Jedediah Bila, is releasing her second book #DoNotDisturb How I Ghosted My Cell Phone To Take Back My Life, on October 9. The emmy-nominated TV host and commentator shares her intimate life stories, including the ups and downs of her journey through this tech-polluted world. This entertaining, yet inspiring, book questions how our relationships, characters and sanity have suffered from the whirlwind we find in our technological devices.
Read our exclusive interview with Jedediah and find out how she believes we all make excuses and have lost the meaning of real-life moments in exchange for technological devices.
When did you first realize that you were addicted to technology?
I left my cell phone in a cab one day and freaked out like you can’t imagine—or maybe you can! You’d think I had lost my dog or a child. I was totally unhinged. It derailed the whole night as I tried to track it down, panicked about whether someone had found it and accessed it, and paced my apartment wondering how people would reach me if they needed me. I was supposed to have a get-together with friends. Instead, my friend and I spent the whole night obsessing over my phone. I got the phone back hours later and felt a rush of adrenaline when it was back in my hands. That’s when I knew I had a problem. The best part? Nothing important had come into my phone in those few hours. The only things I had missed were the real-life, in-person moments with friends because I was too busy worrying about my iPhone. That night was the start of my journey to really look at the role these devices were playing in my life, and what I was allowing them to do to me.
What is a simple everyday piece of advice to resist the hold technology has on us?
Start small. It’s not realistic to have your phone in your hand every minute and then suddenly put it on airplane mode for 10 hours and be unfazed. Like anything we do compulsively, it takes baby steps to break the habits. Start with one simple dinner. Put the phone away and make that eye contact, have those conversations without a buzzing, intrusive device. Don’t rush to take your phone out and check what you’ve missed the second you step away from the dinner table for a bathroom break. Then, as a next step, turn that one dinner into a few tech-free hours every day. I promise you that your mind will thank you.
One specific step I would recommend is to remove your phone from the bedroom area at night. Charge it in the living room or another space. Otherwise, you scroll through it endlessly while in bed, minutes pass, sometimes even hours, you answer this text and that email, you read some news story that unnerves you late at night, and then you’re checking it when you take a bathroom break at 3am. It interrupts your ability to get to sleep, get back to sleep, and just generally put your mind in a peaceful state before bed. Also, if you’re in bed with a partner, giving that time to each other instead of some device does wonders for everyone.
Part of the anxiety we feel when we’re offline is not being available if anything happened and someone needed to reach us. Is that a fair worry or just an irrational fear and excuse to stay connected?
I talk in the book about how there was a time before cell phones when your parents or guardians would go out, leave you at home with the babysitter, and there’d be an emergency contact number stuck on the fridge on a post-it (the name of the restaurant your parents would be eating at, a relative to contact in case of emergency, etc). For years, we survived and thrived without constant access to everyone and them to us. We learned to fully enjoy the people in our physical presence, to slow our minds to focus on (heaven forbid!) one thing at a time, and it was mind-numbingly healthy in comparison to most of our lives now. This newfound paranoia we have about missing something or being unreachable for a window of time—that’s the addiction. Our minds have forgotten how to just be, and we’ve become obsessed with constant beckoning for our attention. For many years, we—and the world around us—functioned without constant infiltration into each other’s lives through texts, social media, and emails. Those things can be fun, sure, and can even make life easier, but not when they take over your life completely.
My message isn’t about destroying your phone; it’s about recognizing that it just might be owning you instead of you owning it. And for those who really feel they need to have a phone on them at all times because they have a child or elderly parent, I have some tips for them in the book, like having a separate phone only for emergency calls that doesn’t house a ton of constant distractions like incoming texts, emails or social media alerts. There are so many little things we can do to improve our relationship with the tech in our lives.
Limiting screen time can be hard, especially for people working with computers all day. Are there any health prevention measures we can take to avoid physical consequences like headaches or dry eyes?
Take breaks! I realized at some point that a quick walk around the office, or a few minutes to just sit quietly outside with my eyes closed, could go a very long way. The problem is that the norm is no longer just staring at the computer during your workday. Now, that workday becomes your whole day, and you’re on the laptop all night, along with your phone (which you’ve also been on all day), your iPad, etc. It’s constantly staring into devices. I wish I could recommend some magic eye drop, but the truth is that we’re on overload. It’s unhealthy. And if you can’t control how much time you stare into devices at work, I would look at the other hours of your day carefully and make some of that time a tech-free zone. Not just for your eyes, but for you head, your mind, and your stress level. That headache is your body saying “Enough!”
How has your life changed since your realization and writing the book?
It’s like that scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and everything is in color. Seriously, I can’t believe the real-life things right in front of me I was missing out on while staring down at a phone obsessively. My conversations with friends are better because I’m not tending to them and the whole world inside my phone at the same time. The way I’ve modified my attitude toward (and view of) social media has ballooned my sanity. I still have an iPhone, a laptop, and social media accounts. But I feel like they’re all operating in my life on my terms, and that’s very empowering. But it took a lot of thinking and a desire to not turn into a robot pre-programmed by Silicon Valley. I scared myself for a while there. Believe me, I made a lot of mistakes, and you’ll read about them all!
Who would you recommend the book for?
Anyone who feels like the amount of time they spend buried in a phone or laptop has gotten out of hand. Anyone who wants to know how Silicon Valley programs apps to lure us in and get us addicted. Grandparents and parents who want to remember what life was like before these tech devices took over our lives, so that they can teach their kids about the character-building skills we’re losing in this tech-dominated age. Young people who feel like their relationships, jobs, and too much of the things that matter are happening over an app or a text or some other impersonal space that just seems to be missing something. Anyone looking for tips on how to put the overactive technology in their life into a healthier place. And, of course, anyone who wants to hear me share embarrassing, funny stories that led me on this journey. Believe me, there are plenty!
Us here at BELLA spend so much time on our phones and computers, we can’t wait to read the book and learn how we can all teach ourselves to tame this down and regain a healthy relationship with technology and find a bit of ‘me’ time again. #DoNotDisturb will be on sale for $26.99