If you own a smartphone, it is highly likely that you spend a major portion of your day carrying it around with you. Even if you aren’t using it, the phone is almost always on your desk or in your pocket, ready to beep the next time you get a Candy Crush request or someone tweets angrily about the latest corruption scandals in the country.
This isn’t to say that smartphones aren’t used for any constructive purposes, as lots of users have smartphones for work and people have also started wondering if we can gain some educational value in Pakistan from these ever-present handheld devices. In an ideal world, a smartphone would be the perfect tool to help minimize the efforts needed to keep pace with your studies or work, while also making sure you always have something fun at hand (quite literally) if you are getting bored.
We don’t live in an ideal world though, and in recent years, instead of being our meek assistants, smartphones have started taking over our lives at an incredible pace.
SEE ALSO: What is Internet and Computer Addiction?
Smartphone addiction has suddenly become a real term, and a genuine threat to the way society currently functions. While some might call it an exaggeration to label excessive smartphone usage an “addiction”, you can’t ignore the very concrete effects it is having on your daily lives. The symptoms are all there, and some of them even correlate with symptoms of other addictions. With the passage of time, your dependency on your phone is likely to only increase, and if you try to leave it suddenly you will certainly feel deprived of an important necessity of life. Smartphone addiction is a problem because it is affecting relationships as people aren’t giving their families enough time (if you don’t count the number of likes they give on a spouse or sibling’s photo), your health might take a hit due to lack of activity in real life and of course if you are playing too many games or spending a lot of time on social media, it will have an adverse impact on your professional life or studies.
When I realized it is just too much…
At one time or another, you might have thought about cutting back on your smartphone usage and even if you haven’t, now might be as good a time as any to take a good look at your cellphone habits. My own wakeup call came when I finally noticed that even 3 months after purchasing my Galaxy S7 I was still celebrating getting an incredible deal on it by avoiding meet-ups with friends, continuously checking out the cool apps I downloaded the previous day even while in office, and just admiring the overall beauty of my new device. I knew I had to do something about all this and get my old life back. It was a difficult thing to do without a doubt, but it is best to start small and cut back gradually.
A good starting point is to review your phone’s notification settings. The key to overcoming excess usage is to reduce the number of notifications you get. It might be important to get text messages, emails and phone calls, but even those can be silenced during certain hours, especially when you are sleeping. Using iOS’ Do Not Disturb mode is a good idea to implement this, or you can simply put your phone on silent when it’s bedtime. I personally kept notifications from my favorite sports app turned on, but limited it only to notify me when my beloved Arsenal has a match in the EPL. You don’t have to be in the know for every new selfie Ahmed Shehzad posts, or the latest fight 2 Bollywood stars get into.
The elephant in the room is social media. Ideally, you want to disable all notifications for Facebook, Twitter, and even news apps. If possible, force yourself to avoid checking Facebook on your phone completely (deleting the app is ideal) but if that’s too much for you, at least allocate a specific time of the day when you can open and go through your Facebook feed on the phone via the device’s browser. You don’t have to leave social media completely, just make sure it requires some effort to access your Facebook account like having to enter your password every time you have to open it.
On average, most people have 4 apps that dominate their smartphone usage. To get rid of your smartphone addiction, it is vital to figure out what those apps are for you and then monitor your habits of using them. If it includes a game, once again allocating a particular time of the day, or making sure you only play it for 15 to 20 minutes after a break of at least 6 hours can help you cut down on it. Another good idea is to make a resolution to yourself that you will only keep 1 game at a time on your phone.
Another sad thing smartphones have done to our social lives is making themselves the center of attention at our gatherings. It is not nice to go out with friends and then spend the entire evening checking your social media feeds and telling the world how much fun you are having. If you are having a truly amazing time, you shouldn’t have the time or the inclination to post about it until much later. Taking photos is fine, but make sure you actually remember to enjoy the moment you are trying to capture. If you see an amazing view, take time to just sit back and appreciate it, rather than making a big fuss about taking the perfect photo.
There are still a lot of activities you can do that don’t involve a phone, like reading a book, spending some time watching a movie or a TV serial with your family, or simply going out for a walk leaving your smartphone at home. Real life interaction is the key. Try talking to people in real life, and you will start noticing that the world outside your smartphone still exists and still has a lot to offer.