A notification came through on my phone last week. "You spent 8H 31M on your phone yesterday" it let me know. What? No, that couldn't possibly be true. Last week I was averaging 3 hours a day. This week, I've hit that every day before lunch. I have to charge my phone at least 4 times a day just to keep up.

I've been texting and tweeting and checking emails and swiping right or swiping left and scrolling and posting and snapping and saving and sharing and writing and calling and video chatting and applying for jobs and creating and interacting with other human beings via this tiny computer in my hand.

I respond to texts and emails instantly, am constantly checking my calendar, and sometimes even just turn my phone on, look at it, and turn it off because I'm bored, only to start the cycle again only a few minutes later.

I've objectively had more hours of interaction with other humans this week than I usually do but I've never felt so alone. In trying desperately to connect with people digitally I not only lost the basic human connection I was striving to find but I ended up losing myself in the process.

I attached my self-worth to this little glowing box of information in my hand and to the people on the other end. I truly understood what it meant to be addicted to my phone. It was the first thing I looked at when I woke up and it was the last thing I saw before I fell asleep. The little dopamine hits I got from seeing a notification light up were like a drug to me.

This past weekend, I went to visit my baby cousins. Spending time with them is so important to me and is one of the fundamental reasons why I chose to come to school in California. Because of this, I knew that I wanted to be as physically and mentally present for them as I could be.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the time I spent on my phone averaged an hour and a half for the whole day. The difference was stunning. I felt lighter and freer and didn't feel like I needed to be constantly tethered to the digital world.

Real life, face-to-face human contact, especially with children I love, became more important to me than anything that this device I'm addicted to could offer me. By turning it on "Do Not Disturb" and leaving it in the other room, I had time to go on a bike ride with the 7-year-old, to play hide and seek with the toddler, to sit down and enjoy a meal with my family without needing to check my notifications. The change was tangible and it was liberating.

But then Monday rolled around and I was back on my bullshit, spending nearly 7 hours burying myself in the old comforts of the internet, using it to fill every second of otherwise relative dullness.

It's time for a change. It's time to immerse myself in real-world experiences with physical, tangible people in my life. It's time to be comfortable with boredom and not feel the need to fill every waking second with stimulation. It's time to practice some self-control and know when to just turn it off.

Being phone-free is liberating. So why do I forget that every day? It's time to reframe the narrative. It's time to find real human connection, and to do so without losing myself.