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Deleting social media and shopping apps from my smartphone has saved me thousands of dollars. I also sleep better at night.

Ashley Keenan   

Deleting social media and shopping apps from my smartphone has saved me thousands of dollars. I also sleep better at night.
  • Since I've had a smartphone, I've spent a lot of time and money using shopping and delivery apps.
  • At first, the convenience was great, but when I was laid off, I had to change something.

I hate my smartphone with a fiery passion. I regularly fantasize about canceling my cell service altogether and getting a cordless phone for the landline that inexplicably comes with my internet and cable package. As a disabled woman in an ongoing pandemic, my phone has been both an accessibility aid and an addiction — a blessing and a curse.

I have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars from the comfort of my couch. At first, it was bliss; swiping from app to app, filling carts like I was browsing the aisles of the supermarket. But eventually, convenience warped into compulsion. As I became increasingly dependent and isolated, a digital detox was inevitable.

I see the appeal of living without a smartphone

Gen Z is doing it right by living their lives on Do Not Disturb; free of the dependence that keeps my generation tired, broke, and increasingly resentful.

I can see the appeal. As an elder millennial, I still remember a world without smartphones. I didn't get my first cellphone until 2003 when I went to college. The trusty brick from Nokia was a going-away gift from my parents, so I could always call home if needed.

My call minutes didn't start until 9 p.m., I couldn't use the internet, and the only time-wasting game was navigating a snake around the small pixelated screen. I would have never guessed that, 20 years later, I would be an anxiety-fueled 30-something with a phone just as powerful as my laptop (and even more time-consuming).

I started spending an excessive amount on shopping apps

The evolution of the cellphone, or the years of the pandemic, would be great scapegoats for my shopping dependency. But the truth is that I finally had a good-paying job, and the exhaustion mixed with regular paychecks was the perfect storm for unnecessary spending.

I spent thousands of dollars each month on Amazon, Instacart, Wayfair, Etsy, Sephora, and other shopping apps. And that doesn't include food delivery apps — Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, and DoorDash — which were an easy alternative to cooking.

I grew up in a small town, and even after decades of living in a big city, I am still fascinated by the convenience and accessibility of having anything you want delivered at almost any hour. Do you want a banana split brought to your door at 3 a.m.? There's an app for that.

When I was laid off, I realized something had to change

One particularly frivolous month, I spent more on apps than my rent, gas, hydro, internet, and cell bills combined. At any idle moment, my fingers opened these apps in tandem, rarely thinking about whether I needed something new or not.

But then, like many others in the media, I was laid off.

Suddenly, my digital health app is warning me that five hours a day on X (formerly Twitter) isn't healthy. And my bank notifications warned that I was "spending against my budget." Gaslighting myself, I thought this mindless doom-scrolling was necessary for finding a new job and starting to freelance again.

But instead of applying for jobs or pitching editors, I spent hours cycling through social media apps each day. Whenever I had a free second, without conscious thought, I opened and reopened apps. My anxiety had never been worse; I started avoiding my phone, purposely leaving it in other rooms to remove the temptation.

But it just wasn't enough. The apps had to go. I deleted apps with abandon, until my phone was nothing more than…a phone.

Quitting online shopping and food delivery apps took a lot of work. Much like quitting smoking in my 20s, nothing else really scratched that itch. My fingers hovered over where my app folders used to be, frantically trying something to mindlessly click. For the first since the invention of the smartphone, I was using my cell as an actual phone.

My relationship with my smartphone has changed significantly since I removed the food and shopping apps. It took a while, but I no longer hide from my phone or indulge in doom-scrolling. I have more time, money, and space for using my phone in ways that are healthy for me. The sheer amount of extra hours I have in a day, and dollars in the bank still amazes me, all these months later. Not to mention I sleep like a baby — something you can't buy online.