Laura Jane Williams has taken charge of her iPhone and spring cleaned her digital house

Is it time you showed your phone who's boss?

Laura Jane Williams for Red
Alexandra Cameron

This week has been cleaning her digital house up...


I feel like a tennis champion. I feel like a tennis champion who stands at one side of the court whilst on the other, one million digital distractions are thrown at me.

Unsolicited emails!

Swipe-up to buy links!

Tagged photos that make me think perhaps I’d be better off lobbing off my head and replacing it with a potato!

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The audience of the tennis match is made up of my real life, and as the game goes on it reassures itself, “She’ll get to us.” When I do, I am exhausted. I’ve got nothing left to give what is real, because I spent it all on the Internet.

This isn’t a column about how social media is A Bad Thing. I truly believe that the only thing we need to know about social media is that if it makes us feel shitty, we’re using it wrong.

We don’t get to blame anybody but ourselves. It’s about boundaries.

Elizabeth Gilbert said: “If you cannot figure out how to uphold the healthy, accurate, and appropriate distance between yourself and every person in your life (and it will be a different distance for every person in your life) then you will never know a moment of serenity.”

And so, as I have felt myself become a slave to the people inside my technology – people I follow and people who follow me and people I’ve never met but who appear on my timelines, or in my inbox – I’ve lost my way a bit.

I’ve been working for technology, a slave to it, rather than it working for me. I haven’t had boundaries. So I made some changes, because the responsibility is none but my own. I want to focus more on my real life than my digital one.

So far, I have:

1. Deleted Facebook. Facebook is over, everyone is on the ‘gram anyway, and the relief to take away a whole platform is measurable.

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2. Deleted emails from my phone.

3. Muted the words “Trump”, “Brexit” and “Bake Off” on Twitter.

4. Gone through who I follow on Instagram and deleted anyone with better skin than me, who never wears the same outfit twice, anyone “thin-passing” who makes any reference to their body under the guise of “body positivity”, and Kim Kardashian.

I also muted people on stories, because you can do that without them knowing, and I had a long, hard talk with myself about the value I provide on Instagram, too. What is my purpose when I post? If it isn’t to inform or entertain – if it is to merely show off – I try to step away from my phone.

I want to add to somebody’s life, not take away. Sometimes that means not saying anything at all.

I’ve stepped away from my phone so deliberately, in fact, that at 10pm it goes in a drawer, in my wardrobe, switched off.

I’ve bought myself a thing, that gradually dims itself as music gently softens and I am lulled into sleep, and it wakes me up with the sound of soft, lapping waves, as over 90 minutes the light gets brighter and brighter, like a sunrise. It’s supposed to be a nicer way to wake up over a bleeping alarm. I like it.

Here’s what’s truly new for me, though: because my alarm isn’t my on phone and so my phone isn't in bed with me, I don’t scroll through other people’s lives before I’ve had a wee. I have no clue what is happening in the world until I am up, washed, dressed, and have had my Weetabix. And the world has kept turning! Only when I am at my desk and open my laptop is the outside able to permeate my psyche, and I’m finding that with an hour or two of my own already under my belt, it’s easier not to get drawn in.

My new routine sees me do my most important task before lunch, because I have the brain space to. It hasn’t been eaten up by not feeling good enough or getting cross at cuts to the NHS. I can piss about as much as I like after lunch, once I’ve eaten, because my own life has taken precedence. I have already experienced the day as the centre of my own world. I don’t think that’s been true since my first iPhone, ten years ago.

Nobody needs another lecture on how smartphones are ruining our lives. They’re not. But. Perhaps our usage of them is, when we’re not mindful.

I wanted to share what I’ve been doing because the simple assessment of who is in charge – me, or my phone – forced me to alter some habits painlessly and without fuss, and it has helped calm my mind.

I didn’t know how much I needed that.


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