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?