New Year, Less Tech: How To Break Your Phone Addiction

Phone overuse is real; get it under control in 2017.

Phone overuse is real; get it under control in 2017.

It's a new year! But it's the same old story with you and your lover, er, I mean, your phone.

Are you addicted? Resolving to break up once and for all? 

When I say “addicted,” I really just mean overusing your phone. Addiction is not a word to use lightly, and some people are actually addicted to their phones in a clinical sense. It’s true. But putting that aside, there are still serious side effects to phone overuse. Wasting your life is one major one, but if you need to be scared into submission, you can also count on interpersonal conflicts, forgetting how to have conversations, and even pains from the dreaded “techneck.” If you want to get really scared, think about all the car wrecks, some of them deadly, that occur because of phone use while driving. 

In fact, even as I write this, my phone is lighting up and buzzing beside me and I just HAVE to know why. Yup, totally glanced over to look.

If you think it's time to break up with your phone, or at least take a Ross-and-Rachel-style pause, here are some useful ways to cut down on screen time.

1. Use its powers against itself.

Outsmart your smartphone. Turn off push notifications for certain apps that cause the most trouble. Or, if you’re especially bold, turn notifications off altogether. You can disable everything except calls and texts so your phone is not constantly alight, reminding you of its presence.

Unsubscribe from all of those superfluous email newsletters. You automatically delete some of them anyway. You don’t need to know when that thing goes on sale that you didn’t want to buy in the first place.

Airplane mode isn’t just for airplanes any longer. People are using it for practicing mindfulness and remaining present in all kinds of situations.

It seems counterintuitive, but there are even apps that can help. Checky is one that counts how many times you check your phone per day. The app Moment will track usage time and will actually shut down your phone at a certain point, if you let it.

2. Everything in its place.

Put your phone away somewhere you can’t reach easily when you need (or want) to be fully aware. It’s so hard to get up once you’re on a couch or camped out in a cozy spot at a party. If you’re as lazy as I am, this is one time when this trait will be incredibly useful.

Assign it a designated place during the work day, at family meals, or at other crucial events when it shouldn’t be a nuisance. Keep it out of certain rooms entirely, such as the bathroom or bedroom, and replace it with a book (or person, if not the bathroom). Put it in the glove compartment or backseat while you’re driving.

3. Tell her about it.

Billy Joel knows what I mean. Tell your friends and family members that you’re trying to cut back. These conversations will help hold you accountable, but will also make you feel less pressure to immediately respond to a text or call. Your people will already know you might be away from your phone, so they’ll give you some extra time to reply.

Plus, they may be feeling the same way about their devices. You could develop a support system. They may have already found effective methods for stepping away that would also be motivating for you.

4. Think in numbers. 

Whether you’re using apps to track your phone time, you hide your charger and go by battery life, or simply count manually, numbers tell you a lot. And, unfortunately for me, they’re also objective and concrete. (I’m still not sure how I survived middle school math class.)

Streamlining the number of apps on your phone is another way to reduce time spent unnecessarily glued to a screen. Do you really need all of those, or did you download them once and forget about them?

5. Let your inner child roam free.

Start with small changes and build from there if you need to. Treat yo’self when you’ve accomplished some of your phone-free goals.

Get creative. Think of all the things you could be doing with your time. And actually do them. If you’ve tracked your time, you can bank it toward starting a new hobby, learning a language, getting outside, or going on your own brand of adventure.

If you get desperate enough, pull out the landline. They have those fun, curly cords and everything. That’s phone-tastic! (Groan.)

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