I think you will agree with me when I say that most social networks have an ulterior purpose: induce addiction in their users. Smartphones, though enablers in many ways, are at the forefront of this assault, owing to the sheer fact that we always carry them with us.
Have you noticed how many times do you check your phone in an hour? When was the last time you could ignore the chiming of alerts on your phone and focus on your work instead? Let’s face it. It’s hard. The temptation to flick on the home screen and check out the new likes, retweets, follows is just too overwhelming to resist.
Every time you receive a like or a retweet, you feel validated and respected. And, this continual craving for social validation keeps bringing you back to your phone. I have seen people get anxious when their filtered Instagram posts go unnoticed for some time.
There is another related problem that often flies under our consciousness radar. Let’s say you want to wish your cousin a happy birthday and you pull up Facebook on your phone. All of sudden, you notice 13 pending notifications. One thing leads to another and by the time, it occurs to you that you had to wish someone, you have already watched 5 random videos, liked your friend’s girlfriend’s pics, commented on your fat boss’s ‘feeling-awesome’ workout videos and much more. I call this bottomless browsing.
Here are 5 actions I took to overcome my smartphone addiction. These methods have helped me cut down on frequent distractions and allowed me to concentrate on the job at hand:
1. Turn off app notifications. Nothing, I mean nothing, hampers your attention as much as app alerts do.
The thing with alerts is that even if you ignore the blinking red dot or the buzz of your phone, your mind keeps on wandering to the fact that you have received a notification. Sooner than later, you give in to the temptation.
This is what I did. One by one, I turned off all the alerts from those apps which bombard you with no respite – WhatsApp, Twitter, Amazon, Flipkart, LinkedIn, a bunch of News apps – these were the primary culprits in my phone.
The only notifications I have wilfully left to ‘allowed’ status are my Outlook and a few others that I will talk about later.
If you own an android phone, it’s simple to do. Go to the settings>Applications>Applications manager and make the changes.
2. The Mother of Social distractions. In case you are wondering why the Big Blue Facebook is not one of the mentioned apps above. Well, it’s because I didn’t turn off its notifications, I disabled the freaking app itself.
OK. I know that sounds crazy. How can someone turn off Facebook? When I told one of my friends about this, he called me a Luddite. That was harsh. But it did not sway my decision.
See, in my case, Facebook was eviscerating good amount of my time. Every time I pulled up Facebook on my phone, I ended up watching random, stupid stuff, bottomless browsing, you know. And, then, after an hour or so, the process would repeat itself.
No wonder, users spend on an average ‘50 minutes‘ on Facebook and Instagram. This does not include the company’s Whatsapp platform data.
Just have a look at the graph below. The average daily time spent on Facebook simply outguns time spent on other leisure activities.
3. Delete those games. A month back, I vaporised ‘Clash of Clans’ and ‘Traffic Rider’ from my phone. So no more ‘Chief, come back, your army needs you‘ or ‘Your Village is under attack by a guy-who-wears-a-golden-underwear‘ alerts for me.
I know that deleting a game can be an emotional decision. You have spent real money buying the virtual gold coins and the elixir bottles, you feature in the top 10 on the local leader board and now you want to destroy everything.
Think it from this perspective. Who is getting rich at whose expense? Unless that game owners offers to pay you back with real money for your skills, why the hell would you spent countless hours from your limited time on earth and your hard earned money on it? Why?
Just pull the kill switch. I vouch for this. Life will be better. Just do it.
4. Keep one reserve day. I usually keep one day in a week – usually a Saturday morning – to catch up on the piled-up chats and messages. After having been on social networks for years now, I now what to expect from whom. Who is more likely to send a serious message and who is more likely to share detritus.
Unless you are the CEO type, and you have all the big shots on your messenger or Whatsapp list, you can safely skim through or ignore 99% of the messages. You know this, right?
5. You don’t have to block all notifications, not yet. Not every app turns you into a droopy-eyed addict. Some apps make your smarter and stronger. You need them to stay on top of things. Things such as your health, your money, your skills, etc.
In addition to my official mail, I love to see alerts from apps like MyFitness Pal, Duolingo, Samsung Health, Walnut, etc. I have these apps in my phone for a specific purpose.
MyFitness Pal tracks my daily calories, Samsung Health counts my daily steps, Walnut tracks my monthly budgets and expenses. Duolingo is a free language learning app. I use it for learning French. You can use it for learning 24 different languages including High Valyrian. Doesn’t ring a bell? It’s the language spoken by Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones. Anything is possible in this age, right?
The thing with these apps is they don’t suck you in. They are not bottomless. They have a daily objective and then you start over the next day. Like once you know your daily step count, there is not much you would do with the app until the next day. They also don’t bother you with 10 alerts in an hour.
Look I am not anti-Facebook or anti-social-media. I use social to publicise my book reviews, share interesting links, interact with people I like. But I don’t want socializing to happen at the expense of my productivity or at the time that my family deserves of me.
So far I have been able to put my mind to tasks that need my rapt attention with these actions:
1. Turn off the frequent app alerts
2. If possible, keep off the apps where you gravitate to every now and then. Disable them or delete them, if they don’t result in any value addition and only waste your time. You can always count your Facebook likes or track your Amazon orders on your desktop or laptop.
3. Games. Just delete them. They don’t serve any purpose.
4. Decide on a time during the day when you will run through the piled-up messages, chats and personal mails. I keep 1 day in the week. You don’t necessarily have to follow this. Keep a daily slot of 15 minutes if it suits you.
5. Install the apps that help make you make informed decisions, and make you a better person.
At the end of the day, my success is up to me. These actions may not be enough unless I consciously attune myself not to reach out for my phone every waking minute.
What measures are you planning to take to break away from your phone addiction? Do you think turning off alerts is a bad idea? Share your thoughts below. I will be glad to hear from you.