“Can I borrow your iPhone for a sec?” I’d left mine at home, so I had to hit up my buddy for the chance to make a quick call as soon as she finished hers. She hit the home button to turn the phone back on, entered her password, and handed over the now unlocked phone.
I was aghast. “You set your phone to lock every time you use it? What a pain!”
“It’s for security, in case it gets stolen. And it’s only takes a second for me to enter the password.”
Thus are the hazards of letting me touch your technology. My friend was just trying to do me a solid, and the next thing you know, she had to endure a lecture on how the real way to secure your iPhone is with MobileMe, which lets you track it down with a “Find my iPhone” service, or failing that, to do a remote wipe.
My sense of superiority was short-lived. As I tried to imagine how anyone could stand the constant annoyance of entering an iPhone password, over and over and over and over again, I hit upon the obvious answer: maybe my friend doesn’t use her iPhone as much as I do.
For me, iPhone contact has become reflexive. The five minutes before a meeting, the two-minute walk to the coffee shop, the 10 seconds between parking the car and walking in the front door: they’re all moments when I automatically reach for the iPhone.
If my iPhone were a cigarette, I’d be a chain smoker. If my iPhone were a bottle of scotch, I’d be a hard-core alcoholic. If it were a rosary I’d be a religious zealot.
There’s nothing I could touch as frequently as I touch my iPhone without looking like a total freak.
What makes me think that the constant, obsessive iPhone contact is any less freaky? Or more to the point, any less addictive?
We all know that the first step is admitting you have a problem. And to get a handle on the scope of the problem, I’ve torn a page from my friend’s book: I’ve set my iPhone to require my password more often.
Not every time it turns off — what am I, crazy? But I’ve switched my Passcode Lock setting (under Settings/General) to require a password after 1 hour (previously, I only needed the password if I’d left the phone off for 4 hours — which effectively meant that I only had to enter my password once a day, when I woke up in the morning.)
The chief benefit from making this change is that I can now keep track of how often I’m able to set my iPhone aside for a decent period of time. If I set it to lock after 1 minute, or even after 15, I’d get so used to entering my password that the unlocking process would become background noise.
The one-hour lag turns out to be supremely useful. Roughly twice a day, I turn on my iPhone, see the password prompt, and feel a thrill of victory: hey! I’ve been off the iPhone for a whole hour!
Will this help me conquer my iPhone addiction? I doubt it. Compulsive communication is one of those tricky addictions, like overeating, that can’t be cured by going cold turkey. An overeater can’t give up food, and a geek like me can’t give up my iPhone. If you think there’s something lopsided about this analogy, you don’t understand my level of iPhone dependence.
And even if I don’t literally need my iPhone to stay alive (a point on which I remain unconvinced), I still think this is an addiction best tackled by dialing back, not giving up. In this super-connected world, it’s more practical to find ways to limit your overconsumption or (in my case) overconnection.
The passcode trick is an easy way to bring a little more awareness and intention to compulsive iPhone use. Now I just need to set up a password on our TV.