You don’t need me to explain the significant role that mobile devices play in our world today. That goes without saying!
I’m in my mid-twenties, so smartphones have been around since my late teens. I am amazed when I think back to the fact that I did not have a smartphone for the first year and a half at university. Somehow I coped just fine! On both of my trips to Nepal, I spent over a week at a time in a village where I had no phone signal and no wifi, and I adored those tech breaks! It was a refreshingly wonderful thing to experience, especially in such a beautiful location. However, cutting out our phones entirely is often not feasible.
As my field of work is about digital spaces, especially social media, I’m constantly finding myself wanting to reduce the amount of time that I spend aimlessly scrolling on my phone – outside of work. (Thankfully, when I am scrolling at work… it is for work!) I love having a Pinterest binge, and catching up on Twitter, but I saw the need to help me place measures on how much my phone ‘controlled’ my life.
Here are five small changes I’ve made to my life (or my phone settings) over the last twelve months that help me to be more mindful of how I spend my time on my phone.
- I turned off all sound notifications
Regardless of whether my phone is on silent or not, my peaceful personal time is not disturbed by the incessant beeping of instant messages or notifications. I can leave my phone in another room (or even right next to me) and enjoy a film without disturbances. I can write this blog without distraction. I can read my book in peace. I have control over when I choose to look at my phone, and not because a beeping noise tells me to.
- I turned off push & icon notifications for certain apps
It was one thing to turn off sound, but the constant flashing of push notifications was also distracting, especially during the darker winter months. I also appreciate a clean home-screen, so I can’t abide seeing all the numbers of notifications waiting for me hovering over every app. So I turned these off! The only apps that send me (silent) push notifications are my personal* emails, text messages and WhatsApp messages from specific people. Without these pushy reminders clogging up my home screen when I click to check the time, I don’t feel as pressured into going into apps I don’t necessarily want to visit at that point in time. *I strictly keep my work emails on my work phone.
- I muted all my group chats
The group chat being ‘on fire’ is a great thing – but not always when you’re at work, or out with friends, or just wanting some peace and quiet. When there seems to be a group chat for every possible scenario and combination of people these days, the notifications are non-stop! In December 2017, when one of these chats was very active first thing on a Saturday morning, I quite literally said “F**k this”, and muted all of my group chats. Now I just check in a couple of times a day to see what I’ve missed. Guess what, you don’t miss out on a whole lot…
- I charge my phone on the opposite side of the room
In November 2016, I moved my phone charger away from my bedside table and to my desk on the opposite side of the room. The moment I get into bed for the evening, I set my phone to charge on my desk. I no longer feel the need to check it in the middle of the night (and blind myself in the process). My evenings are for me to relax and unwind – whether with a few episodes of something on my laptop, writing in my journal, or getting another few chapters of my latest book read. This approach also works really well at getting me out of bed for work in the mornings, as I quite literally have to get out from under my duvet and across the room to turn off the alarm.
- I deleted the Facebook app
The Facebook app eats up a big chunk of your battery and, if you don’t check/re-install it regularly, takes up a disgraceful amount of your phone storage. I don’t use Facebook that often these days, and in the summer of 2017 I realised I was just scrolling pointlessly through the timeline and felt unmoved by everything I saw (puppy videos excluded). So I just deleted it, and I haven’t gone back. I’ll check in once or twice a day on my desktop – but otherwise, no Facebook notifications for me!
BONUS: Create Twitter Lists
For my fellow Twitter-heads, I sorted every single account I follow into relevant Twitter lists – and I do this each time I follow someone new as well. Since doing this, I never scroll through the timeline – I only scroll through whichever list meets my need or interest at that time. Whether it’s ‘Comms Best Practice’ for the latest developments in social media or ‘Fandom’ for the hilarious commentary of the latest Supernatural episode – I see what I choose to see.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you!
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