How I Beat Smartphone Addiction
We all use our phones too much.
We can rationalize it with “well I’m using it for work” or “I’d just be using my computer anyway”, but the fact remains that spending 5.4 Hours a Day on a screen held but a few inches from your face is probably not the best thing you can do for your eyes, body, and mental health.
There have honest to God been days that I’ve spent in excess of NINE HOURS on my phone. I have had physical neck and back pain from using a device too much.
That is embarrassing to admit. I would lie to myself and say “oh but I’m just using it for business purposes” - sure.
Today, I use my phone for less than an hour on the vast majority of days. For me, I had to take some larger measures to get away from the grip of the smartphone.
If I can do it, you can too - you probably aren’t using your device as much as I was.
Why are Smartphones so Addictive?
First things first is that we have to understand why these things get us so hooked. I have a couple theories.
They allow us nearly instant gratification
Phones allow us to feed other addictions easily and without friction (internet, pornography, etc.)
You want to watch porn? Well just pull your phone out of your pocket and there you go!
The endless novelty of the internet in the palm of your hand is great - if you are using it as a tool for creating and bettering yourself. The vast majority of people aren’t - they’re watching girls twerk on tiktok, stupid videos on YouTube, and scrolling the bottomless pit that is social media.
Here’s a video of a monkey scrolling Instagram so you can see what you look like:
They have massive funding behind how to make them addictive
There is massive monetary incentive to get you to spend more time on your phone - if you do, then you’ll buy more things that you don’t need, and enrich the various companies that are associated with these practices. The more ads you watch that are embedded in the content you’re scrolling, the more Facebook and Google make.
If I can get you to spend 5 more minutes here, and 10 more minutes there, well, I’ve increased my chances of a sale.
Everyone else is doing it, so it’s acceptable!
This is the crux of the issue is that smartphone addiction is so commonplace, we think nothing is wrong at all. We see people on dates scrolling their phones, ignoring the person that is in front of them. We cannot honestly think that whatever we are getting from the virtual world is better than in person interaction.
Put the phone away while you’re on a date, for Christ’s sake.
With a computer, even a laptop, you can walk away from it. You don’t have a constant companion that tells you to check it every 25 seconds with notifications. Anyone that has notifications on their phone besides calls is quite silly to me.
How Do we Beat it?
That’s all fine and well to understand why we are addicted to the crack of the 21st century. But, how do we actually set ourselves free, and start to see a smartphone as a tool again, instead of a lifeline to the world around us?
Track Your Time
This is the most important of all steps: you cannot fix what you don’t track. Take it from me: you will grossly underestimate the time that you spend on your phone.
On iPhones, this is easy, as it is now a baked in feature. Simply go to your settings, Screen Time, and there you are.
On Androids, depending if you’re running a custom ROM - go to Settings and Digital Wellbeing. There you’ll find your screen time.
You can also install various third party trackers for this. I personally use Screen Time from the F-Droid store to track my own phone use.
As an addendum, I wouldn’t advise locking down your app usage with these programs, as an addict will always find a way around it. For that, we will actually delete and re-install apps intentionally.
Delete Apps and Social Media
Another huge step that helped me to stop using my phone so much (specifically social media) is that I simply don’t have the apps installed anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t use them: I do.
But I use them with intention.
If I want to post on Instagram, for example, I download the app, get my password out of a password keychain on my computer, and log in to post. After I post, I delete the app, and go about my day.
I don’t use Instagram to chat like I used to, eating up hours of my day. I check my messages once a day from my computer, if there are replies to a story or post, I reply to them. If someone is trying to talk to me on the app, I give them my phone number and talk to them where I am more easily reached.
Most story replies are stupid emojis and don’t require a reply - As an aside: this to me is a retarded way of having conversations and I wish people would never use emoji reactions again. It’s pointless, and you can take the 2 seconds to type “hahah” rather than sending me a laughing face. At least I can reply to that, I can’t reply to a laughing face, nor can I reply to a “heart”. I’ve never understood this.
People will ask me if I have seen their stories lately, and I can with 100% confidence replay “No, I have not”. Stories are a massive time sink that I have chosen to consciously forego. I still post them because they get engagement; but I don’t watch them.
If you don’t use an app, take it off your phone. Over the years, I’ve phased out pointless apps and have no regrets. I no longer use Snapchat, Whatsapp, or Facebook - and I’ve never used, and never will use TikTok. A benefit of using CalyxOS as my phone’s operating system is that is automatically purges and removes permissions to apps that I don’t use - then I simply choose to delete them or not.
If deleting the apps is too much effort, you can simply log off when you’re done using the app. So, instead of mindlessly opening up an app on your phone to pass the time when you’re bored, you now have a barrier to entry which causes you to think about using the app or not, and for what purpose you will be using it.
That couple seconds delay is pretty much all that it takes to stop the boredom killer that we are so accustom to.
Obviously, social media giants know this technique, and have made it more difficult to log off of these apps. In Instagram for example, you have to go to your profile, go into the settings, then at the very bottom (they don’t have it before the fold so you have to scroll down - genius) you can log out. For me, it’s just easier to delete the app entirely and reinstall if I have to post.
Get an Android Device
iPhones are more addictive.
I had both an Android and iPhone for a few years, and I used the iPhone the vast majority of the time to do all my tasks, scroll social media, and just generally waste time. I don’t know what it is, the UI being easier to use by default, the colors, who knows.
You can also customize an Android in far more ways, taking apps completely out of the drawer and making it so you have to actually search for them with intention to use them.
The only thing I miss about my iPhone is the video recording quality, but I have a mirrorless camera that has stepped in and filled the role nicely.
And if you’re worried that people will say “eww a green bubble, you must be poor”, those people can simply be cut out of your life due to having no depth of character or original thought. If you’re in the dating game and a female says this, you have saved yourself countless hours of nominal chit chat about the most pointless television shows and celebrity gossip - you can thank me later.
Set your Phone to Greyscale
I heard about this hack years ago, and laughed at how simple it was.
Sometimes simplicity is the key we were looking for though. Phones are designed with colors and novelty, they’re like slot machines in Vegas, getting you to put more and more of your time into them.
The best way to eliminate this exploit of the human psyche is to fight it head on.
I found an even better way to do this on my phone: I created a theme and use icons that are monochromatic. It looks good, but it’s not enticing. My phone is now “boring”:
You can do this too with a little research on Nova Launcher and Articons. I get plenty of compliments on how my phone looks, but it’s not a slot machine anymore. It’s quite understated and boring, just like me :’)
Turn off ALL Notifications
Notifications are the devil. They will interrupt your focus, and you will wonder where your day has gone.
I’ve talked to numerous programmers and businesspeople, and nearly all of them keep their phones away or in a drawer when they are working. If you are doing deep work - writing, creating, editing video, coding, it doesn’t matter - you cannot have distractions.
I still remember the greatest freestyle on Shade45 I’ve ever heard, and it involved the line:
“I’m busy, bitch. Airplane Mode!”
The only notifications I allow are phone calls during the day due to the nature of my work. Text messages get replied to once every hour or two. The people that are within my organization and circle know to call me if there is an emergency. Otherwise, they are replied to within a timely and conveinient (for me) manner.
Take Email OFF Your Phone
I have one email account on my phone that I use for simply transferring files and information between my computer and phone.
Otherwise, my 10 other email accounts reside only on my computer and get looked at 2-3 times a day. If there is an urgent matter, my agents and employees all have my phone number and can call me, and they’ll know I’ll pick up.
Processing and replying to emails is far faster, more efficient, and frictionless on a computer. Always will be.
Set “No Phone Times” Throughout the Day
I work for one to two hour blocks - and within that time, I turn my phone off (except for calls in emergencies) and I buckle down to get things done that I want to get done. I do not allow myself to go on social media on the computer, nor do I have Signal or Telegram open so that people can message me. During my break time, I can reply to messages and emails, but not during the work block.
This can be as simple as saying “I will not use my phone between 9pm and 7am” or “I don’t sleep with my phone in the room.” Regardless, I believe it is imperative to have this free time where you are not chained to a device.
I turn my phone on airplane mode around 9pm every evening and disconnect completely. I don’t pick it up first thing in the morning, and I leave it in airplane mode until I’ve finished my morning tasks and routine.
Drastic Step: Get Rid of the Smartphone Altogether
There was an era where we weren’t connected 24/7 to the Hivemind: if you are over 25 years old, you might remember this time however brief it was for you. We survived just fine on flip phones, and intermittent contact with our friends and family. We didn’t die because we weren’t plugged into the Matrix.
If you cannot shake the Smartphone addiction, and you don’t need one for “work” (whatever that means), then you can ditch your iPhone and pick up a purpose built device for calls and texts.
“Feature Phones” as manufacturers lovingly refer to them (Dumb probably offends dumb people), are just this solution: all phone, no waste of time.
I may consider this in the future. I think my Android with custom ROM is a decent compromise, however I’m not afraid of going all the way. The thing most people complain about is the lack of map applications, and missing some decent shots with their camera.
With the nature of my work, I would have to make drastic changes that I am not yet prepared to do for this level of disconnection, but who knows - maybe I’ll go all forest living and start raising Alpacas the next time you hear from me.
On your deathbed, you won’t be celebrating the time that you spent scrolling on a screen. Most of us have given up enough of our lives as it is. As I sit writing this in a coffeeshop, I see numerous people on their phones while they are supposed to be studying or having conversations with the person across the table from them. It’s sad to watch.
It simply takes some introspection to realize how much time you waste on a daily basis. Time you could create something, or love someone, or spend with yourself, or just to enjoy your moment on this Earth a little more.
You’re not missing anything when you take the above steps, trust me. I am calmer, have less anxiety, and am overall happier when I spend less time on a screen.
You can too. I went from 9+ hours somedays to less than One. I want to be under 20 minutes a day, and I think it’s more than possible. For me, two hours per week maximum would be my ultimate goal.
Join me and take your time back.
How are you taking your focus and time back from the smartphone? Post in the comments below!
Until next time,