How to Stop Looking at Your Smartphone So Much
There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to humans interacting with smartphone technology. One seems to be that it is simply an extension of human evolution, heading towards a symbiotic human/technology hybrid where we live peacefully with cybernetic limbs and Google Maps built in to our retinas. The other is that it is a sign of the robot apocalypse, moving closer to enslavement by our circuit-board overlords with every double-tap and swipe right. It's possible that there is a middle ground and we can see from previous human experience that moderation is the healthiest way to go, so check out this oneHOWTO article to see how to stop looking at your smartphone so much.
What is Wrong with Looking at Your Smartphone?
To some the answer is going to be a resounding "nothing!", but there are reasonable considerations you should make when looking at your smartphone as there are definitely negative habits which can affect us both physically and emotionally. Our bodies might even be affected physiologically.
As it is quite difficult to keep holding a phone directly in front of your face (unless you have built up incredible bicep strength from taking too many selfies), we often hold the phone below our eye-line, requiring us to look down at our screens. This can cause something known as "text neck" where we strain our neck muscles from looking down all the time. Even the way we hold our phones in our hand can affect our bodies, many people reporting a bent pinky finger from where their phone cradles when texting. Some people don't seem to be able to get rid of it, although you might be able to say the same about writer's callouses.
The effect looking at smartphones might be having on our eyes is one which is hotly debated. Some claim it is going to make us all blind by dulling our visual senses and burning our retinas. Others claim this is all nonsense and we are able to withstand it without visual impediment. Again, the truth seems to lie in the gray area. Although the jury is still out on long-term effects of looking at screens which emit HEV (High-Energy Visible) light, we do know that prolonged staring at any light source can cause strain and discomfort. The same would go for prolonged exposure to the sun. It is possible for us to be looking at some sot of light emitting screen more hours of the day than we sleep, so if our recuperating time is shorter than our exposure, it might be time to consider looking at your smartphone less.
Sometimes the physical effect might not necessarily have a physical symptom, but the light which is emitted from our smartphones might actually be interrupting our circadian rhythm. This is the biological process our bodies undergo throughout a 24 hour period which is a natural reaction to the world around us. When living in caves, we would only be governed by that big ball of light hovering above us known as the sun. When we overuse different unnatural light sources at all times of the day, it can affect how we naturally relate to the physical world. This can lead to problems in our sleep patterns, negative effects on appetite and even our energy levels.
The emotional effects the smartphone can have on the human animal are also not to be underestimated. One of the most important of these is attention span. When is the last time you were able to do anything, even something passive like watching a movie, without going to your smartphone and checking a message or social media app? Even if we are not as popular as we think we might be, our brains can trick us into thinking that our phone is vibrating or beeping when they are not. This is known as phantom vibration syndrome and can even lead to ringxiety, whereby we are so focused on possible alerts we can be lead to distraction.
If your only way of interacting with others is through technology, then perhaps you consider yourself social when constantly tapping away on your screen. However, as most of us have other humans around us to interact with, then we can cause social friction by paying more attention to our phones than our friends and family. This can lead to a general disconnection at a time when we ostensibly are more connected than ever. Smartphone use, like pretty much anything except consistently breathing oxygen, needs to have its limits. When we put more value in getting a like or a re-tweet than we do expressing genuine emotions between one human being and another, then we are likely doing ourselves emotional damage.
Part of this has to do with insecurity and self-esteem. Whereas before smartphone technology, most of us only had the people we saw face to face to consider, we now have an online profile with a much wider reach. If we invest emotionally in how we represent ourselves online, then having a smartphone constantly buzzing (or worse, not buzzing) with social media updates, then it can act like a constant reminder of deficiency when this is not actually the case.
Other Reasons for Not Looking at Your Smartphone So Much
We have discussed long term physical effects smartphone usage can have, but there are some more immediate concerns when your face is glued to a screen - you can't see where you are going. There is a reason many countries have enacted laws to prohibit using a phone when driving. It can be detrimental to everybody's health as being on the road is one activity where you need to have your wits about you and not be distracted by anything, let alone the singularly most distracting thing: a smartphone. Even if you are a pedestrian, there have been too many reports of people being run over because they were too busy texting to look both ways or injuring yourself trying to catch a Pokemon on Pokemon Go.
How to Stop Looking at Your Smartphone So much
Now that we have considered why we might need to limit the amount of time spent looking at your smartphone, we need some practical hints and tips to reduced our screen time.
- Don't keep your smartphone in your pocket - although the very thought of this might melt the minds of some digital natives who don't remember the years BSP (Before Smart Phones), there was a time when the only phone you could use was tethered to the earth by a curly wire like an overactive rottweiler. If you keep your smartphone readily accessible then you are more likely to look at it. Keeping it in a bag or purse where you have to start an expedition just to work out which pocket it is in should reduce how much you look at it while still being able to hear important calls.
- Don't keep your smartphone near the bed - one nifty feature of most smartphones is the ability to use it as an alarm clock, but keeping it near the bed means you are more likely to look at it at a time when you should be focused on other things, namely sleep. If you keep it out of reach then you're likely to be too lazy to get up and open the lock screen and might just fall asleep in frustration.
- Don't have social media on your phone - some of the most distracting apps are for social media. We are fed information and posts from others like foie gras ducks and much of it is completely useless for our well being. We're not saying we don't think social media is important (feel free to like us on Facebook), but if you want to reduce looking at your smartphone, making it a rule to only check social media on the desktop means you can catch up on what you need without constantly having to check back on it. In fact, limiting your apps in general can be useful as distracting games and time saving apps might just be lowering your ability to know how to interact in the real world.
More Hints and Tips to Stop Looking at Your Smartphone So Much
- Install a productivity app - one way to reduce smartphone screen time is to delete apps, another could be to add one. Productivity apps such as QualityTime and BreakFree offer the user to set limitations on how much they use their phones so that they will cut off once you go past this time. They can be overridden, so you'll just have to trust yourself and keep to your self-imposed limits.
- Turn off notifications and unsubscribe - if it is the constant beeping and vibrating which is causing you to look at your smartphone so much, maybe you just need to turn off notifications and unsubscribe from the endless slew of pointless email newsletters you receive. Do you really need to know daily updates on what's new in the World of Scented Candles just because you bought one for your Aunt six Christmases ago?
- Turn off the Internet - without the Internet, our phones are little more than talking devices with an electronic compass. Although there are many messaging apps which require the Internet to work (like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), good old texting is still available through phone masts. Turning off mobile data means that you won't have constant updates and you might even save money from your data usage. If you live in the city, you should be able to find enough Wi-Fi hotspots to meet your daily usage needs, so you could even reduce your data limit on your phone contract.
- Psychologically conditioning yourself - perhaps the hardest to take into effect, changing your thought patterns can really help reduce how much you rely on your smartphone. If you find your self-esteem being affected by what's on your phone, you may need to ask for some guidance on how to help improve it in the real world. Taking part in healthy activities which encourage your social life and your overall health can be very helpful for this.
Our last piece of advice for the desperate who really want to stop looking at their smartphone so much is this - get rid of it. You can still get a Nokia 3310 or equivalent online, so take a step back from the technological rat race and find freedom in outmoded devices. Some people get by just fine without a phone at all (admittedly, not many in so-called "First World" countries) and missing the odd meme might just lead you to the productivity and happiness which has so far been alluding you.
If you have any thoughts about how much or little you should use your phone, share them with us in the comments below.
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