How many of you are annoyed at how much you use your phone? Are you bothered when a friend or partner uses his/her phone in front of you? How about when you see people walking down the street, sitting on the bus, eating, DRIVING with their head tilted down staring into the screen? The common thread here is annoyance. It's like a nagging stupid little bug that buzzes and buzzes and never goes away. I know I'm not the only one, and I don't see how this pattern will get better as we move into the future.
One glaring aspect of this phenomenon is that many of us check our devices to find a sense of connection through social media. I know I do! However, the reality that I've experienced is that I feel empty and less connected after checking my news feed. And very often it actually takes me away from present moment social interactions. The connection I feel through the device is false, temporary and illusory.
As a health coach, I specialize in behavior change. What a perfect situation we have here for an experiment! I've been annoyed for a long time, but in the past week I decided to take steps towards changing my behavior (remember, you can only change YOUR behavior... your partner has to make his or her own choices and you can choose how you react). One thing I've noticed is that the first step is mindfulness. If you don't even notice you're using you're phone, how can you change the pattern of addiction?
Here are a few tips for changing phone/device behavior:
1- Move your apps around to break your habit. My first step was to move my Facebook app off the toolbar on my home screen and into my entertainment folder. I noticed my checking pattern reduce dramatically when I had to take 3 extra steps (slide, tap, tap) to check the app.
2- Don't take your phone bed. I check my phone last thing before bed and first thing in the morning. And I use my phone as alarm. WHY is it so hard to get myself to meditate for 10 minutes per day when I scroll mindlessly through Facebook for 10 minutes every morning? WTF? I'm buying a wake-up light RIGHT NOW........... as soon as it arrives, the phone will stay charging in the kitchen at night.
3- Track your app usage. Why not fight fire with fire? The irony of using an app to diminish your app usage is not lost on me. There are numerous free apps that can track your usage and either gently remind you or kick you off when you've reached a self-imposed usage limit. Here's one article. Let me know if you find an app you love! I just downloaded Moment for my iPhone. My sister is using a program called "waste no time" on her work computer. Do you like it, Sarah @blueyedgenes?
4- Take a technology fast. Here's one you can do with a friend or partner! Designate a day or part of a day where phones are off or silenced. The very act of putting your phone away from arm's length will automatically make you check it less. Maybe you'll find another activity you love... like interacting with a human! :) You could even use this as a chance to use an 'I' statement: 'When you read your phone while we're having a conversation, I feel like our connection is lost. I feel dismissed and diminished.'
5- Try something new. What are some ways you can think of to change your technology behaviors? With just 3 seconds of brainstorming I came up with 1- leave the phone at home when I go out for socializing, 2- take a 5 minute walk outside instead of catching up on notifications at work 3- silence or disable all notifications on the phone 4- post less and check less 5- take yourself off or interact less with unnecessary apps (Twitter or Instagram not fun anymore? WTF is Vine?) 6- put it on airplane mode when you're feeling 'checky' 7- designate a day for checking Facebook and stay off the rest of the week 8- use a language app to learn new skills instead of reading through a newsfeed (yes you're still looking at your phone, but it's fruitful!)
I'm so excited that I don't have to be stuck in a behavior I don't like. Will you join me in ending the epidemic of 'scrolliosis'? You don't have to quit cold-turkey to change a behavior. Little changes can make big impacts.
I am a lifetime learner and researcher in happy, healthy, fun living.