I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because personally, I know there’s very little chance I’ll end up keeping them. And as it turns out, I’m not alone. While a majority of people may make New Year’s resolutions, only around 8 percent of people are successful in achieving them.
But this year was different (at least, for me).
As the new year rolled around, I thought I would do some digital maintenance and update the software on my phone. Along with this update came my worst nightmare – the Screen Time app. As someone who works in digital communication and social media (and also eats, sleeps, and breathes memes and pop culture news) it’s safe to say I spend a good amount of time on my phone, and I was not ready to find out how many hours my mindless scrolling actually equals. It’s not until you actually see your stats in the form of a number that you appreciate how much of your day is spent staring at this little device.
My magic number? A whopping five hours.
So, this got me thinking. My (not so) New Year’s resolution is to spend less time on my phone – less time on Instagram, less time on Twitter, less time on BuzzFeed, less time on everything. The big question is: how do I go from spending five hours a day on my phone to something more reasonable like two or three?
Drumroll please… there is no right answer.
Looking at the bigger picture, a couple members of Team TMG and I attended a TimesTalks seminar in December hosted by The New York Times and AARP called The Search for Balance in the Digital Era. I know what you’re thinking – this seems like a loaded topic – how is it possible to live a balanced life when almost everything we do is digital in one way or another? (I mean, our cars even read our text messages aloud to us.) But the panel chosen to talk about this navigation process acknowledged the fact that almost everyone struggles to find their own meaning of balance, and that the route each of us take to get there is a complicated one.
So, instead of waiting for an answer to the bigger, societal problem, let’s look at some small ways we can tackle our own digital reliance now.
No More Notifications
How many apps send you pop-up notifications that you could do without? Chances are, probably most. There’s no need for you to find out about the latest professional sports team trade in real time – they will still be gone when you check your phone an hour later. Take the time to parse through your notification settings and do away with push notifications for everything that isn’t vital to your day-to-day life.
Keep the Attention-Grabbers out of Thumb’s Reach
Unless you’re reading books or writing novels from your phone, there’s a good chance you spend a good portion your screen time the same way I do –mindlessly checking social media apps and playing games. So, what’s the solve? Move the apps that you spend the most time with to a secondary app page, or if you’re feeling crazy, delete them as a whole. Deleting the app won’t delete your account, and if you still feel like you have up on that account, you can always use our good old friend, Safari.
Try it out in Black and White
This one may sound far-fetched but stay with me. I’ve talked about color psychology before, and just as companies choose their logo’s colors wisely, the same thing goes for their app’s colors. Bright, fun colors are used to entice us to click on various apps. To combat this, try turning your phone’s color settings to black and white – this may take some of the fun out of using your phone, but that is exactly the point.
Rest Your Case (Phone Included)
If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, keep reading. If you sleep with it in a different room, you’re on the right track. It’s tempting to surf the web or play a game when you’re in bed trying to fall asleep, but chances are, these very actions are coercing your body to stay awake longer. The light emitted from your phone can hinder your circadian rhythm from taking effect, ultimately messing up your night’s sleep. The fix? Try keeping your phone in the kitchen or living room where it can charge overnight. But, what will you use as an alarm in the morning? Have an Alexa or Google Home? Easy fix. If not, you can always invest in one of those ancient things called alarm clocks.
The truth is – no one is immune to digital overload. So, until we have a society-encompassing answer, let this act as your guide to reducing your usage.