– How much do you love your smartphone? Chances are, the answer is “too much,” right? We all want to spend less time looking at screens and more time having real-life experiences. But see, the problem is, hold on a second. This will just take a second. Look, the data is pretty clear.
One in three people around the world has trouble unplugging, even when they’re aware that it’s way healthier to put the phone down. I’m not trying to nag you guys. I have this problem, too, and I’m guilty of staring at my phone at, like, some of the worst possible times, like when I should be playing with my kids or making sure they’re not burning my apartment down.
But fortunately for us, there’s a lot of things that we can do to change how our phones look and perform. In fact, if you want to make your smartphone just look straight-up ugly, you can do that. Let’s start with the tools that are already on your phone. Apple’s iOS 12 update included a new feature called Screen Time, which gives you a wealth of data about your iPhone and iPad usage, breaking down the amount of time that you spend in each individual app on your device.
There’s also App Limits, which let you set a daily allotment of time for a particular app or for an entire category of apps, like social media, productivity, or entertainment. Once it runs out, iOS will gray out the icon and have a full-screen banner telling you you’ve reached your time limit. Android phone users have a setting called Digital Wellbeing, which is pretty similar to Screen Time. The main difference between the two features is you can basically press a button to ignore it on iOS, but on Android, you have to manually remove the limit, which is way more annoying.
An Android app called Siempo makes your phone boring with a white background and bland icons. And there’s a twist. Siempo constantly rearranges your icons so you can’t form the muscle memory habit of reflexively launching the apps. You can also turn on your phone’s grayscale function on Android and iOS. Everything should turn dull and gray. It’s like that movie Pleasantville but in reverse. You might need to alter your behavior, but you don’t want to quit cold turkey. Think of it more like going on a diet. You still need to eat, but your goal should be to cut back to more healthy levels of use. So how do we do that? Some tips that I’ve seen outlined by various experts in behavioral psychology include setting goals for using your smartphone and working up to them. Turn your phone off during certain times of the day. Don’t bring your phone to bed.
I’m working on that myself; just ask my wife. Hi, honey. Delete triggering apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and accept the fact that by limiting your smartphone use, you’re going to miss out on certain invitations, breaking news, or gossip. Take a deep breath, embrace the FOMO. For more extreme cases, you can also get rid of your smartphone altogether. Currently, there’s a trend in minimalist phones, which are basically phones that do a lot less.
There’s a whole bunch of minimalist phones out there that range from most functionality to least. Devices like the Unihertz Jelly are tiny smartphones that are just harder to use, while others like the Light Phone just make phone calls. If all else fails, there’s always, drum roll please, digital detox camp. These places have been around for a while, and honestly, they’re pretty easy to hate on. Rich, privileged people heading out to the woods where they learn to cope without electronic devices? Inaccessible to most of us, but if you can afford it, have fun. Hey, I get it; smartphones are great. You can play Candy Crush, watch YouTube tutorials, and the real world is kind of a mess. But when it starts to interfere with your life, it may be time to reassess your relationship to technology. Then hopefully you can achieve that perfect phone-life balance. Having real-life experiences, right?