Natürlich gehöre ich auch zu den Müttern, die in regelmäßigen Abständen ihre Kinder ermahnen: Bist du schon wieder am Handy? Kannst du das nicht mal weglegen? Handyzeit ist vorbei! Heute kein Handy mehr! Und es bringt mich auf die Palme, wenn die Kinder entgegnen: Jaaa! Gleich! Moment! Werfe ich ihnen an den Kopf: „Du bist doch handysüchtig!“, flippen sie aus und rufen: „Das stimmt nicht!“

Das sagte ich mir lange Zeit auch, zu lange, vielleicht weil es keine Instanz über mir gab, die mich ermahnte: Leg mal das Handy weg!

Es begann schleichend. Natürlich war ich oft am Handy, schließlich ist das Smartphone für alle Eltern ein unerlässliches Tool, um den Alltag zu regeln. Wenn die Kinder kleiner sind, jongliert man in diversen Whatsapp-Gruppen, Eltern-Chats der Klasse, des Vereins, der Müttergruppe. Haben die Kinder ein Handy, kommt der Familienchat dazu. Dann die Push-Nachrichten zum aktuellen Weltgeschehen. Man will schließlich auf dem Laufenden bleiben. Pling, pling, pling. Nur schnell mal checken, wer sich gemeldet hat. Was passiert ist. Ob der Termin heute Abend mit der Freundin noch steht.

Dann kam Instagram. Es dauerte eine Weile, bis mich das soziale Medium erobert hatte. Und noch mal eine Weile, bis ich das erkannte. Wenn jemand in meinem Umfeld das Netzwerk kritisch sah, entgegnete ich stets: „Instagram ist ein tolles Medium, hat nichts mit dem Hass auf Twitter oder X zu tun.“ Ja, es ist harmlos, informativ, anregend. Ich folge Hobbyköchen, Hollywoodschauspielern, Freunden, Museumsportalen, Zeitungen, Fernsehshows. Eigentlich ist es wie Magazinlesen: auf jeder Seite eine neue Geschichte, eine unvermutete Mischung, nur dass man nicht mehr blättert, sondern wischt. Und es nicht aufhört. Noch ein Video, noch ein Foto, noch ein Rezept. Immer öfter ging es mir so, dass ich einfach kein Ende fand. Rief ein Kind aus dem Nachbarzimmer: „Kannst du mal kommen?“, entgegnete ich: „Gleich!“, oder einfach: „Jetzt nicht!“ Das kannte ich doch irgendwoher?

Besonders anfällig war ich am frühen Abend. Die Arbeit war erledigt, ein kurzer Leerlauf bis zum Abendessen. Schnell mal schauen, was auf Insta so los ist. Ein lustiger Comedystrip mit Anke Engelke. Kurzer Aufritt Ryan Gosling bei „Saturday Night Live“. Ah, ein Rezept mit Brokkoli und Mozzarella aus dem Backofen. Könnte ich auch mal kochen, aber jetzt erst mal die Story einer Freundin anschauen und liken. Ruckzuck war es 19 Uhr, und statt Brokkoli mit Mozzarella gab es dann nur Brot mit Käse, weil’s schnell gehen musste und ich mal wieder ziemlich viel Zeit verdaddelt hatte – genau das, was ich an meinen Kindern stets kritisierte.

Dieser Text stammt aus der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung.

I have now recognized my addictive behavior. To be sure, I took an online self-test: Am I addicted to my cell phone? I was asked questions like “When are you going to put your cell phone down at night” and “Are you no longer doing certain tasks?” In the end, it turned out that I was not a particularly serious case. But: “It sounds like you're in a critical phase where you're not yet addicted to your cell phone, but you're still at risk of slipping into unhealthy habits.” form for the English term “No Mobile Phone Phobia”, the fear of missing out without a mobile phone.

I have been working on my problem ever since. I have disabled push notifications and am trying to spend the early evening differently. Gardening was on the agenda the day before yesterday and yesterday I quickly went to the store to make broccoli with mozzarella from the oven. Unfortunately, I had to open Instagram for the recipe and yes, okay, I had a quick look at the latest stories. And Ryan Gosling was so funny again!

Not now, it counts twice

To make a relationship work, it is often said to share as much as possible with each other. Common interests, shared experiences, common hobbies. This does not necessarily mean weekly shopping on Saturdays or late-night discussions about which bills still need to be paid. In particularly stressful times, it can also be a joint evening on the couch.

Of course, you can sit next to each other on the sofa and still be far from each other. This happened more and more frequently in our house a few weeks ago, and of course the smartphone was to blame. Every few seconds my wife's cell phone would ping, soon followed by noise and repeated annoying ads for tax-saving apps. Whenever I talked to him, he always gave me the same answer: “Not now. It just counts twice.”

My wife got hooked on Duolingo.

Duolingo is currently the most popular language learning app, and its success is based on the fact that it combines learning with play. 30 learners enter a league and fight for a week for promotion or at least relegation. For every correct answer, cartoon characters like the owl duo will cheer, and for every wrong answer, you'll lose one of a maximum of five hearts. Once they're all gone, you can get more through exercises, so you can basically keep going forever.

Idyll for three: mother, child, mobile phone
Idyll for three: mother, child, mobile phoneNormal picture

Which my wife felt like she does. There was certainly no stopping him when the app gave him twice as many points for 15 minutes and thus a chance to climb the leaderboard quickly. The rather vague goal of learning a little Spanish before the summer holidays had become a very specific goal of advancing to the Saphir League at the end of the week and leaving behind Jonas85, Giulia or Javi.

For a few days, I watched and listened as my wife sank deeper and deeper into the world of Duolingo. And since I suspected that I couldn't get them out of there, there was only one thing left for me: I had to be a part of it too. Then at least we would have some new hobby together. My Polish was in dire need of updating its grammatical foundation anyway.

So we both played Duolingo sitting next to each other on the sofa. Or lying in bed late at night. We ended up in the same league, with different opponents, but with the same rhythm. Sometimes our cell phones rang at the exact same time. If one of the children wanted something from us, we would both say: “Not now.” It counts twice.” Together we climbed higher and higher. I learned new words and expressions that didn't always make sense to me (“Excuse me, I'm an apple”). And after I finally realized that the correct translation of the words usually appeared when hovering over them, I stopped losing so many hearts.

Over time, however, it became more difficult, the tasks more difficult and the competition intensified. At the beginning of a few weeks, some Matteo had already collected 3000 points, while we were still around 160. Each time, just before the end of the leaderboard, desperate ambition made us play round after round, so that we still made it to the next league. In order to survive there, we have long used all legal means. As I was increasingly thrown off by the difficult Polish language, after more than 30 years I started again in Spanish, which has a much simpler grammar. My wife started learning English to get points faster. He is an English teacher.

Then one day we were both at the top. In the diamond league, it doesn't get any higher than Duolingo. We had proved something to ourselves. But what?

We suspected that the daily overdose of Duolingo was no longer affecting us, our marriage or our family life. Despite Duolingo's owl-begging reminders, we decided to take a break from the app. And together they were eliminated from the Diamond League – they came 29th in their group, I came 30th in mine. It was almost romantic. I was just a bit sorry for my 60+ days of straight training.

After many weeks we have now rediscovered life. The children have grown up quite a bit.

Recently, however, I heard the familiar ringing again from my wife's cell phone. He said he didn't want to spoil his beautiful streak.

I'll probably have to start again.

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