The convenience of smartphones means they’re now such a big part of our lives that we barely notice how much we use them. You may even be reading this article from your phone without giving it a second thought!
Developers focus on creating apps that get and keep us hooked, using clever nudges via notifications to keep us wanting more.
If you haven’t yet seen it, the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma is well worth a watch. It highlights how social media companies affect people’s behaviour and emotions, without the user being aware of it.
What are the signs you’re becoming addicted to your phone?
1. You’re easily distracted
When your phone buzzes, do you feel as though you need to check it immediately? If you check the time on your phone, do you end up getting distracted by something else?
It’s so easy to lose all sense of time when you’re on your phone and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour scrolling mindlessly.
2. You feel anxious or lost without it
Does the thought of leaving your phone at home fill you with panic?
“Nomophobia”, the fear of being without your mobile device, is increasingly common. While there can be a need to have your phone nearby, it doesn’t need to be with you 24/7.
3. You worry you’re missing out
Fear of missing out (FOMO) can mean you’re frequently checking your phone to ensure you’re “kept in the loop”. Incredibly concerning research from Ofcom shows that, on average, people in the UK check their smartphone every 12 minutes of the waking day1.
4. You’re experiencing disturbed sleep
If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, excessive smartphone use could be a cause.
It can also impact your memory, and ability to think clearly and reduce your cognitive skills. None of which is good for your mental health.
5. Those around you complain about the amount you’re on it
We’ve all seen people in restaurants staring at their phones, ignoring each other. And we’re probably all guilty of not giving our loved ones our undivided attention when we’re meant to be spending quality time with them.
Unwittingly, our phone use can put a strain on our relationships.
If you’re keen to try and reduce your dependence on your phone and the impact it’s having on your life, here are some ideas to help you kick-start your digital detox and develop healthier phone habits.
Get clear on what the triggers are for using your phone
Consider what you use your phone for and how much time you spend on it. Many phones have pre-loaded apps that can monitor this. These often include a breakdown of the time you spend on each app and how often you look at your phone.
You can identify patterns and track your daily and weekly use, which can also be a good way to see your progress if your aim is to reduce your phone time.
If you pick up your phone to look for some information online, do you find yourself distracted for the next 20 minutes responding to social media notifications? If it’s boredom that means you can’t put it down, could making some “in person” plans on a regular basis be a better route to meeting your needs?
Create “phone-free” zones and times
Set parameters for when and where you can use your smartphone. For example, turning your phone off at mealtimes, or not checking social media when you’re out with friends.
Plan a time when you can use your phone, perhaps as a reward for when you’ve completed a chore you didn’t really want to tackle.
Remove temptation and reduce interruptions
Go to the settings and switch off unnecessary phone notifications and alerts.
The nature of notifications is that they demand your attention when you’re doing something else. Even if you’re simply taking some time out and relaxing, it’s important to be able to do this without interruptions.
How often do you truly need to be notified that something has occurred in real-time?
Removing social media apps from your phone means you need to be more intentional when you want to check them. It takes a greater sense of purpose to log in to your laptop, which also means you’re likely to do it less often.
Beat developers at their own game (and get a better night’s sleep)
Changing your phone settings to black and white can reduce brain stimulation and counteract some of the addictive nature of the apps you use. This means if you’re scrolling late at night, you’re more likely to put the phone down sooner because your brain is less stimulated.
Better still, avoid taking your phone into the bedroom by charging it elsewhere in your home.
The excellent new book by Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Happy Mind, Happy Life, suggests we could view our phones in the same way we would if we were interacting with another person.
If you’re sitting with your family watching a film or some TV, you wouldn’t start randomly speaking to another person. Yet that’s what we all do via our phones without a second thought.
We’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this analogy when it comes to taking your phone to the bedroom 😊.