Confessions Of A Phone Purger

My name is Pandora and I am addicted to purging my phone. What makes a clean, fully purged phone? One where there are no little read numbers hovering over the icons. No un-read messages, whatsapps, Facebook updates, e-mails, Twitter and the suchlike. A clear virtual screen untroubled by miniature numbers – that’s what. A regular telephonic clean-up of The Great Unread.

When it comes to my phone, my mild childhood OCD (you know, straightening duvet covers, pressing light switches on and off an even number of times, positioning my hairbrush just so) comes into its own. Everything must be read. I’ll swipe-and-delete my way though 50 press releases while I am waiting for my coffee, reply to five different friends whilst on the bog (the bog is my favourite place to relay messages) and tip tap out dozens of e-mails on the tube as a form of distraction from my hellishly over-packed commute every morning (yesterday I was smooshed so close to the lady in front of me that I came away with strands of faux fur between my teeth, from her faux fur coat). I noted that one day last week, when I got off the tube, I had 28 e-mails in my draft folder ready to send.

I am, in shortly, as frantically efficient when it comes to modes of contact as it is possible to be. But before you think this is boastful (which you shouldn’t anyway; it comes from a place of panic, always) or think that’s me! That’s also me! you shouldn’t be so proud – I recently found out a scientific reason for my over-zealous iPhone clean-up. According to The Observer, every time you reply to an e-mail or a text you get a teeny tiny shot of dopamine – to reward your minute distraction. I should not be rewarded for my multi-tasking, but rather be aware of the dangers of it. “Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.” It may be worth pointing out that my day-to-day actually consists of a thousand little tasks rather than one rocket-science humdinger of an assignment, but still – it’s both disappointing and makes total sense that my urge to purge (and by that I mean never ignoring a dialogue) is an addiction.

I was talking to a colleague the other day and was both shocked and jealous to hear she had 70,000 unread e-mails. Not important ones, mind; you get a lot of guff which doesn’t warrant a reply, as a journalist. I admired her for her zen-like fortitude; a wall of resistance against the futile, energy-wasting, multi-tasking I probably find myself engulfed in. For me, it’s just a numbers game: stamp out the little red numbers, then reward with cake.

I literally cannot sleep if I have a phone full of unread messages. I don’t even necessarily reply straight away – just read and log. Read and log read and log read and log. I put my desire to read everything down to three things:
1) Inherent nosiness (what’s inside!)
2) Panic (I’ll forget to send something I should, or let a boss know something)
3) A desire for order (it clearly runs in the family as my sister is even worse: she organises all her apps by bespoke genre, in confuddling folders.)

Sometimes I feel in constant battle with my phone – at weekends, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because the incoming data is so much smaller. It’s both reassuring and irritating to find out that this is down to a neural addiction. It could be worse, I suppose. I’m not addicted to my phone as an actual advice. I don’t do all my rampant cleaning up and replying in the company of others: I hate it when friends reply to other people whilst you are sitting their patiently in their company, awaiting their attention. I do it when I am alone, in transit, or waiting for something. Which suggests something I already knew: that I cannot be mentally inert, even when I’m focusing on a completely unnecessary worry. Meditation, anyone?

Painting by Banksy.

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