Book Review: How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price

The alarm bells are blaring. People are beginning to realize that we have run down a path without knowing where the path leads. Even people within the digital media industry are stepping out and calling for us to pause, step back and consider where these new technologies lead. What do they do to us as individuals? How do they impact societies?

Catherine Price sums it up nicely in her introduction:

The problem isn’t smartphones themselves. The problem is our relationship with them. Smartphones have infiltrated our lives so quickly and so thoroughly that we have never stopped to think about what we actually want our relationships with them to look like—or what effects these relationships might have on our lives.

The consumer may have run blindly into our present relationship with smartphones and other digital technology. But, as Price notes, the creators of these technologies had an end in mind. They were not creating a product, but a platform, a marketplace of sorts. In this digital marketplace, the consumer would feel like the customer but would, in fact, be the product. Your attention is the product and advertisers are the true customers.

This concise book is an excellent starting point for anyone who is uncomfortable with their present relationship with their smartphone or other digital media. It comes in two parts: the wake-up and the breakup.

In the wake-up, Price presents the facts of how digital technologies are designed for addiction. They wire our brains for distraction and prohibit focus. They kill our attention span, mess with our memory, and steal our sleep.

…if you wanted to invent a device that could retire our minds, if you wanted to create a society of people who were perpetually distracted, isolated, and overtired, if you wanted to weaken our memories and damage our capacity for focus and deep thought, if you wanted to reduce empathy, encourage self-absorption, and redraw the lines of social etiquette, you’d likely end up with a smartphone.

In the breakup, Price provided practical advice on how we can take back ownership of our relationship with our smartphones and other digital media. This section is full of tips and tricks that you can implement immediately that will improve your “digital hygiene.” This section of the book encourages us to pause and ask, “What do I want to pay attention to?”