How to Overcome Screen Addiction - 5 Practical Tips
We have come to depend on screens for nearly everything imaginable these days: work, education, shopping, entertainment, friendship maintenance, dating, communication, transportation, financial management, boredom alleviation, inspiration...the list could go on forever. Some even rely on their devices to help identify the perfect time to take a pee break during a movie. Really.
In rare quiet moments where we choose (or are forced) to take a breather from our perpetual screen exposure, the lack of distraction lets rise the sense that something may be a bit...off.
Poster on BTS Skytrain system in Bangkok
Are we spending too much time gazing lovingly into the eyes of our devices? Are we addicted to our tech? If so, what negative effects may be experienced as a result of our addiction, and most importantly, how do we fight back?
In 2016, Americans spent over 10 hours with screens per day. When I first read the article two years ago I couldn't believe it. Who are these people spending almost half the hours in a day plugged in or zoned out? That's more time than is spent on eating, driving, grooming, exercising, sleeping, and interacting with people combined.
You'd probably assume that much time spent on screens would have some pretty negative consequences (you know, for those other people).
Physical health is affected as screen time tends to make us more sedentary, contributing to obesity. Excessive smartphone usage has been linked to neck and back issues as well as to sleep deprivation which can have significant negative physical and cognitive effects. Intellectual abilities are diminished, as concentration atrophies.
Our interactions with people suffer as well. Even when not in use, the mere presence of smartphones can negatively impact relationships. One study found that simply having a phone nearby (even without checking it), can interfere with attempts at interpersonal connections.
Many countries, including Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have already officially recognized tech addiction as a disorder and the US is finally starting to fund studies looking at the issue.
Do I have your attention yet? Not to worry fellow
Steemitonians Steemtastics Steemians, all is not lost. Here are 5 practical tips to help you fight back:
1. Step on the scale
Maybe the most painful step, but it's essential that to know the extent of the problem. Did you grasp your heart and exclaim "surely not!" when you read that Americans spend over 10 hours per day on screens? Maybe try a tracking app to get an idea of how much screen time you're racking up. Here are a couple of free apps I've tried:
Antisocial lets you check your phone usage, how many times you unlock, the amount of time spent with each application, and allows you to compare your usage with other people. It's free, and there are no advertisements.
Space is another good free app, offering similar features.
Try one of these apps or similar for a couple of weeks, then add any your screen time from work, plus TV time, plus any other screens you have in your life. The results may surprise you. And once you have an idea of how much time you're giving to screens, you may be horrified/inspired enough to take action.
2. Disable notifications on smartphones
One of the first things I'd suggest is to disable all notifications on your phone. Once you're done hyperventilating, continue reading and know that IT IS OKAY not to know everything immediately. It really is. And almost nothing is urgent enough to warrant your immediate response.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule - simply turn your notifications back on when necessary. But the underlying stance you're making here is to refuse to have your day dictated by buzzes and pings. You will decide when to engage with your phone, not the other way around.
3. Don't use screens in the bedroom
Especially if you're struggling with getting enough sleep. The light from screens trick the brain into believing that it should be awake. Don't watch TV in bed. Leave laptops in the living room. If you use your phone as a clock or alarm either put the phone in airplane mode at bedtime or buy a cheap alarm clock.
4. Declare one day per week screen-free
Our family started doing Screen Free Sundays about a year ago and we love it. We're not perfect at it - if we need to grab an Uber, arrange a meeting, or have a skype date with grandma, that's fine. But we avoid screens as much as possible, letting things that can wait until Monday wait until Monday. We can easily see the benefits. We read more. We're more 'bored' sitting around the house so we tend to get out and explore our city. The day goes by more slowly, giving us the sense of a longer weekend. We're more likely to see friends, exercise, get to bed at a reasonable time. I find myself very rested Monday morning, perfect way to start the new work week.
5. Prioritize unplugged vacations
You have a choice on where to go on your vacation - why not go off the grid? Get out of network, preferably close to nature. @suitcasemama and I started this tradition a few years ago and now we don't consider it a proper holiday unless we have this type of experience - unplugged and out of the city. There's something about taking a long roadtrip, hiking, camping, and exploring that we find deeply renewing. Thinking becomes slower and more focused. Conversations are deeper. The persistent urge to constantly check our devices gradually fades. Daily cycles become aligned with the natural rhythms of life - we're up with the sun and asleep much earlier than normal. We return feeling truly rested and less dependent on our screens.
I hope you enjoyed the read and hopefully picked up something new to try. What about you? This is a battle I constantly fight, I have by no means figured out. I would be very interested in hearing what others are doing!