Have you lost a phone to a toilet? Have you ever sent a text while showering? Have you closed an app and immediately opened it again? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be addicted to your phone.
While platforms should put effort into developing tools to manage anxiety-triggering features, it is ultimately up to us to keep our addiction under control. In struggling times such as the devastating pandemic that is keeping us stuck at home, overusing your mobile device can leave you feeling overwhelmed and decrease your overall happiness.
Fighting the urge to use a mobile device is not an easy task, but by following these tips you'll be able to find some peace and regain control of your mobile usage.
7 - Keep your phone on silent mode
If you lived through the 90s or watched a 90s TV show, you've probably seen a corded phone ringing and people running to pick it up. Nowadays, we have sound alerts for everything that happens in our virtual lives. While we don't have to run to pick it up anymore, our minds are constantly redirecting our attention to the noise that calls us.
In a way, our devices are crying babies that desperately want our attention. However, unlike a crying baby who really needs us, our phone will not starve or feel pain if we stop listening to it.
TIP: When sleeping, use Do Not Disturb and leave your device charging away from your arm's reach.
If muting your device 24/7 is not an option, experiment muting it during moments that require your full attention, such as meetings and dates. Features such as Do Not Disturb will still allow you to be reached during emergencies, as long as you configure it correctly.
6 - Turn notifications off
Notifications are designed to remind you of an application and to keep you invested in what it has to offer. They come in many forms and, luckily, there are also many ways to personalize how you want them delivered.
If you're new to managing these settings, you might feel FOMO (also known as fear of missing out) and decide not to go "cold turkey" - and that's fine.
TIP: Try disabling banners first. Banners are extremely anxiety-inducing and will keep you switching from one interaction to another for hours.
Once you're comfortable with the idea of meeting your device on your terms instead of answering its calling, experiment "Deliver Quietly": you won't get sound or vibration, but the alert will be available for YOU to judge whether that's worth your attention or not.
Some people hide the content of their alerts for privacy issues, but beware: that can lead increase FOMO as it is human to get curious about the "secret message" that you can't quickly read.
When setting your notifications, keep in mind that the goal is to spend less time looking at your screen.
5 - Leave or mute conversations
The advent of group texting made it impossible to meet specific groups of people on your terms. Group texting can trigger anxiety and, in some cases, become quickly a major waste of time. Mute them whenever you feel overwhelmed. Mute them permanently once you are able to identify that the conversations you're missing don't add to your life. Leave them altogether if they affect you negatively.
In countries like Brazil, group texting is cultural and ultimately how people get their news, which leads to widespread misinformation and the prevalence of sexist/homophobic/racist behaviours through bubble-validation. If you want to beat a mobile device addiction, it is imperative for you to learn how to remove yourself from situations that do not contribute to your peace of mind.
Another conversation worth muting are the ones with brands. Spam text messages are the hardest to manage as most of them don't offer an easy way for you to unsubscribe. Mute all marketing texters. You don't need 10% OFF now. You don't need to buy anything RIGHT NOW.
4 - Stop carrying your phone around
This one will sound counterproductive but I swear by it: buy your device's companion watch.
"But, Patricia, you're supposed to help me beat my device addiction - and here you are telling me to buy another device!"
Carrying your phone or tablet around with you, like a baby that needs constant attention, will leave you in permanent red alert state. Watches offer basic access to applications only so you'll never waste an hour of your day scrolling through your watch. You'll still be able to control your music and get urgent comms, but - since you're away from your phone - you'll have to decide whether that alert is worth the time of your day. Spoiler: it likely won't.
Separating yourself physically from your device is challenging but a great way to meet technology on your own terms.
TIP: Charging bases are a fantastic way of keeping your phone out of sight.
3 - Delete old posts and avoid entering arguments
The more you post, the more notifications you'll likely get. Going Marie Kondo on your posts will not only help you evaluate your posting habits but change the way you perceive posting. If you delete something that doesn't bring you joy, you'll likely not post it again.
The same can be said for comments in heated arguments: you will likely not change the world calling someone names in a comment section on the internet. Entering needless and brainless discussions will only increase your anxiety. The less you enter arguments, the calmer you'll feel.
2 - Delete & rearrange applications
If you have a dating app installed for more than a couple of months, are you using it right? Dating apps are the ultimate "stay on your phone" applications. Inner Circle, for instance, shows a banner every time someone looks at your profile, likes or messages you. It shows who's online, who's nearby, and who's interested in you. Who doesn't want to be chased by dozens of half-naked beauties who will compliment you whenever your self-esteem is low?
Instead of finding someone to build a relationship together and delete the app, we are constantly waiting for the next potential match, that perfect person that does not exist. There's always going to be a hotter, richer, smarter, funnier one right around the corner. Dating apps make it easy for people to be addicted to shallow connections.
Besides deleting applications that are increasing your device addiction, such as games, social media, and dating apps, keeping them out of sight is another way of curbing your enthusiasm. Hiding applications in folders will add an extra step between you and a mindless scroll. The more effort it takes, the less likely you are to doing something. Use that in your favor.
1 - Reconstruct your device usage habits
It is possible to use your phone as a source of growth rather than a pacifier. If you have a tendency for addiction, reconstructing your device usage habits will be a constant in your life. I've found that replacing zombie-scrolling with interactive tasks are a good way to reframe the role of my phone in my life. Replacing one hour of social media scrolling in the morning for a 15 minute Headspace meditation has decreased my stress in 30%.
Educational apps such as Duolingo can be used as a replacement or barter: making a deal with yourself to only check social media after completing a language lesson will get you brain active and willing to quit time-consuming scrolling.
Once you're an expert at meeting your device on your own terms, you'll find that there are a lot of applications in the stores aiming to keep us truly connected, informed, and healthy - mind and body. Use them!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on alerts, anxiety, and applications. You can leave a comment here or reach me anywhere you prefer. Keep in mind that my notifications are off. ;)