Good Digital Parenting
Blog | May 29, 2019

Book Review: Hung Up

Program Coordinator, Family Online Safety Institute

I recently read the book, Hung Up by Haley Evans, with the subtitle ‘why you should put the phone down (and other life advice).’ I was immediately intrigued because I have noticed my own phone use increasing over time. Like Haley’s friends, I go on my phone right after I wake up. After a quick browse of Instagram where I see notifications from friends who wake up earlier than I do, I begin my day. After I leave my apartment for the subway ride downtown, I am able to relax on my commute, listen to music if I want, or just do nothing. But that is not what I observe others doing. So many commuters on the crowded train are using their phones with craned necks and devices that are close to their eyes. It is much easier to count the number of people not on their phone. After this realization, and with the help of Haley, who suggests noticing the amount of people using their phone at idle moments, I have decided to encourage myself to spend more time off my devices.


Of course, that doesn’t mean I will keep it home all the time or never check in with what my friends are doing online. Instead, I will be mindful of the amount of times and the quality of interactions I make while using my device. After all, Haley is a firm believer in moderation. As a working mom with a spouse and three children, many responsibilities, and lots of distractions, she has finally had enough with the phone that drives her mad.


In the first few pages of the book, she ponders what chickens and smartphones have in common. Here’s a hint: they both peck. This is what she means: the phone and the chickens are chirping or making noise to gain your attention. Your phone chimes every time it gets a text, email, or social media notification and she likens those chimes to ‘pecks.’ In a funny and relatable example of multiple group chats going off at once, Haley explains to the reader how distracting and overwhelming that situation was. She then ponders why and when society decided the expectation is that phones are never out of reach and why you must respond immediately to a message for fear of being rude if you don’t.


One high level question that particularly stood out was this: “if I do something good and nobody “likes” it, does it still count?” I have been guilty many times of posting pictures to Instagram, not because I want to share it on my feed, but because it will get a lot of likes from my friends. I am sure you know someone who has done this too, or perhaps even you do it. Haley shares of the time her son hit his first home run, which prompted her daughter to ask if she was going to post it on Facebook. She replies that the home run was not going to be any more special if many people like it on Facebook. Haley brings up a good point about the relationship between validation and social media. People use social media as a way to feel validated. Yet the hope is that you feel personally accomplished when finishing a cool project or sharing your children’s latest milestone, regardless of the audience on social media and their reactions.


With those high-level questions in mind, Evans invites the reader to internally reflect in regards to their own life. Do you immediately react if you hear the text tone? How often is the amount of time between receiving an email and sending a response less than five minutes? Have you had to ask someone, let alone your child, to repeat themselves because you were distracted on your phone?


By taking a step back and opening your eyes, Haley encourages the reader to “be the boss.” In an understandable example of when her twin daughters misbehaved as toddlers, Haley was reminded by their babysitter that she shouldn’t let their bad behavior dictate her mood. As a parent, she is allowed to take charge. In comparison to a smartphone, be the boss - turn off notifications that make you crazy, delete apps you no longer use, dictate how much or how little time you spend on it each day.


Which leads to the concluding thoughts - the Big Hang-Up 12 Question Quiz and the Big Hang-Up 7 Day Challenge. Both challenges are fun, engaging, and thought provoking. In the quiz, Haley implores readers to consider whether they are “addicted to their phone” and to what degree. When I took the quiz, I scored an 8/12. Not terrible, but I can still improve. While I’ve turned off most notifications on my phone, I am guilty of using it at idle times and having been derailed by a phone notification. While Haley notes this quiz is entirely unscientific, it is still a useful way to track smartphone use. It might be just enough of a catalyst for a reader to carefully consider their own usage and make a big change in their life.


The Big Hang-Up 7 Day Challenge is a bit tougher to complete, after all, it needs one week. This challenge contains fourteen tips that gradually guide the participant towards a quieter, less disruptive life - at least in terms of smartphone usage! A few tips include swapping some text messaging for calls, conducting a social media cleanse, and setting personal time limits for app usage. Ultimately, Haley urges readers to remove the obligation they feel to instantly respond to messages and alerts.


Overall, readers of Hung Up come out feeling as if they have a manual to restart their tech life. While reading, you internally reflect on your own smartphone usage using Haley’s compelling questions about why it is important to always carry a phone and why less people live ‘in the moment.’  
For more information about Haley Evans and her book Hung Up, visit her website, thebighangup.com.