How To Break Up With Your Smartphone

Natalie Dest, Art and Entertainments Editor

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It has become increasingly more prevalent that a wall of anxiety surrounds our use of technology, that if we don’t check up as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.

According to CNBC, “most individuals are checking their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications.” With the average smartphone user unlocking their phone up to 110 times a day, the barrier that our screen holds between ourselves and the outside world is becoming more clear.

A recent study conducted by Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, has shown that despite increasing anxiousness, the urgency to constantly check notifications and feeds interferes with people’s ability to focus on what’s happening in front of them. Whether this takes away from social interactions or a simple task at hand, it is dangerously quick at how fast one’s cell phone is consuming attention.

With 95 percent of U.S. adults owning smartphones in a 2018 Pew Research conducted survey, it is projected that this incline will be the same, if not higher in 2019. Not only will this continue to defer concentration, but the psychological toll will be more prominent as well.

It is particularly college students that this barrier is seen to affect the highest, taking away concentration from studies and extracurriculars. In a recent 2017 Campus Technology study, 54 percent are using their cell phones to text friends, while 52 percent use them to browse social media during class.

For those feeling as though their phone is a distraction, it’s not about removing yourself from your phone completely, but rather developing a relationship with your cell phone that is mindful. If you’re finding yourself looking for options on how to do so, here’s out to “break up” with your phone in a healthy and practical way.

1. Create a schedule

One of the most basic, yet important steps that Rosen suggests in his study is to set alarms on your phone specifying how often you check it. Starting with every 10 minutes, gradually increasing to a half an hour, every 45 minutes, then every hour. When your alarm sounds, spend one minute going through any and or all notifications, then reset the timer.

If you’re particularly anxiety-ridden and hold yourself accountable, Rosen also suggests telling your close friends and family members that you may not be responding to their messages as quickly as you typically do.

2. Disable push notifications

It’s easy to be interrupted by every “like” that your most recent Instagram picture receives or that your friend has “retweeted” your tweet. Turning off these apps other than your message and email apps can decrease distraction.

Controlling your preferences like this can cause a big difference. You’ll find yourself more invested in what you’re doing off your phone without your screen glowing every other minute.

3. Take distracting apps off your home screen

“A lot of [phone usage] is unconscious behavior,” according to Rosen. “You shift from Facebook to Instagram, to checking the weather, to text messages.”

You will cut down the “accidental” time-sucks of your smartphone if you are placing the apps that consume most of your time in another area on your phone. Keeping just the apps that you want to encourage yourself to use, whether they be for reading or work, front and center on your home screen will increase your attention. Banishing distracting apps to another part of your cell phone will keep you on task and defer you from clicking immediately.

4. Don’t bring your phone to bed

One of the most consuming times of the day that our phone distracts us from is at night. Don’t let your cell phone be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you check in the morning.

Charging your phone out of reach is the first step in succeeding. You will be less tempted to scroll throughout social media and messages when you should be getting sleep. Not only this, but the screen brightness from your smartphone signals our brains to stay alert and keeps us from dozing off. With your cell phone away from a close grab, this will make it easier for your body to stay healthy and maintain the sleep it needs.

5. Practice separation

One of the most crucial steps in creating a healthier relationship with your phone is realizing you can go without it. Leaving your phone at home while you go for a walk or head to class is the perfect stepping stone in trying this. At first, you may be surprised at by how powerfully and seriously you crave your phone. However, the more you go places without your cell phone, you will slowly begin to notice how much you can get done without relying on this piece of technology. 

It is notable how impactful our mini-devices that we carry in our pockets can have on our lives. Once realizing that the apps that live inside our screen are increasingly stealing our time and attention each day, it will become easier to reclaim your time.

Whether you attempt one or all of these tips, you will begin to build a relationship with your cell phone that is healthy, effective and more freeing.