There were many rumours about the American Psychiatric Association legitimately including “selfitis”, the obsessive-compulsive need to take selfies, into the latest iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013.
Although that didn’t happen, mental health professionals all over the world, including those in our very own NIMHANS in Bengaluru have expressed grave concern over the Smartphone addiction. This obsession seems to be afflicting people of all ages: right from pre-schoolers who refuse to eat unless they are handed their iPad, to adults who can’t sleep without checking their Facebook News Feed first. If you are aware of your smartphone addiction or have friends & family nagging you for checking your smartphone at the dinner table, then here are a few simple yet effective ways to curb your addiction and slowly and steadily completely rid yourself of it:
1. Use an extremely long unlock password
Include small and capital letters, numbers, and characters. When you have an annoyingly long phone unlock password, you will be deterred to check your smartphone repeatedly. After all, who wants to type out a 20-character long password just to see what the Kardashians have posted on Instagram? However, if your work requires you to make calls from your smartphone frequently, you could set passwords for your most used apps instead of a common phone unlock password. We don’t want you to get fired by the boss just because you take too long to dial a number, do we?
2. Create delays
We, psychologists, swear by this one. You can restrict your smartphone usage by simply making it not-so-easy-to-reach at all times. Before bed, keep the devil’s device (read smartphone) on the other side of the bed in a place that is farther from you. This way, even if you feel the urge to check WhatsApp, you will feel less inclined once you realise that it will require you to get up from the bed and walk a few steps. Another way is to keep the phone in a desk drawer at work, lock it, and carry on with your work. If you are doing this, ensure that you have no embarrassing ringtones as your phone will ring for quite a bit before you can reach it! If you want to create some creative delays for yourself, just think what you would do to annoy a younger sibling from getting their hands on their smartphone… the ideas will flow!
3. Witty & wise wallpapers
How about a lock screen wallpaper that says, “Do you really need to check your phone?” Or maybe a wallpaper of an expensive pair of shoes that you want to buy but for which you need to focus on your work and NOT keep checking your phone.
4. Delete social media apps
The “root of all problems in your life”, as your mother would say. Delete Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter and see how much time you save that can be used for other productive endeavours like finishing your assignments on time, making all the work calls, writing out the grocery list, etc. Take out the root, take out the problem. Mums all over the world will now be happy unless they are the ones with the smartphone addiction.
5. Limit the number of notifications
Be it Android, iOS, or Windows; all operating systems allow you to customise the kind of notifications you receive from the various apps installed on your smartphone. You see one notification from Gmail flash on your screen, you check it out, and before you know it, you have also checked your 7 Facebook updates, know about Trump’s latest shenanigans, commented on what your sister’s husband’s cousin’s mother-in-law wore to the wedding. The point is, once you check your phone to see one notification, you will end up seeing many unnecessary ones. Limit the notifications to phone calls, text messages, emails, and any other IMPORTANT & URGENT apps.
6. Make use of productivity apps- App detox, Rescue time, etc.
Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but if you have the right apps, they aid you in your smartphone de-addiction. Apps like Rescue Time, App Detox, etc. collect data on how much time you spend on each app, how many tasks you have been able to strike off your t-do list and give you a realistic and concrete picture of your unnecessary smartphone usage. When numbers come into play it is easier to accept your addiction, agreed?
7. Reward yourself for fair usage and punish if…
Some psychology research says that rewards work better than punishments while some say otherwise. Experiment to see which one works better for you. Reward yourself for not checking Facebook for more than twice a day with an extra scoop of ice-cream at dinner, or punish yourself for watching five random YouTube videos by pinching yourself hard.
So, are you ready to go offline?