We hear all the time that people are spending way too much time on their phones and it’s making everyone miserable robots who don’t know what to do with themselves when they don’t have cell service. The obvious solution to the problem is to simply spend less time on our devices, but that can be waaay harder than it seems. We’ve all read at least one op-ed by someone who’s done a life-changing “phone detox” but for a lot of us that’s just not possible.
Enter Boston Globe journalist Billy Baker who wrote about his experience forcing himself to go on a “Smartphone Diet” as his 2018 New Year’s resolution. Like the difference between a new healthy diet for your body and the dreaded “detox” that often requires going a few days without solid food, the “Smartphone Diet” is much more manageable than the detox, but definitely offers incredible health benefits.
Baker used two apps to aid him in his tech loss journey. For his January 1st weigh-in, he monitored his regular cell phone usage before implementing any habit changes using Moment. The app tracks how much time you spend using different apps and how many times you pick up your phone during the day. Baker found that he was spending about 5.5 hours a day on his phone and averaging 80 pick-ups.
It would be nice if we could just will ourselves not to use our phones, but for a lot of us, smartphone use has become such a habit that we need a little help. Moment can set daily time limits for usage, but Baker used a different app, Freedom, to help him get his phone time under control. Freedom offers suggestions of time-wasting apps — you know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — and allows you to block yourself from using certain ones for up to 24 hours. It can also block certain websites you program in and subjects like “politics.”
An app like Freedom works perfectly if you have a job or lifestyle that doesn’t allow for a total rejection of all smartphone technologies. You’ll still receive calls and texts, be able to check sites you need and use the GPS while (theoretically) keeping the endless mindless scrolling under control. Baker also set his phone to greyscale because apps are so much easier to resist when they aren’t glowing their appealing signature colours.
In the six weeks he’s been on the diet, Baker reports that he’s cut his 5.5 hours down to just 90 minutes a day and he feels more present in his own life. You’d be surprised how much time you have to be creative and engaging when you cut out four hours of phone time.
What do you think you could accomplish with all that extra time you spend mindlessly scrolling?