Breaking up with your cell phone

Iman Hassan

Iman Hassan

Iman Hassan

Cell phones have become man’s best friend, or more so, that toxic friend that excites you but influences poor decision making. Just like that friend, your phone is a constant companion, accompanying you all day and resting by your bed at night.

You are disturbed by messages from social media, email and text. You answer calls when socially unacceptable, and–when you hear a ringtone telling you that a message has arrived–you put your immediate communication with friends and family on hold.

You may notice these signs in yourself, and if so, it’s vital to finally recognize the toxic relationship you have with your phone.

A study done by Adrian Ward, a professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, asked participants to keep their devices close and visible, nearby and out of sight, or in another room. The researchers then put the participants’ cognitive abilities to the test.

The findings suggested that even if you aren’t checking or thinking about your phone, it has an impact on your cognitive capacity. Ward mentioned that people have a finite amount of cognitive resources, and the effort required to ignore your phone depletes some of them.

The study also found that the more reliant you are on your phone, the more likely you are to be negatively affected by it. The problem is not solved by simply placing the phone face down or even turning it off.

Which begs the question, how do you break this toxic cycle? It’s a simple question with answers that are difficult to implement.

Regardless, it is possible to reclaim your life and attention from your phone, but it will require some preparation and commitment.

According to Catherine Price’s insightful book “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” you need to treat the underlying causes of phone addiction, such as the emotional triggers that lead you to pick up your phone in the first place.

The goal isn’t to keep you off the internet or off social media but to unhook our brain from the bad habits it’s developed around this technology and reconnecting it with more beneficial activities.

Now, what are some specific remedies to battle this so-called addiction.

Well, a crucial first step is to measure your phone usage because what gets measured gets managed.

You can download apps such as Moment for iPhone and OFFTIME for Android which will keep track of how much time you’re spending on your phone, the apps you spend that time on, and how many times a day you are picking up your phone.

Price suggests that after you have that information, think about what type of relationship you want to have with your phone. Do you want to only use it for work, school and/or communication or strictly when absolutely necessary?

Once you’ve set your intentions with your phone, that will allow you to better assess what you need to accomplish.

Setting boundaries is essential if you want to lessen your phone usage: turn off all notifications including email notifications, and if you’re worried about missing a call or email, just put them on a VIP list.

Social media is another distraction that has a tight grip on everyone’s attention. It’s very consuming, especially TikTok that has an endless scroll feature allowing for its 15-second videos to decrease your attention span.

Many people’s preoccupation with social media is so dire that the best option is to delete those apps completely. Download an app blocker if you can’t erase social media or other distracting apps like games or shopping.

Specific time periods throughout your day need a phone free zone, such as dinner and study time. Your morning and night routines should consist of very minimal phone usage because it will prevent starting your day efficiently and going to sleep.

One tactic recommended by Price is to take a 24-hour trial separation from your phone. That may seem quite nerve wracking, but many participants noticed that their phone wasn’t always as vital as they once thought.

This is designed to put your discipline and boundaries to the test, but most importantly, it’s meant to “allow serendipity to reenter your life” as Price puts it.

During those 24 hours, go on walks, eat at that nearby restaurant you’ve been meaning to visit, or read the newspaper or a book. This separation will most likely emphasize the fact that there are a plethora of other intriguing things to do that are far more beneficial to your health than staring at your phone.

Teenagers should give this tactic a chance; perhaps instead of endless text or snaps you should talk with friends face to face. Plan a no phone outing where you prioritize conversing and listening.

Thankfully you don’t have to kick your phone to the curb like that friend who brings nothing but regret to your life. Instead, you can rewire your brain to withstand your craving because it’s definitely much easier to work on yourself than another person.