Male hands and smartphone. Addiction to internet and social networks

Let me begin with an infamous quote about addiction from Mark Twain:

Quitting smoking is easy….I’ve done it hundreds of times.

The above classic quote pertains to the smartphone generation in a very real way. And learning to quit your smartphone addiction, is often as difficult as quitting smoking. It’s an obsessive compulsive disorder among many to just aimlessly keep scrolling and checking their phones. Like how I used to keep checking the fridge even when I knew there is no food inside!

Do you notice how most people around you stare mindlessly at their phones for most of the day? On average, people spend almost 4-5 hrs on their phones doing random web surfing or useless social media perusing. Properly managing this obscene addiction, would lead to a huge surge in productivity.

People often complain that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all of their goals.

Really??

Every Nobel laureate, Fortune 500 CEO and massively successful entrepreneur has  the exact many number of hours in a day.

24

You are not God’s discriminated child that he would send you down with 4 less. It is you who is whiling that all away.

And smart phones are a huge cause.

I have learned how to manage these “smart” phones that have made us dumb and fat. Here are 16 simple things you can do to avoid being a slave to your devices:

1. Killing The Phantom Calls:

You must have experienced the phantom phone syndrome. Even when your phone doesn’t ring, you feel as if it is ringing. That’s the level of addiction we have!

To fix this problem continually change your phone’s ringtone, and preferably not the obnoxiously loud and ostentatious tones that could wake a dead man from his sleep. Use simple sounds but keep shifting. This will take care of the phantom ring for good, so long as you keep your phone off of vibrate.

You will be amazed at how easily our minds can change habits with the right stimuli.

2. The Morning Sunshine:

Do NOT check your phone first thing in the morning. Your eyes were created to wake to the rising sun, not the glaring blue light of your iPhone.

Keep a traditional alarm clock, yes the ones that wake up the whole house, and keep it at a distance. Its constant ringing in the morning will ensure that you not only wake up but also get up from bed to switch it off.

As for the phone, put it to a far off table, on silent or switched off (which most people can’t do. There is always an emergency somewhere apparently). Or you can simply switch off your mobile internet. So, when you wake up with the musical sound of the alarm clock, you have already walked that extra mile to switch it off. So, might as well freshen up, do your exercise and spend the first 30-60mins indulging, not in technology, but yourself.

You may have to reason with yourself for the first two days – should I go to switch off the alarm. Or should I just let it ring. Someone will come and shut it off. Or, should I just go back to bed (after the alarm has been switched off). 5 more minutes. I really have to sleep.

Ask this voice to just shut up.

3. No phone zone:

Use your travel time as your “no phone zone”. You can put in on silent and hide it deep into your bag somewhere. Or keep it on, but switch data off. And for once focus on the roads and the people around. Studies say that excessive phone use reduces our attention span significantly.

That’s a dangerous thing when you are on busy roads.If you are someone who likes to listen to music while traveling, you may want to keep a separate device for music. Say an iPod or an MP3 player. Give your smart phone some respite and give yourself the chance to become smarter than your phone.

4. Addiction-ception

Switch off all your social media notifications. And by all, I really mean all. I am sure checking facebook as soon as someone pings isn’t important. You can do the same for your instagram, twitter, whatsapp.

Yes! even whatsapp.

All you need to do is set the group notification alert to silent/off. There is an option. It is total bliss. Trust me. If you can fight the urge to reply on groups, you can cut down your whatsapp time by 90%.

Check the notifications dropdown. Without opening the app, you can see who has messaged you. If it is not your mom / dad / wife / husband / best friend / crush (in that order) – you can simply hold your reply to when you are not doing something important.

I am soon planning to switch off my individual message notification on whatsapp too. If it is that urgent, people will call. Besides, if you are available all the time, people will think you have no life! And there is no harm in getting back to the old-is-gold phone calls.

5. Folders for Holders:

Keep all your social media apps in one folder (with notifications off). Same for all your news and email apps. Just, switch all notifications off except for calls. This way, you won’t get to see that constant nagging of unchecked notifications strewn across your touchscreen.

Like a sane person, you can open the folder when you have time and go through your notifications without getting disturbed by something as non-urgent as social media (unless that’s your bread and butter. Then you really have no choice!)

6. Uninstall:

I think we waste maximum time on Facebook. Why don’t you try uninstalling it? The world won’t end. It is just a bunch of people you don’t really know that well talking about random stuff and trying to put on a personality that’s nowhere near their real selves anyway.

Why bother so much about such banality? You can always visit it on your browser (If you absolutely have to access it using your phone i.e.)The sheer discomfort of using it on phone browser will make you use it less! 🙂

If you have pages to manage, there is an app for that. You don’t need the complete package of distraction. Unless of course, it is something you really want in your life – 24/7 distractions.

7. Choose your Battles

You have to choose your battles. Do you want to reply to every message elaborately? Do you want to answer each and everything? Are you a school boy?

There’s this awesome app called ‘checky’. It will make you feel ashamed with the statistics of frequency of use of your phone. Install it. You can dump facebook instead! This will tell you how much time of your precious life have you spent answering useless messages. If that doesn’t give you perspective, then what will?

8. Human Connection:

Don’t use your phone to “chat” with your favorite people. Just call them. It is much simpler and better. And if they live next door, go meet them. Don’t let your smartphones replace human interaction and face to face communication.

Don’t trick your mind into believing that what happens on your phone is real. That may not be true. Go have a real life. Wherever possible, make real conversations. See your friends and family beyond that mask of screens and fonts and pings. You will also get to know their voices, their tones, their reactions: the way they perceive life. All this by avoiding chatting and actually talking.

9. It is not an Answer to your Loneliness:

Are you using your phone to battle your loneliness? Don’t. Go out. Take a walk. Leave your phone behind. It will be the best walk of your day.Don’t let your phone become your depression fighter. When you are feeling alone, pick a book or pick a friend.

Not a phone game. When you are alone, go to a new place. Or make a new friend. Don’t keep going back to that piece of metal that is making many of your important relationships just a representation of the chat windows!

10. Eat Food, Just Eat it:

You can eat without clicking a picture of your food. Or have a coffee without telling the world it is from Starbucks! Your #foodporn doesn’t have to be an update for your Instagram always. Put that thing in your bag / away from your sight when eating. Food is there to be relished, not paraded.You can make a mark by eating for the love of food, not for the love of show off.

Our holy scriptures have also said – the best nutrition comes when the only thought in your mind while eating, is the thoughts about the food.

11. Change your Sleep Lullaby:

Studies have revealed that we should stop accessing screens from a close range at least 2 hours before we sleep. Which means, you can read before you sleep. Or talk to your family members. Avoid all sorts of screens. It reduces your ability to sleep effectively, disturbs the REM cycle and makes you wake up less rested.

When you don’t sleep well, you are deliberately screwing up a lot of things in your life. You already devote so much thought your phone activities during the day when you should have been working on your dreams. At least, let the nights be about more dreams? And less screens?

12. Save the Senses:

Keep your screen brightness to zero (except for sunlight situations). Your eyes will get attuned to the reduced brightness pretty soon (assuming you won’t be using the phone in complete darkness. Why would you want to damage your eyes like that?).

Similarly, keep the volume low too. You will be amazed at how bright screens and loud phones tamper with your 5 senses. Conversely, keeping low light and low volumes can help slow down the damage.

13. Fixit:

Give your phones a place! If you always tag them along, they will always bug you. At home, keep it on a shelf or desk away. At the workplace, keep it in your bag / purse. Not in your line of sight basically. Some place from where you can still hear it ringing.The more distance there is, the less you remember it. Kind of like a fading, long distance relationship.

Remember – you can change your mobile phone. There are many phones in the market. But you get only life to live. Don’t be a slave to an assembly of metal. If you want to be, be a slave to your own goals. You definitely don’t need smart phones to achieve them.

In Conclusion

I am not asking you to break up with your smart phone. But maintain a bitter sweet relationship. Treat it like a necessary evil. Not your elixir for communication.

There will be withdrawal symptoms at first. But then, you will get there slowly. If there is anything you want to be addicted to, be addicted to your dreams and goals. They will get you much better results!

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