It may come as no surprise to you that I’m a wee bit addicted to my smartphone (not sure what gave it away).
As much as I love staying tapped in and up-to-date on the latest tech, entertainment, gaming, sports or business news, I’m as guilty as anyone of being too tapped in, to the point of getting sucked in. It can take conscious effort to remember to put the phone down and engage with the people I’m actually with, rather than the strangers behind their Twitter handles scattered around the world.
It can be equally dangerous when work creeps into my personal time, a phenomenon that many of you have also experienced if our latest survey is any indication.
In an interesting turn of events this past weekend, I was forced into unplugging. My wife and I and some friends went hiking, and for whatever reason, my smartphone was not a fan of the experience. Whether it was overheated or simply constantly trying to find service on the mountain, by the end of the 2 or so hours we spent hiking, my phone’s battery was on life support with nary a car charger in sight. To complicate matters further, we had a full day’s worth of plans after the hike that didn’t involve going home to plug my phone in.
I was staring down an entire day’s worth of forced virtual isolation, a veritable eternity to the digitally devoted (#firstworldproblems). What’s a smartphone addict to do?
What I Learned
I’m pleased to report that I survived the experience, however not without learning a few things about myself. The twitchiness and shakes wore off about an hour into the ordeal.
(This is mostly a joke, although with the way my wife was practically insisting we stop and buy a car charger, you would think she was expecting me to actually keel over.)
Here’s what I learned during my afternoon of self-discovery:
- I’m constantly multitasking. I’m never, ever doing just one thing at a time. That whole “second screen experience” that everyone’s touting these days? I am their target audience.
- FOMO is very, very real. I’m talking pit-of-your-stomach real. I was fine for a while, but eventually the gnawing thought that I was missing an important text or e-mail crept into my brain and took root.
- I really, really need to unplug more often. Ultimately, the afternoon taught me that I’m entirely too dependent on my digital devices to keep myself occupied. Don’t get me wrong; I love my gadgets. But it might be time to reevaluate just how often I’m interacting with them.
Tips to Manage Your Smartphone Addiction
If the above experience sounds like your personal nightmare scenario, you might be a smartphone addict yourself. While I don’t envision myself or any of you ditching our devices anytime soon, here are a few quick tips to help you quell your smartphone reliance while still keeping it nearby and accessible:
- Wrangle your notifications. Mobile app developers are smart, and they know what makes you and I tick. The push notification is one of their best tools to keep us constantly checking our phones. It takes a little effort, but most applications will allow you to customize what notifications you get. Cut them down to the absolute essentials, and uninstall apps that spam you.
- Master the “DND” feature. Depending on the type of phone you have, it may have a different name, but most phones these days include a “Busy” or “Do Not Disturb” function that allows you to schedule times when your phone’s activity is automatically muted. It might seem drastic, but if you’re really looking to unplug, consider leveraging this feature.
- Eliminate the gateway apps. Is there a particular app monopolizing your time on your phone? A social network or news reader? It might be time for a drastic step; uninstall the app for a while and see how badly you miss it. Especially if it’s a service you can access from a web browser or by some other means, you might learn that you don’t need to be checking it every 10 seconds. And you can always re-add it later!
Do you consider yourself a smartphone addict, or am I seriously overreacting to a single afternoon with a dead phone? You tell me – comment below or tweet me @writerwin!