Tips for dealing with our unhealthy smartphone addiction?

Smartphones and shadows.

Originally I wanted to write a massive blog connecting the last blog about Thintelligenece, Tristan harris‘ essay reply, what I picked out of the quantified self, my thoughts following visiting Tokyo, Mark Manson’s smartphones are the new cigarettes and reading Alone together.

I found this from dating site review ages ago and it seems apt…

“The problem doesn’t lie with dating apps per se – technology in general is changing how we behave and interact. People are spending more time updating and commenting on their social media accounts than they are having actual conversations or meeting up with people IRL. Take a look at any bar or restaurant, and inevitably you see a group of people at a table, and none of them are talking to each other – they are staring at their phones.”

Theres a common theme that maybe our use of smartphones might not be all its cracked up to be? However I don’t really need to tell you this right? The amount of times I have walked into a lift in the last week, looked around to see glowing faces and no eye contact at all is quite scary as purely a thought experiment. I’m currently at about 90% looking at screens – if you were wondering.

Its quite easy to be slightly concerned, but I’m wondering why my phone usage pick up during the first day of the Quantified Self 2017 conference in comparison? Could there be something in the way I use my phone?

Quantified Self 2017
People put up their hands for how long they were on their phones during the conference

Not only this Aaron Parecki gave a talk about choices when choosing quantified self equipment or packages (as Justin said being things which are a mix of hardware, software and service). There seems to be some tips emerging between the 3 different sources.

So I thought I’d share them together.

smartphones looks

    • Lower the brightness, use some-kind of twilight mode or turn your screen to greyscale.
      As Tristan Harris says apps and operating systems are made to keep you looking and interacting for longer. They have this down to a science now. Theres also tons of research indicating that the blue light from LCD screens messes with your sleep routine, heck I swear by redshift and twilight. The greyscale is interesting too.
    • Turn off all sound and light alerts (vibrate will do)
      I’m totally shocked when I hear someones ring tone to be honest, I mean really? I turned off all notification lights from day one, so surprised when I see a flashing or strobing light on other peoples phones.
    • Turn off that stupid mode when it wakes up your phone screen to show you notifications.
      I always thought it was a iphone thing but seen it on Androids too. I honestly think so stupid as its battery zapping and ever so distracting. This also totally kills the doze mode on Android! Plus think about it, it lasts about 5 secs and if someone sends you a detailed message, you only get half the message forcing you to pick up the phone.

My Shadow

      • Put different apps on another phone, tablet device or smartwatch.
        My tablet is wifi only and has a very different set of apps and use. I also limit what kind of alerts I get on my pebble smartwatch, which also means I don’t need to look at my phone for the time. I had no idea the ipad doesn’t include a calculator? Each device is different and has a different purpose, there are apps which I wouldn’t dare put on my phone but I’d consider it for my tablet.
      • Don’t feel guilty for not picking up the phone!
        The guilt people put themselves under is out of control, no one will notice if you reply 5, 15, 30, 60mins later. You don’t need to reply straight away, unless you are expecting something or trying to get hold of someone.

    It Begins with Bonjour

    • Have some self-control
      Don’t use your phone as a (anti) social crutch; barrier between the physical world and you. I get the loneliness is a difficult and maybe social settings make you feel uncomfortable? But force yourself to be present in the moment, you might be missing an opportunity.
    • Don’t put your phone on the table
      I get it, Doze only works when your phone is flat and left alone for a while but since Android N it now works in your pocket. I use to do this all the time to save battery, at the end of a long conversation it would actually be stone cold! If you must, keep your screen facing down and don’t get tempted to unlock it (You should of course not have that stupid wake the screen up mode too!).
      smartphone
    • Think about your time as important
      It sounds silly when you think about it but our attention is finite and should be treated as important. When thinking about ourselves, we tend to put ourselves down, saying I’m no one special but to be frank we are important! Everyone of us are capable of such incredible things but not if we are all looking at our phones.
    • Think about what you are doing with your phone
      Are you simply filling time or doing something constructive with your time? No judgment about what you class as constructive but adding a like to a friends profile picture can wait. I recently tried to get a friend to do more constructive things with his phone but the continuous (endless/bottomless) stream of social notifications was too great it seems.
    • Stop with the selfies!
      Ok this is just my thing but if you can’t turn to a stranger and ask to take a picture, then something is seriously wrong! Live a little maybe that conversation might turn into something you wasn’t expected. Think about those Snapchat filters, encouraging you to act a certain way... Its not subtle but people get caught up in it and don’t think, and this is what the app maker wants from you. I’ll remind you of the fruit machine flow state which Natasha Dow Schüll, talks about in her book addicted by design.
      Smartphone
    • Stop with phone one upmanship
      I have seen too many times when someone shows something, then someone else pulls out their phone in response. Before long everyone has their phone out looking to out do each other. Theres even silence while everyone looks and pops up for social proof every once in a while.
  • Theres many more
  • …but that will do for now. If you can think of more, add a comment and I’ll likely do a updated blog with more soon.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.