By Madison Gillespie
One of Apple’s recent commercials for the iPhone XR revolves around the importance of security in our everyday lives, and how the same levels of protection should also apply to the “phones our lives are on.” That particular quote resonated with me because I believe it is a very accurate representation of our relationship with technology today. Everything from communicating with friends and loved ones, to paying bills and checking emails, to reading the news and watching TV and movies, can be achieved through a few clicks on a keyboard or swipes and taps on a screen. But just because technology is shaping the future of how we conduct our lives does not mean we have to live our lives through it.
There is a fine line between spending a healthy and an addicting amount of time on our devices, so developing some best practices to cut down on screen time is a beneficial habit we can all learn from. The following are a few simple ways to start reducing the amount of time spent using technology in a given day, and hopefully over time as well.
Silence notifications for your “busiest” applications.
Are you receiving notifications from Facebook and Instagram seemingly to no end? What about constantly being notified of updates for a group chat with hundreds of members? How about pesky messages from your horoscope or the weather app? Chances are you have likely experienced a bombardment of notifications similar to the ones previously described. While all of these updates can easily be dismissed or swiped away, having to repeat this process for multiple apps throughout the day takes up more time than you may realize. It can also put you into an unhealthy headspace of anticipating, and constantly checking for, all of these notifications (even when you don’t have any). So for any non-important apps or conversations, strongly consider silencing their notifications so that they are only visible to you when you are using the apps. This can help to keep extraneous details out of sight and out of mind and allow you to focus on your day.
Log out of, or delete, apps that you have a particularly bad habit of checking.
Sometimes, just silencing notifications for an app isn’t enough. It can still be very easy and tempting to check certain apps, even when there aren’t any new notifications. That is how, all too often, we can end up liking random pictures for hours or scrolling deep into the depths of our feeds. The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to log out of any apps you have the tendency to compulsively check. If that is still not enough to stop you, then consider deleting the apps from your phone so that you can only check them on your laptop or another device. While it may initially seem painful or stressful to remove these apps, doing so will help you to break free of media clutter and clear your mind.
Monitor your screen usage.
Screen Time is a newer Apple feature that can serve as a rude awakening for how much time you actually spend looking at your screen. Because we are on our phones so much in a given day, it is sometimes unclear how many hours we use them or which apps are eating up the majority of our time. With Screen Time enabled, you can view your statistics for total hours of active device usage, as well as the breakdown of which apps you have used and for how long. Knowing this information, you can then pinpoint specific applications that you may want to consider cutting down on or deleting entirely. If you do not have a screen time feature on your device, you can also keep a written log of all the times you checked said device in a day and what apps you used. This process is also a great way to document your progress as you reduce and improve on your screen use.
Set timers for your device usage.
Another simple way to get better about not checking your phone or other devices is to time yourself for how long you are allowed to look at them. You could set several smaller, shorter timers to use in intervals (i.e., maybe only spending 5-10 minutes for a social media break), or, you could set a “master timer” that you can continue to tap into throughout the day. For example, if you only want to allow yourself 30 minutes of app time each day, you could set one timer for 30 minutes that you stop and start again each time you use your device until your time runs out. Regardless of the method you choose, this is a very effective way to train yourself to look at your devices less and less each day and become less dependent on them.
Hopefully, you are able to incorporate these techniques into your own routine in regards to reducing your screen time. While it can be easy to get caught up in the digital world, we should never forget the beauty and opportunities of the world we actually live in: the real one. Live in the moment, make content for the sake of memories and not for the sake of “followers,” and take the time to actually look up and appreciate the people and places around you. Like I said before: just because your life is stored in your phone doesn’t mean you have to live through it.