I froze for a second. I thought back.
When the iPhone came out, in 2007, it was shiny and beautiful and cool and I flat-out wanted one. But I needed a justification, so I convinced myself that I needed it for work. After all, the iPhone had email, a web browser, and even a stocks app — this was a serious tool for serious people!
So I got an iPhone, and just like that, I signed myself up to check and respond to email wherever, whenever. No pay raise, no new job title, not even a request from my boss. For me, this was a 100% self-inflicted responsibility because I wanted a shiny object.
Over the years, as new apps came out — Facebook, Instagram, news, games, etc — I installed them. They were shiny, they were free, and they helped me “get my money’s worth” out of my phone. Every app created new responsibilities. More inboxes to check and more feeds to read. Every app latched onto my brain, tethering my phone to my skull with invisible string.
It was all self-inflicted. I was just giving my attention away. If I found it difficult to pay attention to what should have been the highlight of my day, playing with my kids… I had only myself to blame.
Why exactly did I have an iPhone, anyway?
I’d never thought about that question before, but the answer was simple: I wanted the iPhone to make my life better. I wanted a futuristic tool and I wanted to be in control of it.
I was angry with myself. I was angry at the phone. I’d felt guilty about it before—but this time I decided to stop feeling guilty and actually do something about it.
With my pulse pounding in my temples, I mashed the screen till the icons wiggled. Then I started deleting those goddamned apps.
I began with the obvious attention thieves. I deleted Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I deleted YouTube, ESPN, and all my games. Then I went into the settings and removed Safari. I was like David Bowman in 2001, shutting down the psychotic computer HAL so I could fly the spaceship by myself.
The only thing left was email.
I love email. I’ve loved it ever since I sent my first message back in the early 1990s. I’d even worked on the Gmail team at Google.
And yet… I had to admit that email was the very worst distraction on my phone. Hiding behind a guise of necessity, email was an infinite hamster wheel powered by other people’s priorities.
So I gritted my teeth and deleted Gmail. I even went into settings and deleted my Google account to disable Apple’s Mail app.
This content was originally published here.