HUMANS 101

When Was the Last Time You Looked at Your Phone Contacts?

Why this is the one spring cleaning task you should take on this year

Sophie Lucido Johnson
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readMay 29, 2022

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Illustration by the author.

I got a new phone for my birthday, and, although phones now set themselves up through the mysterious sorcery of The Cloud, it felt like the right moment to clear out my contacts.

My contact list has transferred over from phone to phone since I was in college. Somehow, some contacts had duplicated themselves, so I had like eight “Aaron Tinder”s glaring at me every time I opened my contact list — and I have no memory of going on a Tinder date with anyone named Aaron.

Phones are like little houses we carry around, and so they’re rife with organizing potential. I like to organize my apps by color, which is also how I like to organize the books on my actual bookshelf. I like to edit my photo library when I’m on an airplane without Wi-Fi. But preening my contact list is something I’d never done. It felt like too much work. There is no easy way to do it directly from your phone; you have to individually open each contact and delete it. Who has time for that?

There’s a way to do it faster from a computer (here’s a How-To, for iPhone users), which is what I learned by Googling. This felt doable, and I took it on. Immediately, I could tell that the task was going to be more psychologically affecting than anything else. But it felt like it would be in a good way.

I like organizing things. I like taking all the books down, holding them, considering them, and putting them back in an order that makes sense to me. I could spend hours “organizing” my old diaries, which is really just an excuse to re-read them and think about how critically important things once seemed — things that I now, invariably, can’t even remember. Odd, then, that it took me 20 years to address this digital undertaking of looking through a bunch of names. Well, mostly names.

In my looking and deleting, I also came upon the following numbers with labels in my phone:

  • “This is not the gynecologist I want”
  • “I think pizza”
  • “Steve’s nephew who has questions about Whitman”
  • “NOT SPAM!”

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Sophie Lucido Johnson
Human Parts

A person who writes and draws and eats her feelings.