Last year, Apple released the Screen Time app as part of its “digital health” initiative to address growing concerns around increasing device usage, smartphone addiction and social media’s impact on our mental well-being.
As much as it hurts me deeply to admit this, according to my Screen Time app, last week I spent 38 hours and 37 minutes on my phone with a daily average of 5 hours and 31 minutes.
That’s a full-time job.
What is even alarming is that that week’s average seems to be the rule of my weekly phone usage, rather than the exception. This week, I have spent 33 hours 23 minutes on my phone.
To think I quit social media to precisely avoid this…
I can make a number of excuses to justify spending over 30-hours on average on my phone every week. I’m in a long-distance relationship and spend a lot of time on the phone with my partner, or I listen to music a lot.
Still, 30 hours is excessive.
How could I spend so many hours on my phone on a weekly basis when I have so many things I wanted to work on; finish reading a book, complete the Learning to Learn course on Coursera, write a blog post, to name a few.
With all these important things that I value and could be doing instead, I spent 38 hours on my phone last week.
How did I even find 30 hours in my week to be on my phone?
After careful consideration and some self-reflection, I came to the realization that a good chunk of the time I spent on my phone came from the in-between moments where I reach for my phone to pass the time, or avoid uncomfortable social/emotional moments.
I could be waiting for or on the bus, walking to places, during a meal, right before sleep and after waking up, during a conversation, while on the toilet, my phone has become an extension of me. It’s with me everywhere I go. Or rather, I bring it everywhere I go.
Since that realization, I have been working on creating literal space between my phone and I to avoid excessively, and often unnecessarily, reaching for my phone.
Ideas for creating literal space between you and your phone
Don’t carry your phone in your pockets.
Put it in your backpack/purse/bag where it’s harder to mindlessly reach into or grab it.
Vow to stop walking around with your phone in your hands.
This is my #1 priority on this list.
How did we get to this point?
I bring my debit card everywhere with me to use it when and if necessary, but I don’t walk/talk/breathe with it in my hands.
Don’t carry your phone around the house.
It is actually pretty ridiculous when you really think about it. Instead, just leave it in a space where it’s accessible and forget about it.
Put your phone away at work.
Keep it in a drawer, or leave it in your bag. Put it anywhere but on your desk constantly hijacking your attention.
Don’t be on your phone in situations where you wouldn’t pick up a book and read.
This one is really hard but it’s a good measuring stick of the inappropriateness or unnecessary nature of most of our phone usage. In situations where you would pick up a book and read, read one.
Don’t walk and text.
This can be dangerous and at least 99.9 percent of the time, the message isn’t urgent. If you must text back, pull over to the side, respond back and then resume walking. Do this a few times and it gets annoying enough that it’s more convenient to avoid walking and texting altogether.
Leave your phone behind.
If it is not an inconvenience, leave your phone behind. For instance, when you go for lunch at work, when you go to the washroom, when you meet your friend(s) to hang out, etc.
Of course, it’s not useful to demonize the tool itself.
I believe that smartphones are one of the greatest inventions of our time, and it’s completely acceptable to spend 30 hours a week on our phone on activities that we value (just like it’s completely justifiable to watch Homecoming: A film by Beyoncé on Netflix three and a half times in one week because it brings you so much joy).
Still, it is critical that we remain cautious of our dependency on smartphones as a crutch to avoid discomfort, and escape real life.
The best way to truly overcome our smartphone addiction, of course, is to dump our phones in the Atlantic ocean and be done with it for once and all.