Do you feel intense eye strain, dry eyes, or blurry vision?
What about repetitive strain injuries or pain in your fingers, hands, arms, or wrists like those from gaming or typing?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then you might be dealing with an addiction to your smartphones, so much so that you can’t put them down even for a few minutes.
Digital devices and technology now occupy a significant area in our personal space and have been integrated into different aspects of our lives.
From essentials like food to luxuries like home movies, practically all forms of consumer-level technology are geared toward generating a rewarding experience.
It might interest you to know how this addiction occurs. Addiction—in any form, be it to an individual, object, situation or substance—can be viewed as a biochemical influence in which the body craves having the reward centre of its brain constantly stimulated.
Engaging in pleasurable activities results in the release of the “feel good” hormones—dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, particularly dopamine. And just as the body responds with a burst of energy when a caffeinated beverage is taken, the mind likewise experiences a sense of euphoria as a result of a dopamine rush.
Over time, when the body becomes less sensitive to this feeling, it results in seeking similar experiences (but with greater intensity) to make up for it.
This is a simple description of how screen addiction develops within individuals.
Frequent exposure and the culture of instant gratification that has risen over the years are some reasons behind the growing addiction to digital screen.
To the brain, information is like food. But unlike food, information does not take up any real physical space in the brain and as a result, the brain continues to consume it in an uninterrupted manner.
The truth is, no one likes waking up feeling like they barely had half the amount of sleep they actually needed, but watching screens till late in the night and feeling dog-tired the following day is an inevitable chain reaction.
What you don’t know is that you had a ball of a time the previous night, and with a new day comes another opportunity for you to even outdo that exact experience; so, the cycle repeats itself, giving birth to an addiction.
Does checking your phone every 10 minutes or less (even if there are no alerts or notifications) or staying up at odd hours checking WhatsApp, YouTube Facebook and Instagram, sound like you? Then, be sure to read till the end.
Research has shown that spending too much time on your phone is bad for your focus and mental health, and the passive use of social media networks can leave people in negative moods.
You can become more deliberate regarding how you use your phone. Here are six simple practical guides to help you reprogram your behaviour.
Schedule your screen time: Setting alarms specifying how often you can use your phone is one basic step towards handling screen addiction. You can start with every 15 minutes, then, with time, move to every 30 minutes, every 45 minutes, or every 1 hour. Meanwhile, find something productive to do in between so you don’t get tempted to go back to your phone.
Put off unnecessary push notifications: You don’t have to be interrupted by every “like” and “comment” that your latest Facebook or Instagram picture receives. A simple way to reduce distractions is to turn off push notifications for a number of apps that distract you. This will help you reduce response anxiety and to hold yourself accountable. If this helps, tell close friends or family that you may not be responding to their messages as quickly as you used to.
Remove distracting apps from your home screen. More than half of the time, phone usage is an unconscious behaviour. You find yourself hopping from WhatsApp to Facebook to Instagram to checking text, and the list continues. But if you have to specifically seek out an app to use it, you will greatly reduce the accidental time consumption that happens when you just start scrolling through your phone.
You could further take a step to delete or freeze certain apps entirely from your phone and relegate your usage to your smartphone’s web browser.
Do not take your device to bed: Your phone should not be the last thing you check at night and the first thing you wake up to in the morning. Use a regular alarm clock and keep your phone out of your reach to avoid being tempted to start your day perusing through an avalanche of updates and messages. If you have a smart speaker, put it to use—it would help you live a more screen-free life.
Turn on the grayscale on your phone: Making your phone screen much less desirable to look at is one of the crude ways to curb your screen time. You will find this trick incredibly effective for keeping off apps that unnecessarily consumes your time by switching your phone to grayscale to remove the colourful icons you see each time you unlock your phone. You can turn on grayscale by clicking on the “Accessibility” category of your phone’s settings. On an iPhone, find “Display” and then turn on “Color Filters.” On a Samsung device or other smartphone devices that possess this feature, find “Vision” and then scroll down to “Grayscale.”
Be accountable and track your progress. If you want to judge your progress, consider installing apps, such as QualityTime or Moment, to track your smartphone habits. This will help you set a specific usage goal and gauge how well you stick to it. Consider these practical guides as life hacks and put them to use—only then can you break free from smartphone addiction and its accompanying side effects.