You could be addicted to the phone if endless scrolling is interfering with your life, work and relationships. Here's how to consciously uncouple, says Gemma Askham
You may think you’re not addicted to your phone, but when was the last time you left it at home for the day? Or kept it hidden in your handbag instead of sitting alongside your plate at the dinner table? And when was the last time you spent a bus or train ride without once looking at your mobile? Hell, we bet you even snatch a glimpse on nights out every time your friend goes to the bathroom. You may even be reading this on your mobile right now. So no, you’re not addicted to your phone, you’re probably just normal.
But according to a new book, How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price (£12.99, Ten Speed Press) it could be time to adopt a healthier approach to your phone scrolling habits. Here, Price talks us through the best way to have a healthier relationship with your mobile and get some digital balance in your life…
Are you using your phone too much?
‘I hardly use my phone’ is the mobile equivalent of ‘what, this old thing?’ or ‘I have no idea if his new girlfriend is on Instagram’. It’s fake news. Download the app Moment (iPhone/iPad) or Offtime (Android) to log how many hours you actually spend on it. For most people, double your guess. These apps help you to work out how much of the time you spend on your phone is necessary and how much is a total waste, plus it tells you what else you could be doing with your time instead, literally giving you back more time in your day. Win-win.
Stop automatically looking at your phone
Here’s a handy trick to counter that familiar compulsion to pick up your screen during every gap in conversation – a common issue when you’re addicted to the phone. Instead, write: ‘Why did you pick me up?’ Take a photo and upload it as your new lock-screen image. Before unlocking your phone, unless the answer is genuine (ie you’re lost and need the map), turn the screen off.
Leave your phone at home sometimes
Keeping busy = universal break-up survival. Use it to phase out your addiction to the phone: go shopping without it; use lazy Sundays for strolling not scrolling; cook a recipe that requires your full attention. Anything but falling into the inevitable rabbit hole of scrolling.
Turn off your notifications
Alert sounds and red number bubbles are like the ‘just one more drink?’ buddy. Yes, you get a buzz, but it will suck you in and eat your time. Turn off all but essential alerts – calls and VIP emails, ideally. Those Instagram likes and Whatsapp chats will still be there when you’re ready to check them, but much better to do it in your own time. What’s the urgency, anyway?
Declutter your homepage
Social-media apps might spark joy, but if they also cause anxiety and sleep problems and dent self-esteem, so delete them. Culling too unnerving? Move them from your home screen to page three, inside a folder, making them much more difficult and taking more effort to find. Easy.
If you’re addicted to the phone, keep it out of reach
‘Out of sight, out of mind’ might not cut it for devices, but ‘out of sight, out of arm’s reach’ will. If you can’t physically grab your phone while in bed, you won’t look at it in bed, which incidentally is seriously damaging to your health. It might be time to get an analogue alarm clock.
Are you guilty of ‘phubbing’?
No, not a new hipster music genre, phubbing – phone snubbing – is arguably more annoying: it’s the act of ignoring friends to look at your phone. Not cool. To change habits, ask: ‘Do you mind if I read these texts?’ but only if you think they’re exceptionally urgent. For anything else, come back to it later. Your friends will thank you for it.
Have a 24-hour phone break
Like a mini digital detox, if you will. Schedule it in (Friday to Saturday night, say) and hit ‘off’. Expect to feel twitchy – it is a detox – and cram your schedule with offline fun instead. One day later, you’ll be surprised by how free you feel.
Not ready to give up your phone yet? Find out everything you need to know about the new iPhone 9.