Over the past weeks I realised just how much I use my phone on a daily basis and decided to do something about it.
Whenever I had some free time alone such as on the bus or while waiting in line, I would almost instantly reach for my phone and look at social media apps. I was impatient and looking for some sweet distraction that all those endless timelines and newsfeeds would provide. Whether it was Facebook, Twitter or Reddit I would check them multiple times a day just to make sure I didn’t miss anything interesting.
At some point I would even religiously read through the “Here’s what happened while you were away” feed of Twitter. You know, just in case.
It’s only when I started to actively observe this behaviour that it became apparent:
During my bus commute I used to do nothing but read books (and sometimes sleep) but now I was glued to my phone.
During any meal (when I was alone) I would be glued to my phone.
Whenever I was anywhere waiting on something or someone, I would be glued to my phone.
Even when I was talking to my parents via Skype I would often browse on my phone at the same time.
As you can see my phone became my escape from boredom and as a result my attention was scattered all over the place.
I noticed it the most, when I was done browsing through various feeds. I didn’t feel happy or productive. Instead, I felt like I just wasted time that I could’ve used to do other things. More meaningful things.
I’ve been trying a few different methods to change how I use my phone. For starters, I curated every single app that’s currently on my phone. This meant deleting all social media apps that weren’t direct messaging apps. For example I still use Messenger to stay in touch with friends even though I stopped using Facebook.
After that I also re-arranged my home screen. I copied a little trick from Francois Chartrand and keep the first screen of my phone completely blank. Not a single app whatsoever. That way I don’t randomly open apps on my phone out of boredom anymore. Instead I try to only open apps to get things done. Having that little moment of friction when I first unlock my phone certainly helps.
In addition all of my notifications have been silenced ages ago, except for instant messaging. I only see updates if I choose to instead of them getting pushed to my screen constantly.
These days the only things I check on my phone are emails and messages, which are means short, intentional and focused interactions. As a result I don’t reach for my phone nearly as much as I used to. And when I do it’s for a much shorter period of time.
At times it feels almost as if I lost interest in it which is probably a good thing.