How To Have a Better Relationship With Your Phone
By Sadira Sittampalam
Over the pandemic, it is no question that our screen time has collectively soared. I remember right at the beginning of the pandemic, my screentime got up to 12 hours as I was constantly on a call with somebody, texting somebody, or on other various social media platforms. While it has come down to a better level by now, I still feel an unhealthy attachment to my phone and find myself scrolling through it with no real purpose. If I were using it for a valid reason, I wouldn’t mind as much, but since it has started to take away from time that I could be spending doing more productive things, I figured it was time to start looking at how to reduce the amount of time I spend on it.
Understand how much you use your phone
If you don’t have a screen time tracker by now, it’s high time you get one. Oftentimes, we severely underestimate the amount of time we spend on our phones, which makes it difficult to gauge how much time we lose to them. However, just having the screen time tracker is not enough, you have to actively look at these stats and see whether you are improving or not.
You should also check on your moods when you use your phone. I’ve found when I’m scrolling through an app like Instagram, I often feel empty or unsatisfied once I’m done scrolling (sometimes even while I’m scrolling). While this might not be the same for you, this observation did help me notice that I should limit my time on Instagram as it wasn’t really giving me anything other than a dissatisfied feeling. Meanwhile, you should also notice whether you start to feel guilty after using certain apps for a long time. Sometimes this guilt is not because you are actually guilty and instead is because you think you should feel guilty. So if you spend a speedy 20 minutes on TikTok and feel guilty but had a good amount of fun and are in a better mood - you don’t have to feel that guilty
Your phone does provide you with a lot of benefits
This brings me to my second point which is that you should still appreciate the positive side of your phone and all of the good things it gives you. This is often very personal to each person. So understanding all of its benefits is key to making your screen time more productive and more positive for you. The things you enjoy doing matter, even if it is on your phone, so you should factor that into your daily schedule and account for that time in your screen time so you can just eliminate all the unnecessary phone time.
Passive vs. Active social media use
Another thing to understand about using social media is that there is a thing called passive and active use. Active use is when you actively interact with posts on your feed, either by commenting or sending people a DM. Meanwhile, passive use is seeing a new photo posted by a friend and continue to scroll. Research has shown that the more time we spend scrolling through social feeds without actively engaging, the more likely we are to compare ourselves to others and experience depressive thoughts. So what this means is you should take some time to see what is on your feed. While you might not want to start unfollowing lots of people, you can always mute them so that they don’t turn up on your feed, and that way you will spend less time passively scrolling. Alternatively, you can just recognise when you are feeling communicative or not - if you are, it might be a good time to scroll through Instagram and start new conversations and dialogues with people. However, if you are not, you might want to spend some time on something else.
Make it a habit, not a short-term ‘detox’
So many people these days take short digital detoxes away from certain social media apps. However, this mindset is not productive in achieving a lasting change. As someone who has occasionally taken breaks from certain social media, even I have noticed that in the long run, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. I always get right back into my old habits. This is why we should take the time to make small but significant changes in the ways we use social media. Having a better relationship with your phone is all about having a balance between our digital devices and our non-digital lives that works for us personally and works to improve our long-term
Have times during the day where you do not use your phone
One of the most crucial changes I made that has dramatically helped me in my daily life is that I do not look at my phone first thing in the morning. I try to complete my morning routine of brushing my teeth, making my bed, and having a shower, and then only at breakfast do I open up my phone. While this doesn’t seem like a huge change to make, it actually helps start your morning off in a much calmer way, making you feel a lot more content and making your mood a little bit better throughout the day. It also sets you up for a day of focus rather than a day of distractions. You might even want to have a no-phone in the bedroom rule which automatically makes your bedroom a much more meditative space - just remember to buy a separate alarm clock so you wake up on time!
Moreover, while it’s already pretty obvious that you should try and keep away from your phone when you are with other people, this isn’t something that is practiced very much. The reason for this piece of advice is as research has shown that even the visible presence of a phone that is turned off still inhibits people›s conversations. They tend to stick to shallower topics as they are subconsciously worried that they will be interrupted by their device.
When you don’t want to use your phone, keep it somewhere you cannot see it
Continuing from the last section, it is clear that phones are a distraction even when they are turned off. Just the sight of a phone is enough to be distracted, which is why you should practice keeping your phone away from sight. You can turn your call notifications on, so that you won’t miss out on any important calls but keep texts off (remember if it is that important, they will call you!). This way, you can concentrate fully on the task in front of you. This isn’t even about working distraction-free, it is about doing things like reading, watching a movie, or playing a game where your full focus is what is in front of you. Too often, we spend our time mindlessly scrolling while we have other activities that we put half our attention into, and this just makes us live our lives half empty. We need to embrace focus and get rid of distraction.