At this very moment, the attention economy’s minions are devising new, improved ways to lure your consciousness into the creepy white van of the digital world: the smartphone.
There are few who can resist the snares they set: By some reports, the average American smartphone user checks his or her phone every four minutes, and the nation’s restaurant tables and sidewalks teem with pocket computer junkies who are too preoccupied with Tweets, news alerts, mindless TikTok scrolling, selfies and Facebook arguments to engage with one another IRL.
Why does this matter? Well, aside from the obvious loss of human connection (and the consequent erosion of family bonds), overuse of the phone can lead to dramatic drops in productivity. It also poses threats to the health of mind and body, not the least of which are greater risks of anxiety, depression, insomnia, cognitive problems, migraines, low self-esteem … shall we go on?
So, how do we begin outsmarting our smartphones? Here are some suggestions.
Use your phone’s Digital Wellbeing features
If you suspect your phone usage is over the line, you can use the built-in Digital Wellbeing settings on your Android and iPhone to find out just how much time you’re sinking into the little glowing rectangle. If that spurs you to make a change, you can adjust those same settings to limit your app usage.
Switch to Grayscale mode
All those bright colors are inviting by design. By changing them to a dull gray, you’ll be making your phone less tempting.
Turn off your notifications
Those phone alerts are intended to pull you away from whatever you’re doing. If you need to make sure not to miss certain important messages, just shut your phone’s sound off instead.
Try an app
Using a phone app to battle your digital addiction might seem a little counterintuitive, but this is a classic example of fighting fire with fire. Some apps that may help include Forest, Cold Turkey and Self Control.
Keep your phone in a box
A stash box can help keep your phone out of sight and out of mind. Some boxes are specially made to help you break the habit. For example, when you leave your phone in the Aro smartbox, your device instantly connects to the Aro app. When you come back to get your phone, it will be charged, and you’ll be able to see how much time you’ve spent away from it.
If your situation calls for a maximum-security approach, you might want to invest in a locking cookie jar such as kSafe. You can use it to stash your cigarettes, money or any item of temptation that will fit, including your smartphone. It can be custom programmed to only unlock at certain times of your choosing, so you won’t have to rely on will power alone.
Get an eye-catching phone docking station
By choosing an attractive or amusing phone dock, you make the act of putting away your phone more appealing. There are all sorts of unusual docking stations for sale on sites like Etsy, or, if you’re the DIY type, you can make your own.
Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.
Header image by Greg Rosenke via Unsplash.
Read more: The Surprising Ease of a Digital Detox