Awareness of a technology addiction is one thing. Trying to change habits that are so ingrained in your psyche is a whole other beast. I’ve known for years now how dependent I am on technology. I’ve joked about it with family and friends. Joking about it makes it not real. Joking about it makes it a silly habit.
It wasn’t until Apple had a software update called screentime that shows how much time you spend on your phone that I was faced with the reality of what my casual phone habit had become. Once I could see the hours I raked up by numbers and data instead of estimates in my head, things didn’t change, at least not right away. I’d continue my old habits despite the evidence I spend too much had looming in my head several times. A few times, I even took off screentime so I didn’t have to know how many hours I was spending on my phone.
These last few months have been difficult and I found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone at least every few minutes, if not every thirty seconds. I knew I had a lot going on so I thought it was okay to be distracted. That’s how I’ve always coped with unexpected shifts and major changes in my life. It comes as natural to me as breathing.
It’s not until I have distracted myself long enough that I can begin to really process and accept what is happening that I become aware of how much of a time suck a small screen can be. The worst part is being aware of a bad habit and trying to control it instead of allowing it to control me. It’s a battle within myself, my conscious mind trying to step into my subconscious. It takes time and hard work to change bad habits. Trial and error without judgment or criticism of myself are hard. Elimination of it all together only lasts for so long. Blocking of apps cost money. Setting controls and time constraints don’t work when I know the password.
Finally, I had enough of this and I asked my mom put in a passcode into my phone so I wasn’t able to extend past the limits I had set for myself. From 10 pm to 9 am, a lot of the apps on my phone are blocked off. This allows me to begin and end my day by doing other things or using my phone in a more productive way. For apps I use the most (i.e. Instagram), I have a two hour limit within that eleven-hour time span to be on it and when time’s up, I no longer have access to it unless I ask my mom to put in the code, which is surprisingly rare.
Now, a lot of you might be reading this and think, “two hours is a long time to be on an app.” I know it is. I could be doing more productive things with my time. However, I used to spend so much more time on that app, the number is too high for me to want to share it. Two hours is a reasonable and big drop from how much time I was spending on it before. It forces me to balance things in a way I wasn’t able to before. With only having a limited amount of time on an app, I have to prioritize my time if I want to check it throughout the day. Because once time’s up, I have to wait until tomorrow to check it again.
It’s been a real learning lesson for me. It’s better than eliminating it altogether and I’ve had to hold myself accountable for this habit I had unknowingly created. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has a social media/phone habit. Apple wouldn’t have created this screentime feature if only a few people had a problem. There wouldn’t be apps like Forest that forces you to step away from your phone any time from 10 minutes to two hours in exchange to build a tree and create a forest to have you focus and be present in your life. In the Apple app store, it’s said that over 2 million people in 126 countries have used this app in order to control their screentime.
The urge to always be on my phone is real. It’s both comforting and terrifying to know that I’m not the only one who spends too much time on my phone. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I’m trying to break bad habits and find balance in my life. After months and years of struggling with my social media activity, I’m beginning to find balance and change how I use social media.
We’re living in a time where social media and the news cycle is both addictive and overwhelming. How much is too much? When living in a digital age, how do you find balance between using your time online vs. offline? How do you stay focused on what matters? Are you aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone? If you were able to see it in numbers, would you be willing to change?
There’s a real urge to look at your phone whenever you can. You only feel it when you’re trying to fight yourself from looking at it. All of this technology is still very new and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Smartphones are already becoming less exciting with the updates not being extravagant enough for people wanting to upgrade their phones.
I’ve been reading articles about smartphone addiction and I came across this article worth reading. The fact that there’s shame around how much we use our phones is crazy to me. And yet, I don’t want to admit how many hours a day I was on my phone before I really began to find a balance because it’s embarrassing. I once told some people about how much I was on when it was on the low spectrum for me and they were appalled by how much time I was spending.
But then, once some of them started using screentime and began seeing their minutes add up, they began to change their tune. One of them even told me, “I didn’t realize how quickly all that time added up until I actually saw the numbers.” What can we do to fight this habit? It’s different for every person. For me, I try not to have my phone on or around me when I’m around other people. Setting time limits, build a tree with the Forest app, and leaving my phone in another room when I’m trying to not have it around me.
The first step is being aware of how you use your phone and why you gravitate towards it. The next step is to make a change. It’s not easy fighting the urge of a bad habit but if we want our future to be controlled by people and not robots, we need to begin the process now before it’s too late.