BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
I have a confession to make.
At the beginning of the pandemic…a year ago now…I turned off my screen time report. I’m pretty certain that it would have led to me judging every minute I was doom scrolling away.
At first, it was fine! I mean, I had to be sure that everyone was ok, I had to watch the news, the case count, see what was happening on social media – and it seemed to just snowball from there.
A study from 2019 states that we check our phones 96 times a day – once every 10 minutes.
I would be willing to bet quite a bit we are far, far over that number now.
We know why we should stop being on our phones…I mean, between the sleep issues that accompany phone use, there are the time-wasting moments, constant distraction, fear of missing out (and now, oh my goodness, why are they at that crowded place without a mask what is going on, a phrase I can’t imagine an acronym for!). When you spend less time on your phone, you pay more attention to the people around you, have better face-to-face conversations, are more productive…and, in my case, stress less about the constant input of news and drama that seems to be carrying into 2021.
So how can we break up with our phones? Look, this isn’t a true break up – our smartphones have become everything from wallets to lifelines to computers – you truly can’t fully break up with it like a bad boyfriend, and that’s the first thing you need to admit to yourself. This “break up” is more of a “let’s see less of one another.” Your expectations need to be adjusted, and you need a why! Why do you want to spend less time on your phone? Is it stress, anxiety, a disconnect from the rest of the world…what is the true north for you to spend less time on your phone?
Understand that your phone use (and mine) are addictions! As someone who was also a smoker, it’s important to know that addictions become natural habits. I still remember smoking out of “Oh, well, I guess I’ll have a cigarette.” Did I want one? No. Did I know why I was even having one? Nope. Apply that to your phone, and start building in intention. If you find yourself picking up your phone for no reason, or just picking it up out of habit, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re looking at your phone. If the answer is “I don’t know,” then be sure to put it down until you know why! Build in the intention to break the unconscious habit.
After you develop more of an awareness with your relationship – and if you’re doing a lot of picking up your phone for no reason, set some boundaries and be sure to fill the void with something else. Don’t just say, “Oh, I won’t look at my phone at night.” What are you going to do instead of looking at your phone at night? For me, it wasn’t just finding a book to read instead of my phone. It was leaning into finding the right kind of book to read (for me, a thriller!).
While some people suggest deleting social media apps from a phone or setting time limits that “time out” an app, I think you have to know yourself. If you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, you’re not going to be able to upkeep those objectives. They will become a pain and then you’ll snap right back to what you were doing before setting up this breakup. Start simple and remember small changes make a difference – whatever a small change is for you, do it and stick with it for an extended amount of time first, then move to whatever your next step is!