My name is Fi and I kind of have an addiction to my phone.

fifi friendly

Last month, I realised that I have my phone in fairly close proximity to me every single minute of my waking day. Whether it be for work, emails, listening to music, social media, fielding phone calls about the kids or some kind of app. Recently I started to pay attention to the amount of screen time I have each day …. specifically on my phone. Helpfully I have a feature on my iPhone that lets me know what my screen time is each day/week, how that compares to the average phone user and also which apps are getting my attention the most. Let’s just say that the day I spent just short of 5 hours on my screen really made me sit up and pay attention …. my  name is Fi and I have a kind of addiction to my phone.

Interestingly, although we make less phone calls now than we did a decade ago, according to the Annual Communications Report (Ofcom) the average Brit checks their phone every 12 minutes of the waking day. It seems that I am not the only one who has a dependency on their phone. It got me thinking, why are we checking our phones so much?

This same report brought some more interesting figures to the table. 1/5 of UK adults say they spend 40+ hours a week on-line and a whopping 50% of respondents felt that their life would be “boring ” without the internet.  Perhaps this is a good time to mention that only 17% of us described it as stressful when we did not have internet connection…. I would have thought this would have been more…. or maybe that is just because both my mobile network and broadband connection have not been playing nicely over the last 24 hours! #phonerage.

A decade with the smartphone

Whilst spending double the time online than we did a decade ago, over half of the UK agree that being on-line so much is really impacting face to face time with family and friends. My screen time started an interesting conversation yesterday, when one of my friends commented that at a recent “mum’s get together” she found herself taking offense to one mum who spent a lot of this get together on her mobile. She was responding to texts, Facebook and scrolling her mobile…. during their catch up…. or more specifically in the middle of their conversation. The irony was that as a group it had taken them months to get a time they could all meet in person …. we have all been there!…. and yet although they were all present in person …. they were not all present!

The 2018 Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey said that 39% of their UK respondents believe that they use their phone too much.  I would be one of these people. We all seem to have a phone of some sort as almost 9 out 10 UK residents owning a smartphone and the rise of the smartphone is allowing us to do so much more on the move. Multitasking …. our smartphones have become an essential part of every day life in our modern world.

I sat down one day and worked out that I used my mobile for all the usual social media, news and emails but that it was also my go to pocket tool for calculators, my bank, diary, camera and alarm clock. It was used for work, when I wanted to pass the time on the train or if I felt anxious in a situation it was my calming tool. IT was second nature, my phone was there with me all the time. So, the question is, how do you cut down using your mobile when checking your phone has become second nature? Has it become a habit, an addictive obsessive compulsive one at that …. instead of a multi-tasking accessory?

Take a moment to think about your favourite apps. How do you feel when you get a notification about someone liking or commenting on your post? Likened to a bit of a high, some users may release the pleasure chemical, dopamine, at these moments. This chemical in the brain is addictive.

Keep scrolling

Lets chat about scrolling. How many of you find yourselves mindlessly scrolling through your phone when you have a moment to spare…. or even when you don’t have a moment but still scroll. How about when that moment of scrolling turns into losing an hour or so in the black hole that is Instagram or Facebook. A full decade into having smartphones they have become an immediate source for all things entertainment, news and anything else from the moment you wake up until you put them down at night.

Many of our most used apps are designed to keep us hooked with rewarding feedback in the form of likes and the amount of new followers or what level you have reached on a game fulfilling a desire to progress. In order to cut down this addictive usage, start by setting boundaries. These are some that I have started to use this month in order to take back time and improve my focus.

Keep track – download a screen-time app to keep track of your weaknesses …. Instagram is one of mine! Is it ironic that we are using an app to monitor how much we are using other apps?? Anyways, from this you could look to limit the amount of time on apps and even go so far as to turn off all notifications on them or even delete them totally. Also check out the app called Instant which lets you know how many times your unlock your phone through to how many apps you used and how long you spent on them.

Airplane mode?

Lock your phone out of your bedroom at night so it is not the first thing you grab in the morning. This is one of he hardest ones for me. My morning routine for the last few years has included checking my phone in bed for the first ten minutes and responding before I get up and about. I find it easier if I actually don’t use my phone before I go to sleep at night.

First off try leaving your phone in the kitchen to stop you dual screening at night if you are watching TV.  Alternatively, put your phone on airplane mode at 9pm each night. It is refreshing to not start or end the day by being bombarded with messages and notifications.

What does your home screen look like? Try moving apps off the home screen to help kerb any mindless scrolling. Also try changing to a greyscale so the bright coloured notifications are not so prominent.

Finally, get yourself doing a digital detox! It doesn’t have to be long to start with. Try a day or a weekend. A couple of times a year I do a bit of a self-imposed digital detox. Once I get over the initial weird feeling of being without my screened companion I do feel that the quality and length of my sleep improves and during the day there is much better focus and concentration.

What are your top tips to reduce your screen time?