How to Lower Your Screen-Time Anxiety

It is no longer news that more and more people spend hours on their mobile phone, a little too much than necessary and probably for no good reason. A quick peep is never enough as you find yourself spending 30 minutes to 2 hours “Just checking something real quick.”

A 2018 Nielsen study carried out  found that US adults spend about two hours and 22 minutes per day on their devices. This number does not include time spent messaging or just unlocking your phone for whatever reasons. 

 Why couldn’t I put down my phone?

The reason why smartphones are so addictive still leave researchers baffled, but they have some ideas as to why. The first reason is it could be the phone itself, the satisfying feel of tapping or unlocking the screen. The addiction could also arise from the feedback loops created by apps like Instagram and Facebook. It could be either of the reasons or the combination of both.

Most big tech companies have spoken against the negative effects of too much screen in recent years. Most have tried introducing tools that limit screen time. 

However, they have financial incentives restricting them to not go too far in this direction. We have seen such cases where Apple cracked down on third-party iPhone apps designed to reduce phone addiction.

A former Google product manager expressed that smartphones exploit the way our brains work. As humans we crave dopamine (the happiness molecule), and our phones provide it. Product designers take this into consideration when designing products.

What’s wrong with smartphone addiction?

The effects of phone addiction are mostly psychological. Excessive phone usage and anxiety continue to correlate according to studies. People who tend to spend hours on their mobile devices tend to be depressed, anxious or have low self-esteem. However, it is not certain if it is the phone itself or apps that is causing the addiction. We also don’t know if anxious people spend more time on their phones or its the other way round. 

Phone (and app) addiction is so serious that unfortunate but justifiable terminologies have been created to describe some of its symptoms:

  • Nomophobia. Yep, “No-Mobile-Phobia.” This is the fear of being without your device. 
  • FOMO. The fear of missing out. 
  • Ringxiety. Imagined rings or vibrations that result in checking your phone often. 
  • Textiety. Anxiety associated with feeling like you have to respond to a text message ASAP.

How I cut my screen time down to one hour a day

It is possible to reduce your screen time by simply applying these techniques. It may be extremely hard and you may not stick to the time frame but with time you will get better. 

Generally, you will feel less anxious, and you will begin to give people your undivided attention. Here’s what you can do. 

Make your phone go grayscale

Without all those colors, apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other apps lose their appeal. On an iPhone ($900 at Sprint), go to Settings > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. Turn this setting on. 

Then, go to Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and select Color Filters. Now, if you need to see your screen in color, you can simply  triple click your phone’s side button. To go back to grayscale, triple-click again. 

Disable ‘raise to wake’

All it takes is a slight movement and the screen of your phone lights up. These wake-ups would launch me into long, unplanned phone sessions. Disabling the feature means your phone will attract you much less. 

To disable raise to wake on the iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness. Toggle Raise to Wake to the off position.

Turn off almost all notifications

This is another amazing trick. At first, you’ll instinctively check up on your phone to see if you have any updates. As the days go by, your unlock will become less frequent as you discover that there is nothing there waiting for you. 

You can disable notifications for emails (except from key people, like my direct peers and manager), messages and Google Calendar. 

Delete social media apps

Ok dont freak out yet. And yes, I am serious about deleting some social media apps. Nothing would happen to you if you don’t have Facebook.

You can use the iPhone’s Screen Time feature to limit the amount of time per day spent in social media apps, including Instagram. 

Stop pooping with your phone

This is one habit most people are guilty of. It is like a bathroom companion, ladies have even formed a trend of taking pictures in restrooms of hotels and restaurants.  Taking your mobile phone to the restroom is gross and  also a lame excuse to spend more time checking scores and swiping through social media. 

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