My phone’s too shady. After my perfunctory doom scroll of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube, it sent me a notification that for the past week, I had spent an average of 12 hours daily on my phone. Just a quick refresher, each day only has 24 hours.
That notification read me to filth and I had to face the embarrassing and shameful truth: Yes, I spend half a day on my phone, endlessly scrolling and going back and forth between social media apps mindlessly. I knew that wasn’t healthy, but quarantine narrowed my go-to leisure activities so I was stuck with my phone with not much else to do.
Excessive screen time has a lot of negative effects to the human body, both physically and mentally. Aside from eye strain, being on the phone for hours makes you sedentary and can impair your cognitive performance. Studies also pin screen time to rising cases of anxiety, attention issues and depression. One study even linked excessive screen time to higher mortality risk, as if we don’t already have a pandemic on our hands. All these reasons got me buckling up for a phone detox and for those of you who are having a hard time saying goodbye to those little screens, I’m here to offer just some of the ways you can purge them out of your routine.
Say goodbye to notifications
Push notifications are a plague to those who are easily distracted. They’re specifically designed by app developers to tell users to open their app next. Many push notifications also use creative tactics to entice you into using the app for an longer than you need to (hello, Duo Lingo).
Attending to every notification that pops up can make you lose hours in a phone roundtrip so do yourself a favor and turn them off. You can opt to let essential messaging notifications stay, especially if you’re needed at work. But social media notifications? Bye, girl.
Make your phone boring
While deleting apps is a big commitment, what you can do is to make your phone work for you. Your phone can handle multiple screens, so make that work for you. Place only essential apps like calls and messaging on your main home screen. The other screens are where you hide your most tempting apps. Make them inaccessible. Secure them in folders on folders on folders so even accessing an app would be a struggle. Discourage yourself from the effort of even looking for a nonessential app.
Another strategy is to change your phone’s display to grayscale. Smartphones were made to be addicting. All those flashy colors and fun features always lure you in. Going grayscale sucks that colorful temptation out. Unless you’re a big fan of black and white movies, this might just be the simplest way to whittle down your screen time.
Put a cap on your phone use
Self-discipline can only go so far, especially in quarantine where there’s not a lot of non-phone distractions in the first place. Thankfully, iOS’ Screen Time and Android’s Digital Wellbeing exist to make banishing distractions easier. Both of these features keep a record of how much time you’ve spent on your phone, what app you spend the most time on and how many times in a day you unlock it.
Aside from keeping receipts and possibly shaming you into considering cutting down phone time via a shady notification, these features can set time limits on your apps and block them when the limit has been reached. You can set these limits yourself so you can probably start small and set a one-hour time limit until you can build up to blocking your apps for the whole weekend (which for me was relaxing and surprisingly effective). Don’t be tempted to turn off the blocks prematurely—always tell yourself you’re better than that.
Don’t be clingy
This is the harshest and most effective method I offer you. Your phone is not surgically attached to your hand so there’s literally nothing stopping you from leaving it somewhere where you can’t use it.
Leave your phone in your working area when you go to eat so you can focus on eating and not on finding the best way to prop your phone up against a ketchup bottle to watch Instagram stories. Leave your phone on your bed when you go and use the toilet because you don’t need to be tweeting while relieving yourself or go the old fashioned way and read the backs of shampoo bottles. Leave your phone on the table when you go to sleep so you never have to experience the pain of a phone falling on your face at midnight ever again. When your phone is rarely with you, there’s less chance of you bringing it out and losing yourself in it again.
Better yet, go cold turkey on this B. Lock it up and destroy the key because hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Explore other ways to pass time
There are way more enjoyable activities to do when you’re bored or enjoying a break than going through your social media feeds again. While Twitter memes will always be funny, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling just isn’t fun anymore. If you haven’t yet, try baking or cooking in your free time. Aside from having something to munch on after, baking and cooking can help you manage pandemic stress. Working out is also something that people have clung to this pandemic to avoid becoming couch potatoes. If you’re not an active person in the first place, it might be hard to get into high-impact activities but you can definitely survive a simple brisk walking or jump rope routine.
If you want to get really entertained, you might want to start on the books you haven’t read yet. Books require attention and concentration, definitely the antithesis to the senseless scrolling we do on our phones. The Atlantic describes reading, especially in quarantine as, “[something that] requires more active participation, something that can consume us just as we can consume it.” So for those who are feeling the toll of lessened physical social interaction, books can provide that refreshing feeling of being in a world other than ours, so if it’s not a way to go through your to be read pile, at least pick up a book for escapism via pages and not via screen.