Modern technology offers us a variety of appliances and gadgets designed to help us be more productive and communicate faster and smarter. In the last two decades, the telephone has changed from being a tool for long-distance communication to being our link to the outside world, an internet-worth of information, and an ever-present source of entertainment. You rely on our smartphones as timers, alarms, and ways to measure fitness or self-improvement, until your smartphone starts to feel less like an appliance and more like an extension of yourself.
While the goal of smartphones is to ultimately save you time and improve productivity, it can be easy to spend far too much of your day compulsively checking them. For new emails, new information, new photos to add to Pinterest and any number of other things which give you a short term feeling of connection and achievement, but which in the long term can actually distance you from the real world, from friends and family, and make it hard for you to switch off and be at peace with the present moment.
Smartphone overuse has many harmful side effects. It shortens your attention span, stops you from falling asleep and reduces the quality of that sleep, and can lead to all sorts of complications to do with reliance. Recognizing that you spend more time on your phone than you’d ideally like to is the first step.
Quitting “cold turkey” by going camping for a week or two (and leaving your phone switched off the whole time) is a wonderful way to hit the rest button on your dependence. But once you get back to the default world, how do you manage your technology use toward the maximum good and least harm?
Here Are Some Steps To Help You Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction:
Think about the way you use your phone. What do you use your phone for in the background, in a way that doesn’t demand your attention? What communicating do you do with your phone that can’t wait until a morning and/or afternoon session of checking emails and messages? How often during the day do you open your browser to answer a specific question and end up surfing the net for twenty minutes before you realize?
- Limit app notifications
The default or recommended notification settings for most apps, especially social media, are designed to drag you back to that site over and over again during the day. The pop-ups and audio notifications give you a strong urge to open the app and find out what’s happening, but it’s easy to blur the line between reading a message from a friend who needs to talk to you right now, and seeing which of your friends or followers have liked a particular photo that you posted.
Some people will say that you should just mute all notifications while you’re at work or at a dinner date, etc., but it’s just as important to value the time you spend by yourself. Value your mental space and don’t clutter it up with what amounts to advertising from the social media sites you use. Take the time to go through the notification settings and only ever receive notifications for the most important things – direct messages from friends, for example. Most iOS and Android phones will show the first ten words or so of a message without you having to open it up. If you notice a notification, scan the first few words, and unless it seems urgent, don’t open it! Save it for your lunch break, your commute, or a controlled time each evening in which you check your messages. This will avoid disruption of your workday and free time.
- Sync your emails less frequently
You probably have your phone set to sync constantly and notify you as soon as each new email arrives. It’s actually quite easy to go into your email settings and notification settings and change this. Make sure that your phone only sends you notifications of messages flagged important, and that the rest of your emails only sync when you go into the email app and refresh your inbox on purpose.
- Put your phone into flight mode overnight
About an hour before you plan to go to sleep, switch your phone into flight mode. You can still use it for (stored) music, e-books, and alarms, but you’ll avoid disturbances to your sleep. Any family and friends that care about you would rather you get a good night’s sleep than check and respond to their message immediately.
- Leave your smartphone in your bag, your drawer, or in the next room
Unless you’re expecting a message that will need acting upon in a matter of minutes, leave your phone somewhere out of sight and out of mind. You can go and check it once an hour for anything specific and pressing, but ignore any other notifications. This is important at home as well as work. Endlessly scrolling through social media updates is an ok way to spend a few hours once a week, but it’s seriously unhealthy to do this for even two hours every night of the week
- Stop playing so many games
There are a few video games available on smartphones now that are as fun, complex and graphically impressive as desktop video games. Playing games isn’t an inherently bad way to spend some of your free time, but it is unhealthy to spend all your free time doing this. Even if you limit it to your commute or time spent waiting at bus stops, there can be something quite unhealthy about compulsively reaching for Tetris or, gods forbid, candy crush. The less time you spend on your phone during the commute, the more time you have or daydreaming about ways to enjoy your life, your future, and even think about how you could improve your commute. If you make yourself stop using your phone on the train, you might find you’re much more motivated to ride your bike to work instead.