I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.

13. I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.

14. I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.

15. I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.

16. I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.

17. I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.

18. I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.

19. I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.

20. I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.

I began to recognize these symptoms earlier this year. While dealing with depression, I began to spend more time in nature, and began to check my email less and occasionally leave my mobile phone at home. Yes, things fell through the cracks, but on the flip side my life seemed more manageable, I seemed to find the time to achieve my goals of writing music, reading books, working out and cooking. The things that did slip through the cracks were easily fixed. What I was realizing is that distractions eat up much more time than it seems. It’s not only the time it takes to read and respond to the email that I just heard come in on my phone, but also the time it takes to refocus on the previous task and to get back up to momentum on the work. Then there’s the very real option that the text you received was an “urgent” request by a good friend who “needs” you because their car broke down and they need to get some documents to the office because they’re due yesterday. Time. So much time. Time is the single non-renewable resource we need to be concerned with. You can never make more of it, and truth be told you don’t have any idea how much you have. This makes every moment significant – just as significant as any other. So I decided to kick my cell plan, stop paying a certain mega rich corporate giant a significant portion of my artist income and to reinvest in the real world. I did this while keeping a mobile phone number, access to text messaging and drastically reduced long distance rates. I now pay less than $8 a month. How? With the internet, ironically. My cell now is WIFI only – so I’ve lost the constant connection. Take a deep breath and get used to having moments in your day that your cell doesn’t work – but seriously, it’s easy. WIFI is almost ubiquitous in cities. Here’s what I did to create my Canadian mobile solution:

I created an account with Anveo, a web-based telecommunications company. Just choose “Create a new account” up on the top right, then choose “CLICK TO OPEN A NEW ACCOUNT” on the next page. Fill out the info on the pop-ups. When you get to the field marked “Referral code (optional)” you could enter my code if you’d like to thank me for writing this article: 8475938. Don’t forget to remember your login information – you’ll visit this site often. Check your email and click the link to activate your account!

Next, you’ll need to put some money into your account. Unlike your current phone plan, Anveo requires you to put funds into an account (I use Paypal to do this) and then any charges are debited from your account. Choose “Add Funds” from the Account Summary box (My Account – Dashboard from the sites top menu) and perhaps start by adding $20. Personally, after I added my initial funds I set mine up to automatically add $20 anytime my balance goes below $10. The funds are all verified before they become available, which means you’ll have to wait 12-48 hours.

If you’ll want to receive SMS text message to this number, you’ll need to upgrade from the Free account to the Starter account which costs $7.85 per month. So when your funds are available in your account, click the “Change” link beside the Subscription Package line in the Account Summary box, and then choose the Starter subscription on the subsequent page.

Now, you’ll need a phone number. From the websites top menu, hover over “Phone Numbers” and choose “Order a new phone number”, then choose “Geographic”, then “Canada” and then your Province and Location. You’ll have the choice of three rate plans. If you don’t talk much, the Per Minute solution is probably great. If you think you’d receive more than 2 hours of phone calls per month, choose the Personal Unlimited option. If this is a business line, go with Office Unlimited. Each option costs an initial one-time fee of $2 and the monthly rate varies from $0.50 to $4.00. Confirm the details and you’re all set.

 

I called that giant telecommunications company and cancelled my plan – outright. Good bye. No I don’t want to talk to anybody – just cancel it. Oh my that felt good.