At first this year, I used my iPhone to browse new titles on Amazon when I saw the cover of "How to Break Up with Your Cellphone" by Catherine Price. I downloaded it on the Kindle because I really wanted to reduce the use of my smartphone, but also because I thought it would be funny to read a book about breaking up with your smartphone on my smartphone (stupid, I know). However, in some chapters, I am quite motivated to download Moment, the screen time tracking application recommended by Price, and buy back the book in print.
At the beginning of "How to Break Your Phone," Price invited his readers to take the Smartphone Compulsion Test, which was developed by David Greenfield, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut who also founded the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. The test has 15 questions, but I know I'm in trouble after answering the first five questions. Stunned by my very high score, which was too embarrassed to be revealed, I decided it was time to seriously limit the use of my smartphone.
From the chapters in Price's book, which is called "Putting the Dope in Dopamine" best suits me. He wrote that "cellphones and most applications are intentionally designed without 'stopping signals' to let us know when we feel we have enough – which is why it's very easy to party accidentally. At some level, we know that what we do makes us feeling dirty, but instead of stopping, our brain decides the solution is to look for more dopamine. We check our phone again. And again. And again. "
Dirty exactly as I felt. I bought my first iPhone in 2011 (and had an iPod Touch before that). That was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing I saw at night. I will claim that because I want to check things on the job, but actually I use autopilot. Thinking about what I can achieve over the past eight years if I am not always connected to my smartphone makes me feel sick. I also wondered what had happened to my brain's feedback round. Just as sugar changes your palate, making you crave more sweets to feel full, I am worried that adding a dose of immediate satisfaction to my phone will reduce my ability to feel genuine joy and pleasure.
The Price book was published in February, at the beginning of the year when technology companies finally began to treat excessive screen time as an obligation (or at least do more than pay lip service for it). In addition to the introduction of Screen Time on iOS 12 and the Android, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube digital welfare tools all launched new features that allow users to track the time spent on their sites and applications.
Earlier this year, influential investor activists holding Apple shares also called on companies to focus on how their devices affect children. In a letter to Apple, the Jana Partners and California State Teachers (CalSTRS) hedge funds write "social media sites and applications that are iPhone and iPad are the main gates usually designed to be addictive and spend as much time as possible. , as is known by many of their original creators in public, "adding that" is a bad long-term business strategy and it is not realistic to ask parents to fight alone. "
Then in November, researchers at Penn State released an important new study linking social media use by teenagers with depression. Led by psychologist Melissa Hunt, experimental studies monitored 143 students with iPhones from universities for three weeks. Scholars are divided into two groups: one is instructed to limit their time on social media, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, only 10 minutes per application per day (their use is confirmed by checking the screen of their iOS battery usage). Other groups continue to use social media applications as usual. At the start of the study, baseline was established with standardized tests for depression, anxiety, social support and other problems, and each group continued to be assessed throughout the experiment.
This finding, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, is very surprising. The researchers wrote that "the limited use group showed a significant reduction in loneliness and depression for three weeks compared to the control group."
Even control groups benefit, even though they are not limited to the use of their social media. "Both groups showed a significant reduction in anxiety and fear of losing the baseline, showing the benefits of increased self-monitoring," said the study. "Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use by about 30 minutes a day can lead to a significant increase in well-being."
Other academic studies published this year add to the growing list of evidence that smartphones and cellular applications can significantly damage your mental and physical well-being.
A group of researchers from Princeton, Dartmouth, University of Texas at Austin, and Stanford published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that was found using smartphones to take photos and videos from experiences that actually reduced the ability to shape their memories. Others warn not to keep a smartphone in your room or even at a desk while you work. Optical chemistry researchers at the University of Toledo found that blue light from digital devices can cause molecular changes in your retina, which could potentially accelerate macular degeneration.
So for the past 12 months, I certainly have a lot of motivation to reduce my screen time. In fact, every time I check the news on my cellphone, there seems to be another headline about the dangers of using a smartphone. I started using Moment to track my total screen time and how it's shared between applications. I took two in-app Moment courses, "Phone Bootcamp" and "Bored and Brilliant." I also use the app to set a daily deadline, turn on "small reminders," or push notifications that tell you how much time you've spent on your cellphone so far all day, and activate the feature "Force Me Off When I" Over ", which basically disturbs you from your cellphone when you do your daily rationing.
At first I managed to cut my screen time in half. I have thought some benefits, such as the better attention span mentioned in Price's book, are too good to be true. But I found my concentration really improved significantly after only one week limiting the use of my smartphone. I read more long articles, participated in several TV shows, and finished knitting sweaters for my toddler. Most importantly, the nagging feeling that I have at the end of each day about wasting my time is gone, and so I live happily after that, right with the knowledge that I don't waste my life with memes, clickbait, and makeup tutorials.
After a few weeks, the time my screen began to creep up again. First I turned off the "Force Me Off" Moment feature, because my apartment didn't have landlines and I had to be able to check text from my husband. I keep small reminders, but it becomes easier and easier to ignore. But even when I unconsciously searched Instagram or Reddit, I felt the existentialist fear of knowing that I was misusing the best years of my life. With everything at stake, why is limiting screen time so difficult?
I wish I knew how to get out of you, small device
I decided to speak with the CEO Moment, Tim Kendall, for some insights. Founded in 2014 by UI designer and iOS developer Kevin Holesh, Moment recently launched Android version too. This is one of the most famous genres that includes Forest, Freedom, Space, Off the Grid, AntiSocial, and the Detox App, all dedicated to reducing screen time (or at least encouraging wiser smartphone use).
Kendall told me that I am not alone. Currently having 7 million users and "for the past four years, you can see that the average usage goes up every year," he said. By looking at the overall data, the Moment team can tell that the tools and courses do help people reduce their screen time, but that often begins to creep up again. Combating that with new features is one of the company's main goals for next year.
"We spend a lot of time investing in R & D to find out how to help those included in that category. They do Phone Bootcamp, see good results, see benefits, but they can't find a way to do it on an ongoing basis, "Kendall said. Moments have released new courses regularly (the latest topics including sleep, attention span, and family time) and recently started offering them on a subscription basis.
"Establishment of habits and ongoing behavior changes is very difficult," said Kendall, who previously held the position of president on Pinterest and director of Facebook monetization. But he is optimistic. "Treaty. People can do it. I think the rewards are very significant. We don't stop with the course. We are exploring many different ways to help people."
As Jana Partners and CalSTRS noted in their letter, a very important issue is the impact of excessive smartphone use on the first generation of teenagers and young adults to have constant access to the device. Kendall notes that suicide rates among adolescents have increased dramatically over the past two decades. Although the study does not explicitly link the time spent online with suicide, the relationship between screen time and depression has been recorded several times, as in the Penn State study.
But there is hope. Kendall said that the Moment Coach feature, which provides short and daily training to reduce the use of smartphones, seems to be very effective among millennials, the stereotypically most pathologically linked generation attached to their cellphones. "It seems that the 20's and 30's have an easier time internalizing trainers and therefore reducing their use from the 40s and 50s," he said.
Kendall stressed that Moment did not see the use of smartphones as an all-or-nothing proposition. Instead, he believes that people should replace brain waste foods, such as social media applications, with things like online language courses or meditation applications. "I really think a deliberately used telephone is one of the most beautiful things you have," he said.
I have tried to limit most of my smartphone use to applications such as the Kindle, but the best solution is to find an offline alternative to keep myself disturbed. For example, I have taught myself new knitting and crochet techniques, because I can't do both when holding my phone (even though I listen to podcasts and audio books). It also gives me a tactile way to measure the time I spend on my cellphone because the hours I cut my screen time correlate with the number of lines that I complete in a project. To limit my use to certain applications, I rely on iOS Screen Time. It's easy to just tap "Ignore Limits," so I also continue to depend on some Moment features.
While some third-party screen time tracking application developers have recently found themselves under tighter supervision by Apple, Kendall said the launch of Screen Time did not significantly affect business or Moment registration. The launch of their Android version also opens up a significant new market (Android also allows Moment to add new features that are not possible on iOS, including only allowing access to certain applications during the specified time).
The short-term impact of the iOS Screen Time has been "neutral, but I think in the long run it will really help," Kendall said. "I think in the long run it will help awareness. If I use a diet metaphor, I think Apple has built a great calorie counter and scale, but unfortunately they haven't provided nutrition guidelines or regimens to people. If you talk to economists about any behavior, can't stand all that is said about quantified self, numbers don't really motivate people. "
Guilting also doesn't work, at least not for the long term, so Moment tries to take "a compassionate voice," he added. "It's part of our brand, company, and ethos. We don't think we will be very helpful if people feel judged when we use our products. They need to feel cared for and supported, and know that the goal is not perfection, it is gradual change."
Many smartphone users may be in my situation: worried about their screen time statistics, not happy with the time they spend, but also find it difficult to get out of their device. We not only use our smartphones to distract us or get fast dopamine by liking social media. We use it to manage our workload, stay in touch with friends, plan our days, read books, find recipes, and find places to visit. I often think of buying a Yondr bag or asking my husband to hide my cellphone, but I know that in the end it won't help.
Sounds cheap, the drive for change must come from within. There is no amount of academic research, screen time applications, or analytics that can redeem it.
One thing I say to myself is that unless the developer finds more ways to force us to change our behavior or other major paradigm changes occur in cellular communication, my relationship with my smartphone will move in a cycle. Sometimes I will be happy with my use, so I will stop, so I will take another Moment course or try another time screen application, and hopefully get back on track. However, in 2018, conversations around screen time finally got urgently needed urgency (and in the meantime, I have actually completed a number of crochet projects instead of just flipping through #knittersofinstagram).