For the past year or so, I’ve been a bit embarrassed by the amount of time I spend on my phone.

Even more so, I hate that I’ve fallen into its trap: the constant checking of social media (for no reason whatsoever), the non-stop mindless scrolling, that heart-stopping worry when it's misplaced, the dry eyes and the strange neck cramps and the finger twitches.

Each Sunday, I subconsciously wait for the ping of my phone to alert me that my screen time report for that particular week is ready for viewing.

And each time, it never fails to disappoint.

My boyfriend has labeled me a "phone head," and he’s not wrong. Half my days are spent on my phone for work. Yet for the other half, when work is finished and I’m free to indulge in personal time, I still feel the urge to have my phone in my hand.

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I’ve noticed that I can no longer just sit and watch television, or rather, just sit and do nothing without my phone calling for me to pick it up -- as if it were a baby needing comforting.

Yet, it seems I’m the one who needs comforting. Perhaps a generational curse, my phone has become my safety blanket, my comfort zone.

I’m all too aware that I’m dependent on this pocket-sized computer. Nevertheless, I still actively allow my days to be absorbed by it. Because, I look at the screen time reports and tell myself I’ll cut back, but still hop back to it. Nothing changes, and if anything, the amounts increase just a bit more each week.

I feel as if I’m scrolling through life rather than living it some days, and I recognize that needs to change.

If anything, this column is a way to hold myself accountable in reducing my phone usage -- and maybe, it’ll help others in calling attention to their own phone dependence.

After all, I know I’m not the only one in this boat, as the pandemic has made many of us feel a need for extra social connection -- even if it’s virtual and in the form of texts, emails, likes or notifications.

But as cheesy as it might sound, if we lift our eyes out of our phones, the world is our playground. All we have to do is discover our personal hobbies and passions that make living in it worthwhile.

And so far, I’ve taken some small steps to find mine: I’ve bought a few books to help me get back into reading, and I’m now contemplating getting a library card. I’ve also taken a trip to Hobby Lobby, which produced some puzzles and velvet art to keep my hands busy at times when the phone cravings really start heating up.

It’s going to be a long process of realigning my habits and my mentality, which doesn’t happen overnight. But I know in the coming months I’ll be shifting from a defeatist "I don't have anything to do, so I’ll be on my phone" mindset, to a proactive "Let me find something to do, so I can spend time away from my phone" mindset.

Bria Barton is a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, she can be reached at bbarton@bemidjipioneer.com.