Ever since purchasing my first smartphone about 3 ½ years ago, I’ve been finding myself to become the victim of the widespread disease called cell phone addiction.
I remember the days when I didn’t own a smartphone at all. The first 1 ½ years in NY were tough money– and also career-wise. I wasn’t able to afford $200 plus a 2-year-contract on a phone until my job stabilized and I was able to set up a bill plan. Now when I first received my iPhone 4s in the mail, I was over the moon. An entirely new world opened up to me in terms of online connectivity and internet presence. I suddenly became familiar with apps such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn … And the phenomena of constant e-mail downloads. Having access to Facebook 24/7 sounded very appealing in the beginning, especially when it came to meticulously uploading status updates and location pictures. About 9 months later I deleted my Facebook for almost 2 months – a reaction I indirectly attribute to having constant access to it via cellphone.
Since that time, I’ve always wondered about my daily cellphone usage. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance told me about an app that tracks your daily usage and reprimands you when you are over your limit. It is called Moments for iPhones and Quality Time for Androids (I’m sure other phones have a slightly different version of it). I finally got to download it last week and have been on it for the past 7 days. What I’ve found was quite alarming: On Wednesday, just one day after downloading the app, I’ve spent a total of 240 minutes (!) on my iPhone 5. That’s 4 full hours of sitting in front of my phone doing.. what exactly?
Over the next few days, my cellphone usage slightly decreased but the amount of pickups was still quite alarming. Pickups refer to the almost unconscious motion of unlocking your phone to quickly browse through all your apps and check what you’ve missed out on. I’ve come to find that I consider my behavior almost neurotic, especially when I am bored. I’ve also come to find that perhaps I am not the only one with this behavior and have observed how others in my surroundings handle their cellphones. Heck, even waiting on the subway or being in a train car where more than 50 percent of people finger around on their phones seems to be a given nowadays.
Consciousness heightens awareness and vice versa. Being aware of the amount of time I spend on my phone each day has made me re-evaluate whether or not I should slide that unlock button. Is it really necessary to check on status updates on Facebook or likes on Instagram when there is nothing to do at work? Do I really have to snapchat my most current meal or view just so I can gain more app points (which ultimately buy me nothing, not even new friends).
Spending 4 full hours on my phone during one day this week has made me re-evaluate what I’d rather spend my time on instead. I’ve come up with the following list:
1) I’d rather catch up with blogging and write a blog post or two within that extended amount of time.
2) I’d rather get to editing all the pictures I took over this summer and during my trips in the fall.
3) I’d rather learn how to cook a recipe out of my newly purchased cook book: Good Food Made Simple Vegetarian
4) I’d rather get it going on my goal of accomplishing calligraphy for up to one hour each day.
5) I’d rather look up fitness classes or attend a fitness class.
6) I’d rather fold my laundry or re-arrange my room, which I’ve been seriously neglecting for the past month or so.
7) I’d rather catch up with a friend over brunch or coffee.
8) I’d rather go outside and experience the real New York other than being glued to a screen and looking at people who depict their lives as happy on social media.
9) I’d rather get it going on my travel plans I have yet to make for some upcoming trips this year.
10) I’d rather look for a second job or work at a second job to save up money in order to accomplish those travel plans.
The list of “I’d rathers” goes on. But coming up with this list in about 5 minutes of time shows me that my priorities do not lie in spending time on my phone for such an extended amount of time anymore. Why then do I (we) do it?
A few of the following circumstances might lead to answers and solutions:
1) I actually don’t have any proper alarm clock other than on my phone. Waking up via means of phone means that indirectly I am forced to check what messages/ emails/ status updates I’ve missed out on as soon as I wake up. Perhaps I’ll purchase a proper alarm clock and make an effort to wake up like in the good old days.
2) Having become constantly available via means of whatsapp or e-mails is another drawback to our generation. I remember looking for an apartment in 2012 and not communicating with potential roommates via text messages anymore (the way I had in 2010). People admitted to meeting half an hour to an hour before the meeting time via e-mails. This behavior implied that every potential candidate was thought to have constant access to their emails via phones.
3) Overusing the photo feature of my smartphone and feeling almost incomplete when I do not post it online has certainly caused me to download picture-sharing apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. And yet, I still have countless of images to go through, especially when it comes to my most recent trips, which most likely I won’t ever look at again. Overtaking pictures does not increase the quality of them but rather causes more headache. Perhaps I should make sure I really want to take a picture of an object/ person/ scenery before I do it.
Re-evaluating time spent with my cellphone means deleting lots of meaningless apps and focusing on not having it run my life anymore. After all, there are endless amount of things to waste my time on. Why do it on a tiny screen than real, tangible life?
What do you think about your own cell phone usage and when you observe it in people in your surroundings?
18 thoughts on “On Cell Phone Addiction and the Moments App”
I’m not quite as glued to my smartphone as you are, Laura, but I do like to be connected most of the day. It’s fairly essential in my job as a website designer and I tend to have a lot of screen time.
It’s definitely good to take breaks and do real-world things, though. I love your list of “I’d rathers”.
By the way, by my calculations 240 minutes is 4 hours, not 3!
You’re so right! I’ve corrected it to 4 hours (my math was off, oops!). Which makes it even more embarrassing, as that is a huge chunk of my time awake during the day…
I can see how your job merits a lot of screen time. Do you ever get tired of it?
I should download this app. There are some days I barely pick up the phone but then others when I’m like “what the hell did I just do for 45 minutes?” Like you, I have so many other things I could be doing. I haven’t “had time” to blog in the last few weeks except the other day when I wrote when while I should have been working on other things, but I *did* if I would have redirected the energy I spent into checking Facebook on some of those days into writing.
Oh, also I hate the expectation people have that we’re always on our phones/available. Sometimes people get irritated when they see that Facebook messages are “read” or that people are “green” without answering. On the flip side, since people have so many notifications, I’m almost afraid to message or text people if it’s not a “normal” hour because they might have some loud alert that would wake them up. I remember when it used to be that text message or Facebook message was the way to send someone a message that *didn’t* require immediate response.
I have those moments, too. “What? 30 minutes on my phone for what?”
It’s always a wake-up call but then it happens again a few days later…
I know what you mean but not sending people texts after a certain hour. I put my phone on “do not disturb” and no matter how many times you were to call me late at night, you’d never get a hold of me. I just don’t want to be bothered during my sleep. I read this article recently were it was suggested to not look at any screen more than an hour ahead of bedtime because otherwise your brain will signal your body to stay awake. I am now trying to implement this by checking way in advance if my alarm is on, my battery is still charged etc. Just so I don’t look at the screen before bedtime anymore.
Oh, and I don’t care if people see that I read their messages. I am notorious for never answering messages in times so they just have to get used to that. I also refuse to install messenger on my phone, so usually I check them when in front of a PC…
I am actually appalled at how addicted people are to there smart phones. People walk into you on the footpath because they are reading their phone – people don’t connect with you during a coffee, lunch, dinner time because the phone is going off. I stopped by to talk to a neighbour and her daughter sent her 10 texts in .45 minutes. Each time we would begin a conversation her phone would go off. She would halt the conversation to check the message. Mine was on her table I heard it go off a few times but left it there. Checked it as I was leaving and returned the calls. I am totally over this rudeness of people and their phones. There is a time and place and it is not about dominating every waking moment of life.
I can see answering once to tell people that you’re busy but that’s rude to keep answering it during a conversation. This post reminded me of something else that irritates me which I added to my own comment above, but I imagine that daughter probably has the expectation that her mom is “always available”. So many people do seem to have that such that they wonder why you don’t reply immediately to a text or an email or what have you. I wish we would go back to those days when texts, email, and the like were what you sent if you didn’t need someone urgently (and you didn’t have to worry they’d have a notification that would disturb them if you sent it at night) and if you needed someone urgently, you called. I accidentally left my phone at home the other day. It was kind of nice not to be connected for the day and I was still able to get done what I needed to.
Amanda, you have a very valid point here! I’ve also forgotten my phone at home occasionally and had to navigate around the city and work without it for 12 hours straight. Nothing bad happened and it was actually more of a relief than anything. A good point to consider for the future!
I hate when people walk into you or don’t pay attention because they set their phones at higher priority than real human beings. My boss used to act that way every time we were called into a personal meeting or evaluation and it was one of the rudest things to do, especially when you wanted to ask for a raise.
People need to just lose their phone for a day and then see how they will manage. It won’t be the end of the world, that’s for sure!
Oh wow, I’ve downloaded this. Really awesome, I’m interested in knowing my activity. The longest so far I’ve been on my phone is 10 mins.. lol
How long has it been after 24 hours? It helps to monitor it over the course of a week and see a pattern. 4 hours has been my longest so far but I’ve had another instance of 200 minutes a few days later which makes me sad.
Well today I’ve had about 166 minutes, but that’s because I was in the library listening to music from youtube while I was writing.
Oh, ich glaube, 50% der Handybesitzer geht es so wie dir. Ich habe auch so ein Gerät, benutze es aber nur um zu telefonieren. Diese “Sucht” habe ich also nicht. Habe kein TV zu Hause, dafür verbringe ich sicher 2 Stunden am Abend am PC.
Das stimmt schon, und besonders in Europa hebt es maechtig ab! Fast so schlimm wie hier in den USA. Ich besitze (zum Glueck!) auch keinen Fernseher und verbringe die meiste Zeit vorm PC abgesehen vom Handy, das manchmal zum PC Ersatz wird). Es ist schon schade, dass wir alle heutzutage unsere Zeit mit technischen Dingen verschwenden und ansonsten gar nicht mehr wissen, wie wir uns beschaeftigen sollen!
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I can relate to this so much. I think consumer technology has evolved so quickly that we’re still trying to include it in our lives. Unfortunately, things like etiquette and spending too much can be part of the consequences. I need to charge my phone once or twice per day.
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Have a child and you would be happy not to own a smartphone.. at least for me anyway… 🙂