I know why I pick up my phone. Am I alone in my dissociative habit? I reached out to my Instagram followers to find out.

First, it’s important to understand that social media platforms are designed to make us addicted. This is well documented, and over time the level of sophistication of the designed user experience has increased to the point where they can move a button that they want us to tap, knowing that our muscle memory will tap on it before we can even make the decisions with our brains.

I know that my thumbs will often go to the apps I waste time on before I even mean to look at them. Sometimes I will rearrange my apps in order to trick my thumbs, but they learn pretty quickly.

I posted the question, “Why did you pick up your phone just now?” in my Instagram stories. I theorized that most people probably pick up their phone to do one of two things: something useful, like checking the weather; or something that is a distraction from something else they’re doing.

The most interesting part to me were the answers where people were intending to do something else, yet they landed in the Instagram app—probably out of habit. I wonder how much time they spent? I wonder what they were exposed to in that time? I wonder if they ever completed the task for which they originally picked their phone up?

Of course, this is just a small snippet of time, and a small subset of answers. How do we focus on doing the task that we set out to do on our phones and then put them down? They’re designed, and designed well, to keep us engaged.

The reasons ranged from “killing time” to "checking the weather" to “bathroom”. I took the reasons people gave me and turned them into buttons. It’s interesting to see them as a group. I wonder if these reasons were visible to others, would we be less apt to give in to this kind of distraction? Would it help us break the habit? Does everyone want to break the habit? If you had to wear your excuses for looking at your phone on your jacket, would you stand by your reasoning?

For the buttons, I paired the reasons with vintage photography from a time when this distraction didn’t exist. I am always interested in contrasting the problems technology causes with some visual language of pre-internet.

Why did you pick up your phone?