Only recently have we begun asking the question – “Am I spending too much time on my phone?”?
A US adult, on an average, checks their phone 50 times a day, whereas teenagers do it up to 80 times. Even if you spend only 2 mins gawking at the screen each time you check your phone, nearly 1.5-2 hours from your day are taken away. 2 hours gone, for nothing.
It is not completely your fault though. Tristan Harris, in his TED Talk, explained how the likes of Google and Facebook use “design ethics” or ethical psychological tricks hidden in the interface to make the users stick to their smartphones.
“When you see a notification, it schedules your mind to have thoughts you didn’t intend to have. If you swipe over that notification, it schedules you to spend a little bit of time getting sucked into something, that maybe you didn’t intend to get sucked into,” says Harris.
All of this overexposure to your smartphone screen is bad for you mentally, physically, and socially.
Mentally: Psychological studies have shown that the mere sight of your smartphone while working can make you less productive. It can generate a compulsion in your brain to pick it up every once in a while, and each time you do so, it’ll take 25 mins to regain focus.
Physically: Smartphones have given rise to the hunched-neck generation which actually causes neck and spine problems in people. The reduction in physical activity due to increased convenience, provided by Apps like Uber Eats and Dunzo, further tax your body.
Socially: In a Google curated Digital Wellbeing online course, it was reported that using your phone during a conversation with friends and family can actually make you less engaged and apathetic towards them. Smartphones (or, social media apps) are the root cause of mass-depression and anxiety due to over-connectedness.
All of this points toward one thing – your wellbeing is at risk.
Enter, the concept of Digital Wellbeing – making your interaction with the technology healthier. To do this, we have devised an easy-to-follow guide that will help you curb your digitally unhealthy habits.
Raising Self Awareness
Most of your daily activities should be centered around the idea of Time Well Spent. Tristan Harris, in his TED talk, mentions how our interaction with technology should be able to produce constructive outcomes without distraction.
Be it meeting an old friend, watching a movie, or sifting through Excel sheets, you want to spend your time well.
So, ask yourself, are you spending your time well enough on your smartphone?
Well, that’s certainly not a yes or no answer. Some parts are useful functions, while others a mere waste of time; and the distinction is hard.
So, the first step is to make the distinction- which apps are worth your time.
Start Monitoring App Usage
Apple, Google, and Facebook responded proactively to the deteriorating mental health scenario by releasing app-usage monitoring tools. You can easily check the time spent on various apps through the day and even put a leash on apps you inadvertently use more than others.
Facebook and Instagram have made the “Your Activity” feature available on the respective apps. Read more about the settings here.
In case you’re not on iOS 12 or Android Pie, you can use the Moment App to track time spent on individual apps on your device.
On an average, we’re spending close to 6 hours on digital media including 3.3 hours of daily smartphone usage as per a study conducted by Kleiner Perkins.
Out of the 6 hours, the Time Well Spent varies from person to person. Depending upon your work and personal life, you could be spending different proportions of your time doing different activities.
Broadly, your Digital Wellbeing goals can look like the following:
- Keeping professional work distraction-free.
- Delegate a time-limit to social media apps.
- Try to depend on a minimum number of devices in your home and office.
- Make in-person human interaction a priority.
- Go out.
Based on these goals, you can take the following active and passive actions. You can try any combination of these depending on your state of digital wellbeing.
Make Your Phone Less Addictive
The good news is you can dissolve the so-called design ethics used to make your smartphone addictive.
Apps like Siempo are specifically designed to fight the addictiveness. They change the addictive UI of your phone into a rather drab one.
Siempo flags apps that are susceptible to wasting your time. It makes the apps harder to access inside your smartphone. It displays tools and apps such as Calls, Messages, and Calendar, in the front.
In my personal experience of the app, it has proved to be effective enough to tackle inadvertent app usage. It won’t completely shut you off but will definitely help you avoid too much Instagram-scrolling.
The LessPhone Launcher takes an even more intensive approach towards decreasing addiction. It basically makes your phone display just four apps at a time.
Limit Usage for Specific Apps
Again, the Digital Wellbeing features can be accessed in the latest OS versions from Google and Apple, but if you’re not there yet, you can use the Quality Time app.
The app comes with a full suite of features to track your time, create time-limit alerts for apps, and manage notifications. The app provides IFTTT support as well for handling missed calls and auto-reply to text messages.
Customize Display Configuration
Another aspect of digital wellbeing is taking care of your eyes. A recent study indicated that blue light from smartphones and PCs is destroying your eyes. Wavelengths of the blue light can potentially kill the light receptor cells in your eyes permanently. The effect is the highest when you look at your phone at the night when the surroundings are dark.
To battle this, enable the Night Mode (Android) and Night Shift (iOS) in your device whenever using the phone in dark environments. If you don’t have this feature as of yet, you can download the Night Screen App, which serves the same purpose.
Increase Physical Activity
It is hard to move out of bed till the time someone doesn’t tell us to do so. Therefore, getting a smart fitness band actually makes sense. Our recommendation is to keep things low-key when it comes to smart bands. The real purpose here is to get alerts to move when you’ve been sitting for too long and to collect data related to your physical activity.
The Mi Band 3 is a good choice as it doesn’t have an addictive display and is pretty subtle in its styling, helping you stick to your goals. It provides most of the important functions such as counting footsteps and monitoring heart rate.
Use the Google Fit App to plan walks in your locality. It has a great reward system in place to track and compile all your physical health data, to encourage you to get outside.
Desert Your Phone
Researchers have shown that keeping your phone out of sight can help you immerse in your tasks deeply. When you’re talking to someone in person, keeping your phone aside can help manifest a deeper engagement in the conversation.
Therefore, as a healthy practice, you can get into the habit of deserting your phone for some time daily. You can do it while you study, watch Netflix or simply take a walk outside.
But people might get mad at me if I leave my phone like that! you might think. Don’t worry we’ve thought this through.
Use the IFTTT app on your phone to automatically send an SMS to missed calls from important people and Auto Reply app to automatically send a text to Whatsapp, Messenger, Instagram, and Android Messages.
You can easily create an applet for doing the same – one exists in the discover section of IFTTT. Go check it out.
I made a version of it myself and it worked well. It might not fire instantly at the first time but runs smoothly after that.
Now, you can stay away from your phone without worrying. Whoever texts or calls you will be alerted that you’re spending some me-time minus your phone.
It’s good to have a number of devices in your home but switching between them can inhibit your productivity. Especially when you pick your phone while working on your PC. That kind of distraction is evil.
Once you do this, you won’t have to switch between screens and you can comfortably dismiss or read notifications on your PC screen. You can even reply to messages directly from the PC.
You don’t want technology to add stress to your life. Somewhere in the capitalistic intentions of smartphone apps and our long-bred habits, we are being raked into our smartphone screens beyond the limits of constructive use.
Go back to having a life and manage your digital wellbeing with the tips mentioned in this article. Got more tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’ll be keen to add them to this article. ?
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