I have been thinking a lot lately on how I interact with the technologies around me and how that affects my daily life. This growing feeling that I use too much my phone has been bugging me the last months. This made me wonder, what is creating this unpleasant feeling? I have never considered myself a technology "junkie". I barely post in social media and I try to stay away from the endless scrolling feeds in Instagram or Facebook. However, after analysing how I use my phone my finding were to say the least: frightening.
Like most of us, I have had a phone in my pocket since my early teenage years and I have never really thought how much time I spend on it or why I do it. It was time to try to find the answer to my questions and thats when I stumbled upon the book Digital Minimalism just by pure chance. It made me re-think my relationship with my day-to-day technologies and that's when I started analyzing. I came to the conclusion that I didn't really have a choice in this matter, I felt I have no control over my phone use. I had a sense of hopelessness and the value I was getting out of all that interaccion was more negative than positive. Does this sound familiar to you?
Time spent on my phone
Even though I never had the feeling that I was overindulging in using my smartphone, my wellbeing-app was saying something completely different. I was spending on average a whooping 1.5-2 hours a day on my phone. It might not sound like much but if you add up every day its 10-14 hours A WEEK! How is this even possible?
The main culprits where:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, reddit, Youtube...): About 1-1.5 hours of the time was spent in these APPs.
- Messaging APPs (WhatsApp, Telegram...): Usually between 20-30 minutes a day in these apps.
I did carry out another fascinating test on myself: how many times do you take out your phone each day from your pocket? In my case I was taking out my phone around 150 times each day, 150 times!!!! I could not believe it.
Mechanism that keep you connected: Notifications are NOT your friends.
I had never given a second thought to the notifications in my phone. A cool little feature that keeps you up-to date with your family, friends and interesting content you might be subscribed to. However, that terrible blinking light or vibration in your phone is like a magnet for your mind. It's impossible to resist, I found myself NEEDING to take out the phone from my pocket. It was not even a choice for me anymore, what if it something like REALLY important? (which 99% is not).
My first try at cutting down social media: hide all notifications
My first thought when I realized how the notifications worked was: "Out of sight, out of mind". My idea was that if I hid all notifications I should be able to consciously choose when to use my phone or not. Oh boy I was wrong. I developed a new horrible habit: I was taking out the phone from my pocket much more often and opening every app to see if I had gotten a message. It almost felt worse than having the notifications on.
This went on for a while until I took the big decision. I won't be able to open any apps if there are NO APPS in my phone.
No social media for a month, and I hope many more!
I deleted all my social media apps from my phone as a first step: Facebook, Instagram, reddit and Youtube. As I did not want to delete my messaging apps because that would be terribly inconvenient in my life, I deleted most of my big groups where I felt no valuable information was being written. This might seem like a drastic option but I feel absolutely no remorse. I haven't missed anything important in my life this last month!
The results are nothing short of incredible. Gaining between 1-2 hours a day when one works a 8h shift has been groundbreaking to me. It is one of the main reasons I am writing this blog right now, I finally have time to spend on something I had liked to do in a very long time. My reading time has increased as well. This last month I have been able to read a whooping 6 books! I have never read to much in my life!
Apart from the time I have gained, I feel much more calm and free in my head. I spend more time alone and I don't feel I am a slave to my phone anymore. I have it much easier to enjoy my reading or taking a walk without the eternal need to check what is happening in my online life.
All in all I am happy with having embarked in this journey of self improvement. If you have a similar experience as me, I urge you to think what value you get out of the interactions you have with the technologies that surround you. In my case was my phone, in your case it could be videogames, Netflix, Twitch, TV or whatever other distraction. The solution is not easy and mantaining this requires an iron will in the long term but the reward is better than you would expect!