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How to Break Your Phone Addiction


Let’s face it—it’s 2017 and everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone. While smartphones can be useful work tools, all too often they’re a distraction in your work and social life. In a survey of smartphone users in the U.S., Gallup reports that 52 percent of U.S. residents check their smartphones multiple times per hour. Yikes. At least now I know I’m not the only person who compulsively checks their phone every minute.

Plus, smartphones can actually negatively impact your sleep. Dr. Gregory Marcus, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, explains to CNN that individuals who have issues falling asleep should refrain from using their smartphones and tablets at least half an hour before they hop into bed.

Thankfully, we’ve put together several ways to help you kick your phone addiction so you can be productive during the day and get some sleep at night. Plus, these tips don’t require you to go to go through a twelve-step process to quit your smartphone dependency.

Related: Social Media Has Ruined Modern Dating

Create a blackout period

Block out periods of time throughout the day as your no-phone time. Whether it’s an hour before bed, when you’re writing an essay or during a girl’s night, you need some time away from your smartphone. After all, distance makes the heart grow fonder. That works with phones too, right?

Regardless, everything is good in moderation. Though it might seem inconceivable to go a few hours a day without checking your phone for social media updates, a break from your phone can give you some quality ‘you time.’

Personally, I create a blackout period on Friday nights, so I can spend quality time with my friends without any distractions. Well, other than the bar hotties. At first, not being able to construct an annoying 25-snap-long Snap story made me jittery. I mean, what’s the point of even going out if nobody knows that I’m out? Before my friends initiated an intervention about my obnoxious phone habit (and equally shameful social media usage), I decided to wean myself off of my phone dependency slowly. Instead of going cold turkey for several hours on a Friday night and risking painful withdrawal while ordering a colorful, frozen mixed drink that I couldn’t even Instagram, I started gradually. I eased myself into it and started by designating an hour a day as my blackout zone, working up to my current assigned blackout period, from 7PM to 12AM on Fridays.

While you could try my gradual approach, there are certain apps that can aid you during your strict phoneless curfew hours.

Use an app

Okay, when you’re trying to rid yourself of your smartphone habit, it might seem a bit contradictory to install a new app. Don’t worry, it’s not the latest version of Angry Birds—there are actually apps that prevent you from getting distracted by your phone.

Brett Adams, a senior at Iowa State University, gives you a great example. “I install Cold Turkey on my smartphone, which blocks certain features of your phone for whatever period of time you want,” he says.

Luckily, Cold Turkey isn’t the only app that will help you go on a short hiatus from your phone. Forest is an intriguing way to stop you from ogling at Tyler Posey’s pics. I know it’s hard, but Tyler will still be there for you once your no-phone blackout period is over. Well, he’ll be there in spirit and on Instagram.

Every time you use Forest to deter your attention away from your phone, the app plants a virtual tree, which can grow over time. However, if you leave the app before your blackout session is over, then your tree dies. You’re probably thinking what’s so great about a fake tree, but you have the opportunity to help the app plant a legit tree. Over time, you can use the virtual coins you earn from growing your virtual tree to help Forest plant a real forest. The name’s making total sense now.

Regardless, Forest helps distract you from using your other apps on your phone by essentially guilt-tripping you, because who could live with the culpability of killing an entire forest? Was opening that text to find out all it said was, “lol,” really worth destroying a would-be forest?

Keep your phone away from you

One of the reasons you’re probably picking up your phone way too much is because it’s always near you. If it isn’t in your hand or your lap, then it’s in your pocket or your bag. However, if you place your phone in a different room or hide it in a drawer, you won’t be enticed by a notification.

Alex McGuire, an Iowa State University alumna, says, “I put my phone somewhere far away from me, like in a jacket pocket.” While this method might be easy if you’re at home or at a friend’s house, it isn’t practical when you’re at work or out shopping. Luckily, there’s a similar approach that can curb your smartphone addiction while you’re at work or running errands.

When you leave the house, you can diffuse your phone addiction by leaving your phone in your purse or satchel. Your phone will still be close by, so you can easily use it in case of an emergency, but it won’t taunt you to check it every second because it isn’t physically in your hand or pocket.

Let’s be clear here: an emergency doesn’t include one of the members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan retweeting you. Though, let’s be real here, you have a better chance of Nickelback making a comeback and actually releasing a good song than Kim, Kylie or Khloe even acknowledging your existence.

We mean a real emergency, like your car broke down or some sketchy person is doing something—well, sketchy.

Although you might have too much separation anxiety apart from your beloved cellular device, even if it’s only inches away from you in your bag, you can just remind yourself that it’s there for you in your time of need.

Limit your social media

While you’d like to think that you’re actually being productive on our phone, you probably aren’t. Unless of course, you’re a boss bitch and are constantly emailing business professionals, but let’s face it you probably carry around a tablet for that. After all, a keyboard—even if it’s miniature—is easier to use than your phone’s touch screen.

However, your phone itself isn’t the reason we’re so preoccupied with it. No—it’s all those damn social media apps, although Flappy Bird could also be the culprit. Though, if you’re still playing that game, you might have some bigger issues than your phone addiction.

Even if you did make a vow that you’ll never use your phone’s social media apps again, you’d just be lying to yourself. After all, there’s no point in having those tempting apps on your phone if all you’re going to is ‘swear’ you’ll never use them. Instead, you should do some Spring cleaning on your phone and remove some social media apps.

I know, it seems drastic, but it can be done. Kristen Perrone, a senior at Siena College, says, “I have very limited social media on my phone. Knowing that only one social platform is there helps me not check my phone as much and encourages me not to just delve into it when a situation I'm in is awkward.”

While Kristen admits that taking a minimalistic approach to your phone’s social media access is an acquired taste, she explains that she now loves only having one social media app on her phone. "It encourages me to stay in the moment and not be rude when I'm talking to someone in person but am distracted by something on the screen,” she says.

After all, the whole point of hanging out with others is to physically talk to them. You know that thing that happens sometimes in the real world.

Embrace face-to-face communication

How many times have you been to lunch with friends and everyone is enveloped in their phones until the food comes to the table? It happens all the damn time, right?

Your Instagram account can wait until after lunch. Seriously, you don’t need to take a photo of that quinoa salad. Your followers will live without it. After all, a single Instagram photo will only tempt you to open those new emails…and those Twitter notifications…and those Tinder messages. Don’t give into your addiction—no matter how innocent that Insta-worthy pic might seem. Instead, just place your phone in your pocket and ignore it when you’re hanging with someone IRL.

Better yet, you and friends could make a pact to put all your phones in the middle of the table at brunch, so none of you will be tempted to sneak a peek of your phone under the table. That way, you all can spend your time actually catching up, when you aren’t shoveling a salad—or burrito—in your face, of course.

After all, a day out with your squad is meant to be just that—a day with your squad, not a day with your squad and your phone. Don’t let your friend be a plus-one to your smartphone, unless of course you actually need to use your phone. So you know, unless your crush FINALLY texts you back. Who are we kidding? They’re never going to text you back, because maybe that seventh text was one too many.

Adjust your notification settings

Notifications are huge disturbances when it comes to your smartphone. Your notifications are essentially billboards for your phone. Annoying billboards that buzz and beep every time a new one appears—they’re the whole reason we check our phones aimlessly, waiting for another one to pop up.

There’s a way to stop these notifications from diverting our attention from the real world. We can turn them off. While you can silence your notifications during necessary times of the day, they might still create an annoying flashing light. It’s not as noticeable as a sound, but it can be enough to deter you from your smartphone cleanse. We wouldn’t want you to cheat on your no-phone diet. Thankfully, you can manually alter the settings on your phone to stop receiving specific app notifications, like Twitter or Facebook.

Tori Rubloff, a master’s student at University of Florida, explains, “I turn off all vibrations and sounds on my phone for Facebook, texting and Snapchat. Otherwise, I find myself on what I call 'phone alert,' which is basically me waiting to hear if I get a text or Snapchat or any kind of notification. When I'm waiting for an alert from my phone, it splits my attention and keeps me out of the moment, which is why I decided to get rid of the sounds altogether!”

Smart move, because we’re all guilty of getting a little social media-obsessed. When in reality we should actually be talking to the people around us, because we’re all lucky if we get more than ten retweets in a day.

Don’t use your phone while driving or walking

Seriously, this should go without saying, but stop texting, Snapchatting, Tweeting and Instagramming while you’re driving. Just throw that phone in your back seat and forget about it while you’re hands are on the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 3,477 people were killed by distracted drivers just in 2015. Plus, almost 400,000 individuals were injured because a driver was using their phone at the wheel. These statistics should scare anyone enough to stop using their phone on the roads. If they don’t, then you could be a statistic in a traffic study one day.

And please, don’t text and walk. While it isn’t as dangerous as texting and driving, it’s still a critical issue. No matter how good of a multitasker you think you may be, you’re not that great at texting and walking—trust us. Where are you walking to? Around the corner—JK you just strolled into that building. It’s all fun and games until a seemingly unaware bystander uploads that embarrassing footage to YouTube. Next thing you know, you’re known as that chick who walks into the side of a Macy’s Outlet Store. Then, you’ll just have to do something even more embarrassing to outlive that humiliation. It’s just a slippery slope, people.

Or worse, you could mistakenly walk right past Ryan Reynolds. You could have gotten his autograph. Better yet, he could have wrapped his arm around you while someone snapped a photo of the two of you. But no, you were checking Facebook. Don’t suffer from FOMO and put your phone in your pocket before you walk.

Seriously, no notification is worth it.

Wear a watch

I used to use the time as an excuse to constantly check my phone. “Oh, you need the time? You didn’t ask? Too bad, it’s 11:47 and mama needs her fix!”

Wearing a watch helps diffuse the need to use your phone as a time-telling scapegoat. Plus, it gives you a cool new way to accessorize. Unless, you’ve been wearing watches for years, then it gives you an interesting old way to accessorize.

If wrist watches aren’t your thing, why not try a pocket watch? After all, the clock on your phone is getting real tired of your flak.

Beyond wearing a watch and adjusting your settings, there are copious other methods to help deter your gaze from your phone. While it might be too drastic for you, Brett gives you an alternative to smartphones altogether. “I switch back to a flip phone,” he says. “They’re cheaper, have better battery life and usually lack an internet browser. They’re perfect for gaining back control of your life without sacrificing all of the other basic necessities of a smartphone.”

Regardless of which approach you choose to wean yourself from your smartphone, you can easily mix and match your methods so you can start socializing with people in the real world. You know, that thing that exists away from your phone screen.

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