The One Thing You Can Do to Help Your Phone Addiction

Yes, you can use your phone to beat it at its own game.

Posted Mar 23, 2018

Source: Flickr

Attachment to our devices is at an all-time high with statistics indicating between 5-10% of individuals are officially addicted to their screens.  Between the emergence of new pseudo clinical terms such as “Facebook depression” and “phantom phone vibration syndrome,” it is clear our devices are taking a toll on our mental health.  For an informational video on how social media is impacting our brains, see this link here.

While I’ve written previously about the benefits of defriending, going off social media altogether, and Facebook as reality tv, our smartphones make it endlessly possible for us to pass the time with any number of social media.  Anymore if we are the person at a coffee shop just starting off into space, we look like a complete weirdo relative to everyone with their thumbs scrolling endlessly.  Incidentally, we are also living at a time when we bemoan the loss of hours and mounting workloads.  Coincidence?  I would say not.

I was in a therapy session with one of my teens a few weeks back when she mentioned an app that tracks time online.  She admitted to an astoundingly high amount of hours one particular day (let’s just say it was over 6 waking hours worth) and that it pains her to see the time lost.  Certainly I can’t blame her when the choices are Calculus homework or streaming Netflix.  The world of YouTube and Google introduce us to entire bodies of knowledge within seconds in a way that reading Chemistry in a textbook can’t quite compete.

It wasn’t until a few days later that the session lingered with me and I wondered about my own phone usage.  It is easy as adults to blame “youth these days.”  But what about us?  How guilty are we?  So I set out to find out.  I downloaded the free app called Moment and let it start tracking my time.  I’ll be honest, I cheated…a little.  I downloaded it more than halfway through the day.  So that easily cut my data in half.  Still, I was shocked to see that first day I had lost a little over 2 hours of time on my phone alone (I do not have it set up on an iPad or other such device).  This being on a day when I kept getting frustrated that I couldn’t finish the book I’d been wanting to read.  No surprise I wasn’t getting to it.  I was absorbed in a small palm-sized rectangle in my hand instead.

It’s been only over a week of tracking and while I’ve been fortunate to stay mostly in the green zone (under 2 hours) of usage related to other users, I’ve also teetered into the yellow category (just over 2 hours).  Many of my teens embarrassingly admit they are in the red zone daily.  The Moment app tells you how many times you’ve picked up your phone and what percentage of your waking day you spend on the device.  Food for thought to say the least.  

How does this decrease time on our phone?  Well, you can’t help but grimace or at least be more mindful every time you even touch your phone.  Once you realize how much precious time you are losing, you can’t help but think of all the other things you’d rather be doing with that time.  Exercise, yoga, reading, cooking, art are just a few that come to my mind.  It also helps you realize how the simple act of scrolling through Instagram turns into an automatic 15 minute time suck.  Try swallowing that pill 2-3 times per day. 

Nowadays, my goal du jour is to leave my phone untouched for as long as possible.  I avoid social media, use my computer for work purposes and am seeing how much time really is lost through these devices directly in my own life.  While this may be my own small case study, I have been highly recommending the simple act of tracking to all of my therapy clients.  You may not choose to change anything about your screen habits, but just being mindful of your usage can be incredibly powerful.  While Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, chances are that in this era of distractions and devices it wouldn’t have been built at all.