The alarm goes off, scroll on Instagram for twenty minutes and then finally get up to start the day. Endless scrolling thumbs, constant emails checking and mindless clicking seems to be a common way to spend the day. With ever sophisticated algorithms, social media is built to capture your attention for as long as possible. Apps like TikTok are cleverly programmed, a stream of never-ending short immersive videos, purposefully built to make you lose hours of your day on it.
However, being addicted to your phone is not a personal failure, these apps are built to be addictive; the inability to put down your phone means the apps doing their job. Their addictiveness not only keeps you on the app for as long as possible but also bombards you with targeted shopping ads, contributing to the culture of constant consumerism.
Phone addictions consequently mean people can constantly keep their minds occupied, and exist in a different reality, a virtual reality, as you can completely dissociate from your surroundings, like not seeing the bus drive past whilst you’re waiting at the stop or not hearing your flatmate asking you a question. The bright screen in our hands can often appear to be more interesting than the world around us. Not only does this mean we spend copious amounts of time stationary and hunched over our phone screens, excessive social media and phone usage also mean our concentration continues to depreciate, as we are constantly looking for distractions.
Our ability to focus is being pretty much worn down from our phones, checking phones during a film or as a ‘break’ from studying. Being always distracted leads to the inability to focus on other parts of our lives, but also means we completely lose the ability to be bored. Being bored isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, instead, it forces you to use your imagination to find ways to keep you entertained, whether you end up doing a big creative project or a small playful task, we can always find ways to keep ourselves busy and entertained.
The aim of this article is not to blame or shame people for over usage of their phones, I am also sometimes guilty of being unable to stop my scrolling thumbs. Social media can be a great place to feel as if you’re connected to others. This is especially pertinent in times of COVID-19, where many people are isolated and lack a solid support system. Therefore, people crave a community and stimulation, as due to the pandemic restrictions a lot of our days are repetitive and mundane. Connection and entertainment are all things that our phones provide, which is especially needed in a world of constant uncertainty. Familiar comforts and mindless escapism into the virtual world is all too common.
Although it’s understandable why so many people struggle to put down their phones, many don’t even realise how long they’re actually spending on it. It’s worth asking yourself: What are you waiting for? What’s going to appear on the screen that makes the 3 hours scrolling to find it worthwhile? Usually, the answer is nothing.
To try and use time more meaningfully, even if that’s just doodling on a scrap piece of paper, there are a few things that’ll help cut down on phone usage. I don’t think there’s any harm in a quick scroll of Instagram (emphasises on quick), this if for when you spend more time staring at your phone then not. Reaching for your phone first thing is a hard habit to break, but its one of the most beneficial. Instead, trying use an alarm clock so you don’t have to rely on your phone, keeping your phone away from your bedside table allows you to be present in the moment, a moment of calm before the days begins. Additionally, setting a screen time limit is a good way to cut down on useless screen time. Start by setting reasonable, achievable time limits, and gradually increase. If you tend to find yourself always drifting towards a particular app, setting a time limit for that app on your phone is a great way to remind yourself of how much time you’re spending on it and remind yourself of all the things you could be doing instead.
Featured Image Credit @austindistel from Unsplash