Once upon a time, perhaps a magical, blissful, simple time, smartphones weren’t needed. We all carried on without them. T'was a time when people made plans and just trusted the other party to arrive at the agreed upon time and place without constantly confirming, when puzzles and board games were stimulating enough, when we did things that didn’t need to be constantly reinforced by strangers and people we pretended to like in high school.
It was also a time that can never (and indeed, should never) be returned to. However, too many of us use our phones too much; some of us are addicted, and it seems like all of us could work to scale back the amount of time we spend staring at these screens. At the very least, we can make the time spent with our phones more productive and efficient. I use mine too much, and I am indeed a culprit of such trespasses. If we can first acknoweldge this, we can then work toward spending our time more wisely and improving our health.
Phones are a tool that we need to be better equipped to wield. They are also a powerful stimulant that we need to be better capable of managing. The Center for Humane Technology is leading the way on addressing the serious ills that rampant monetization of smartphone apps and the crusade for information by companies have wrought, from fraying social relationships to instilling a need for constant affirmation, from spreading lies and hate to invading privacy.
There is much we can do to take back control. Knowing the problems helps us solve them, and working day by day, even hour by hour, will go a long way toward improving our well-being. Here are some ways to help improve our lives by altering, lessening, and even eliminating certain phone habits.
Analyze Your Habits
Before you can figure out how to fix things, you must be armed with proper knowledge about what to fix. There are a variety of apps available that will tell you, whether or not it's flattering, what you use on your phone, and how much you use it. Quality Time will tell you how much time you’ve spent on your phone today, which is a statistic above all others that may give you pause. By looking at how often you’re connected, and what you’re doing with your time, you can move forward with more effectiveness and efficiency.
What’s more, there are a variety of apps that attempt to work with you in documenting usage day to day. Moment, Mute, and Forest all offer response and reinforcement to usage, some negatively and some positively, in an effort to curtail your activity or promote your absence from your phone.
Get to Bed
This is among the easiest and most significant ways to improve your smartphone-related health and wellness. We look at our phones too soon before trying to sleep, and too early after waking up. The glow of the screen can ruin our sleep patterns and keep our brains wired; the proximity of a phone can keep us preoccupied; the flashing of an alert can get us roused.
Naturally, there are apps to help this, including Google’s dashboard that will move into grayscale and Do Not Disturb mode as bedtime nears. The best thing you can do though is set a strict time for you to put down your phone and get to sleep. Better yet, move your phone somewhere out of reach, even a different room, so as to avoid grabbing and disturbing your sleep.
Get Off the Grid
Set a certain time of the day, or a length of time throughout the day, where you are phoneless. As mentioned, the first 30 minutes and last 30 of the day should be without a phone. Add an hour or two in as well where you put away your phone and do something mentally or physically rewarding. Reading, exercising, doing puzzles or crafts, or even meditation or yoga are perfect 30-60 minute activities to get you away from screens. The ability to keep yourself from your phone on your terms for a set amount of time is an important one to master.
Purge Your Phone
In order to help you use your phone less and make you feel better about that time, first you must log on and cleanse. Think of it like spring cleaning, but instead of getting rid of clothes and stuff you don’t use, you’re deleting friends, unsubscribing from emails, and uninstalling apps that aren't useful anymore. By eliminating the fluff, you reduce the quantity, and if you did it right, the quality of notifications, emails, and alerts you’re likely to get.
You must be honest though. Just like not kidding yourself about a sweater that’s been hanging in your closet for 18 months that you really won’t wear, don’t pretend like there is a reason to stay following someone from high school that you’re never going to talk to. Look at the people on social media who post redundant, annoying, or unsatisfying content and get rid of them. Or at least hide them.
So clean your apps: turn off notifications, delete superfluous content, and settle everything down.
Or at least, have an honest discussion with it. This is a big move, but this most popular, lucrative, and long-running social network is at the heart of so many problems. There are serious moral, economic, social, political, and personal issues this app has instigated, and getting rid of it will go a long way to help the specific you and the general us.
To start, unfriend people, limit your privacy, and stop letting people post things directed at all. There are other, better ways to share pictures, send messages, and get updates from people. To say nothing of the fact that Facebook is becoming for most people an echo chamber, where their views are reinforced and the only things they see and what they want to see. It’s a waste, and needs to be fixed, if not deleted entirely. Get rid of those people who make you feel like you are missing out or doing things in your life wrong - Facebook and Instagram aren’t realistic portrayals of life, they are glorified, cherry-picked, and doctored moments, and can cause emotional distress to those posting and those scrolling.
Smartphones are only useful to us if we are in control, and for most people, it’s the other way around. We can’t simply carry on like it’s not an issue. For all the efficient things your phone can do, there are myriad ways your time is being wasted, your attention is being hijacked, and your mind distracted. Whether you’re just physically moving your phone away from you when you’re reading, leaving it at home when running errands, and/or turning your screen to grayscale, there are things that can and should be done. It may be tough at first, but when you’re truly in control, you’ll feel great. And you won't even feel compelled to share your success with anyone online.