Do these 3 things for a better relationship with your phone.
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Take back your time.
Life circa 2018 is a life spent being alert but never present. Alert to the buzzing and pinging of devices constantly breaking your train of thought and disrupting conversations. While the technology is truly amazing, if you find yourself reaching for your smartphone every time you have a spare minute perhaps it's time to admit you have a serious problem.
While I have previously written about the economic impact of distraction (last estimated near $900 billion to the US economy annually) on account of reduced productivity, this article is about the human cost. The cost borne by relationships, reduced privacy, increased stress from information overload and 'fear of missing out', and the pure exhaustion from being 'always on'.
'If you're not paying for it then you are the product'. That's the clichéd principle behind commoditising user time. More time spent scrolling amounts to more content consumption and higher ad revenues for the platform. This is now an issue so well established that in their most recent updates both iOS and Android have incorporated tools that enable users to fight excess screen time and foster better relationships with their phones. While the jury's still out on whether these are gimmicks or out of genuine concern, I have the following suggestions for you to take back your life:
1. Turn off all non-human notifications
Breaking news alerts, 'xyz is interested in an event near you', 'abc liked your picture' are all pointless distractions that serve no purpose other than to lure you back in. Unless there's an actual human being trying to reach you, you don't need your phone buzzing. This essentially means that other than calls and direct messages your phone remains quiet. And silence those group chats too.
2. Hide away the time hogs
Certain apps are designed for endless scrolling. The news feed never ends and before you know it you've wasted an hour looking at useless memes and vacation pics of some random ex-colleague. Some people take the extreme step of uninstalling apps such as Facebook and perhaps you can try that too. What I am suggesting however is simply hiding away your social media time hogs inside folders. This way you create a barrier so they are not in plain sight, no longer one tap away and you're less likely to be subconsciously drawn to them each time you pick up your phone.
3. Fight the urge to do it right away
People contact you when it’s convenient for them. You can ignore it if it’s inconvenient for you, provided you get back to them when you can. It might not seem like much replying to a text message when you’re in the middle of a conversation but it is extremely rude. Prioritise those that are physically present - if someone calls you in the middle of dinner it is perfectly okay to let it go to voice mail.
4. Bonus tip: Unified inbox
If you've ever used a Blackberry device you may remember Hub. A single interface that let's you view and respond to messages on multiple platforms. While their devices have unfortunately lost favour with users, Blackberry Hub is available to download on Android's Play Store. It's an incredibly efficient way to check and respond to emails, texts, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram etc., doing away with the need to have all of those apps on your home screen.