I have an unhealthy habit that I’m trying to break. As someone who is Gen Z, has a remote job in marketing, and is in a long-distance relationship, I find myself chronically on my phone. So many important aspects of my life have a significant virtual presence. At times, I feel tied to technology. I mindlessly scroll through social media, switching back and forth from app to app whenever I have any downtime. Sometimes I use multiple apps to communicate with people simultaneously. I’ll text my best friend while Snapchatting her pictures of my dog AND sending her funny videos on TikTok. It’s a skill, really.
In a study by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge, research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide (Twenge, 2017). The part of this statistic that I find most intriguing is that this percentage is regardless of the type of content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time – not the specific content – goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.
When does it end?
We live in the Cell Phone Age. Tech companies have hijacked our brains with their products and found ways to make them more and more addictive. People feel FOMO (the fear of missing out) if they attempt to disconnect from their devices. Especially after the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in screen time for so many people.
According to one study by research firm Dscout, The average American touches their phone over 2600 times per day and unlocks their phone about 80 times a day (Naftulin, 2017). Embarrassingly, I am probably above this national average.
Benefits of conscious and controlled phone usage (Fleming, 2022):
- Better sleep
- Fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms
- Less problematic use tendencies
- Better health
- More life satisfaction
It is impossible to break away entirely from this virtual world that we have created. However, it is essential to be mindful of its impacts on our mental health. Every day, I make a conscious effort and strive for a healthier balance of phone usage. Only through effort can we create an authentic and fulfilling life.
Realizing that I had a severe problem, I set the goal to be more intentional with my screen time early this year. I’ve cut back on my mindless scrolling by getting back to the basics. I aim to use technology as a tool for information rather than a distraction. For example, I may want to learn more about cake decorating today, and I will go on TikTok and look at videos about that. I use social media to benefit me by inspiring me and sparking my creativity. Once I find what I set out to learn, I log out for the day. If you are familiar with TikTok, you know how addictive it is. It is a rabbit hole of endless information. Another rule I have is that if I am out having a meal with someone, I will not be on my phone. I either leave it somewhere away from my body or put it in my purse. I encourage you to brainstorm some of your own rules! What works best for you?
Here are a few recommendations for limiting screen time on your cell phone:
- Simplify some things: Use written journals, notepads, and calendars. Use pen and paper sometimes for reminders to limit distractions.
- Set timers for yourself (and obey them): Allocate specific amounts of time to browsing social media or doing miscellaneous things on your phone. Once the timer goes off, continue your day as usual.
- Utilize smartphone controls like Do Not Disturb and App Limitations: If you have an iPhone, you can set your focus in settings to modes like Work, School, or Sleep to let your contacts know that you are occupied, and their notifications will be silenced. You can also set app limits to lock certain apps after hitting the desired amount of screen time.
- Delete social media apps on your phone: Having to access social media through internet browsers and having to log in each time may deter you from getting on the app as much.
- Find a way to interrupt the cycle: Keep yourself occupied with other things so you forget to use your phone. Whether hanging out with friends, exercising, creating, reading, writing, etc. There are way better things to do than be on your phone!
Most things you see on your phone can wait; your mental health cannot. If you are having trouble focusing or coping with your mental health, please schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.
[AsapSCIENCE]. (2022, March 30). What Happens To Your Brain When You Mindlessly Scroll? [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNvvOQMx0jY
Fleming, L. (2022, May 25). Here’s how many times we touch our phones every day. Very Well Mind. Retrieved May 18, 2023, from https://www.verywellmind.com/reducing-smartphone-use-can-improve-mental-health-5271918#:~:text=%E2%80%9CPer%20the%20study%2C%20conscious%20and%20controlled%20changes%20of,Safai%2C%20MD%2C%20MPH%2C%20a%20psychiatrist%20in%20New%20York.
Naftulin, J. (2016, July 13). Here’s how many times we touch our phones every day. Insider. Retrieved May 18, 2023, from https://www.businessinsider.com/dscout-research-people-touch-cell-phones-2617-times-a-day-2016-7
Twenge, J. (2017, November 14). With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit. The Conversation. Retrieved May 18, 2023, from https://theconversation.com/with-teen-mental-health-deteriorating-over-five-years-theres-a-likely-culprit-86996