I was in denial, I couldn’t be one of those people addicted to their phone and the apps within, could I?
A few months back, I started developing higher than usual levels of anxiety, mood swings, and racing thoughts. I typically don’t experience these types of things often, so I took this as a ‘red flag’ to do some searching to figure out why I was feeling this way and what might be triggering it.
I work in tech and I do a large amount of problem solving / troubleshooting throughout my day so of course I was going to ‘troubleshoot’ myself to figure out the problem.
I started with my sleep and eating patterns. Both have been pretty typical for me, so I crossed that off the list. I did more analysis on things like work, relationships, life events, etc. And it seemed that everything was good there too.
So what is it?
Screens. I spend the majority of my day in front of a screen, either for work or personal reasons. Easily 13+ hours a day are spent looking at a screen, whether that be my work laptop, my phone, or my TV at home.
I was spending so much time on screens that I was ignoring social conversations, ignoring people in restaurants, laying in bed for an hour just scrolling aimlessly for that next rush of dopamine.
But I’ve become so tolerant that what I was experiencing on my phone wasn’t enough so I started getting increasingly anxious and irritable the more I tried to use my phones and screens to fill the void.
Total screen time:
If I spend 13 hours a day on a screen, that leaves me 11 hours in the day. Which 7 hours are dedicated to sleep, which drops the remaining total down to 4 hours. In that 4 hours I have to commute to and from work, make dinner, and do routine tasks around the house.
What other time do I have? I’m maybe left with 1–2 hours a day to be free without screens? That’s ridiculous!
Don’t believe that Smartphone addiction is a real thing?
Here’s a fun activity, if you think “I don’t spend that much time on my phone” do me a favor and take out your phone.
If you have an iPhone you can see how much you’ve used specific apps in the last 24 hours and the last week.
If you have an Android, you can use an app called Quality Time to do this for you.
Go to Settings -> Battery -> Scroll Down to Battery Usage.
You’ll see percentages but click the little clock on the right side of the screen.
Post up your usage screenshots in the comments and tell me if you were surprised by your findings!
Here is my app usage for the last 24 hours and Last 7 days:
Last 24 hours:
Last 7 Days:
Last 24 hours looks pretty good compared to previous checks. But as you can see my Last 7 days looks pretty outrageous. Counting all my social media apps (not slack). I totalled 9.7 hours in the last 7 days JUST on social media apps.
That’s over a full days worth of work just staring at social media apps.
What I’m doing to combat this:
- I moved all my social media apps into a group called ‘Time Wasters.’ Just moving my social media apps into this group subconsciously stops me from going to them because my mind associates the group name with negativity.
- I use Forest for my iPhone and Focus for my Mac at work to block distractions and keep me off my phone. This has drastically improved my productivity and focus at work.
- I turned off all social media push notifications on my iPhone.
- Setting a 60 minute power down session everyday. I literally sit on the couch, and just get bored. It’s extremely difficult at first, but once you do it a few times, being bored feels great (never thought I’d be saying that).
- Taking time to read. Before college I read books a month, after college I read a book per year or less. I think this had a lot to do with how much more involved I was in technology and screens that I got pulled away from reading. My goal this year is to read one book a month.
- Unfollow EVERYONE on Facebook, not unfriend. I wanted to make Facebook a barren wasteland, to discourage me from visiting by reflex. This alone has really helped me reflexively checking facebook every 5 seconds.
- I purged social media feeds of toxic people and unimportant things. I went through my facebook friends list and removed 200–300 people that I haven’t talked to in a year or more, or just simply didn’t feel the need to be exposed to their WCW posts any longer.
- I muted twitter keywords and unfollowed people that don’t bring my value. I now use twitter more for a learning / exploring platform than a place to air my grievances (though I still do occasionally tweet to companies for issues I’m having with their products).
- I use Social Fixer to remove ads, unwanted game requests and other clutter. So now my Facebook feed looks like this:
These steps are small but so far they’ve really helped my situation. I’m hoping that if anyone else comes across this, it may help them too.
Comments / discussion are always welcome!