How do you get off your damn phone?
February 21, 2020 2:17 PM   Subscribe

What are your tips for not being on your smartphone all the time? I’ve gotten better at this lately but I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be.
posted by ferret branca to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I struggle with this a lot still, but one thing that has helped is not charging my phone in the bedroom so I can’t pick it up first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.
posted by mekily at 2:22 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]

I leave mine where I'm not. If I'm going to watch TV, I'll leave it in the bedroom.
posted by Ftsqg at 2:25 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]

Deleting Facebook and Twitter went a long way in getting me off the constant checking. I genuinely believe my quality of life went up.
posted by Karaage at 2:45 PM on February 21 [12 favorites]

There is a way (I'd have to look it up again, it isn't obvious) to make your phone screen black and white. This is amazingly effective, almost aversive, at blocking whatever dopamine rush you are getting from constantly checking the thing. I can't do it for more than a day or two.
posted by half life at 2:48 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]

Out of sight, out of mind. I have really struggled with this and one thing lately that really seems to work is putting my phone inside something so I can’t see it. I have a funny sock (has owls with glasses on it, ymmv) that I cut the foot off of and I put it over my phone while charging. When I look over and see the sock I’m reminded why I put my phone in detention and it’s a surprisingly effective deterrent. I’ve seen a couple people make cute little boxes to put their phones in. It’s simple. It’s dumb. When I do it, it works pretty well.
posted by amanda at 2:50 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]

There are some apps that can help you limit use of certain other apps (you get half an hour a day of Twitter or whatever), but personally I would probably find ways to get around it. Like others, I found deleting apps I used a lot helps. You can always check on your laptop if you want to.

Putting the phone in "do not disturb" mode all the time may help you ignore it (no sounds, buzzes or phantom buzzes) but also may make you anxious and want to check constantly.

You can also make a promise to yourself, kind of like a little swear jar, that every time you open up the app you pay a quarter or a buck or something, and that money gets donated at the end of the month. You can track it in a tally app.

On iPhones at least I know you can turn off cellular data and background app refresh for individual apps, so you wouldn't be able to check them so frequently while out and about.

When at home you can try to hide it and do something else.

Half life, are you maybe talking about high visibility mode?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:07 PM on February 21

The most effective way to not do something is to not be able to do it. For many people, that's why you put your phone in another room and only check it periodically. You can never check your phone if you leave it at home and aren't at home, after all.

If it's actually the anxiety and compulsion that's bothering you, I dunno… therapy? If you think you have an addiction, you can treat that as seriously or non-seriously as you want.

The book Indistractable has a good plan at examining your internal and external triggers then designing a plan. This will address why you are feeling the way you're feeling with the internal (anxiety, need more stimulus) and external (pings, calls, etc.). Digital Minimalism was written previously to Indistractible and I find it more simple. I didn't really need help with this, I just read it to examine my own habits and be able to talk about the topic with others. My phone is on the kitchen counter about 10 feet away from me so I'd have to walk over to see if I had a text. I check it a lot more if it's within reach, often without actually thinking about it, so I find it better to not be able to do that.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:11 PM on February 21

I have screen time limits enabled. I asked my husband to set the override password, and not to tell it to me what it was.

This is the only thing that has worked.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:19 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]

Knowing you, your partner, and the difficulty of truly putting something away in tiny NYC apartments: borrow your partner’s height and have him put your phone on a shelf out of reach when you don’t want to pick it up.

And I second the suggestion to charge it outside the bedroom overnight.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:29 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

I don’t actually do this myself but I’m interested in knowing if it would work; schedule phone time in. Say you decide that you’ll only be on your phone between 10am and 11 am and then 7pm and 8pm (or whatever) and you’re not allowed to use it (except phone calls or messages) outside of those times. Stick to it for 30 days and you’ve created a new habit.
posted by Jubey at 4:34 PM on February 21

For me, a really effective way is to uninstall the native phone applications and only use the web version, if available. It turns off notifications and it's just way less engaging that way. I went from checking Instagram multiple times a day to at most every other day in less than two weeks. (Also, there's no creepy advertising in the web version.)
posted by hooray at 4:45 PM on February 21

I got a watch for messages and calls and leave my phone plugged in on my desk.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:16 PM on February 21

These answers are great! Checking text messages is also some of the problem for me, fwiw.
posted by ferret branca at 6:04 PM on February 21

It sounds counterintuitive, but I fund myself looking way less at my phone now that I have an Apple Watch. Checking texts was a gateway to mindless phone surfing, but being able to glance at a text quickly and then go back to what I was doing without actually touching my phone has been super helpful. I can respond to a whole bunch of texts at once, when I have time.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:30 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Turn off data service. If that doesn't help, *cancel* data service, go talk and text only. Use WiFi islands to occasionally check in / sync things / get map routes / download long-form reads.

Most of the digital distractions are about the downsides of constant data connectivity + the attention economy rather than the device itself.
posted by wildblueyonder at 8:56 PM on February 21

1. Turn off all alerts that I can (I still have phone on vibrate).
2. Use the Digital Wellbeing app to set timers for Twitter and Instagram and web browser (15, 15 and 30 mins respectively)
3. Delete Facebook altogether.
4. Use the Digital Wellbeing dash every day so I can see my own screen time and compare it to previous days and weeks.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:26 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

In addition to the tips above about physically separating yourself from your phone, I found that getting a non-smart watch helped me a lot. I would check the time on my phone, and then while I was looking at it just "quickly check X" and get sucked in. Having a way to check the time without touching my phone helped me break that particular attention vector.
posted by lhputtgrass at 5:42 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]

I haven’t read it yet, but I heave heard great things about the book “how to break up with your phone”
posted by nuclear_soup at 7:05 AM on February 22

1.) Remove all apps that are not essential.
2.) Don't let your browser save passwords to social media sites
3.) Log out of social media sites to mentally break yourself away from their dark patterns.
4.) Come home, and put the phone someplace, don't carry it around.
posted by nickggully at 7:08 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I found three books really helpful with reducing my phone use: Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport) and Atomic Habits (James Clear) for the mental stuff and How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price for the nuts-and-bolts stuff.

I found the following things most helpful:

a) Banishing the phone from my bedroom during sleeping hours. I keep it far enough away that I can't easily reach it and start browsing.

b) Switching to a physical alarm clock and wristwatch so I'm not depending on my phone so much.

c) Replacing phone time with other activities - reading paper books, playing board games, colouring, what have you.

d) Removing most social media apps from my phone, unfollowing everyone on FB and vastly reducing the number of people I follow on Twitter, and putting it on the second or third home screen so it's that much more effort to access it.

e) Nuclear: have your partner change the passcode so you can't access it except at certain times.
posted by Tamanna at 8:35 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

The first thing you need to do is take an honest inventory of what, other than the texting you mentioned, sucks up all your time on the phone. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Games? Understanding the problem is the first step towards solving it.

The first comment in this thread is a big one - don't have your phone in the bedroom. Treat your bedroom like a meditation space - never bring your phone in there at all if you can help it. Shutting off all notifications is another huge step. Shut them all off at first, don't try to choose which ones you need. After you do that, do this thought exercise: when you stop to really think about it, are any of the notifications you get really that important? Answer that question honestly, and you'll probably find you can easily live without 99% of the notifications you currently get.

If you're not ready to uninstall social media apps, at least do yourself the favor of removing them from your home screen. Keeping them buried in your app drawer will make you have to find them, and make it just that little bit less easy to get to them, which helps break the boredom-induced habit of checking them all the time.
posted by pdb at 9:11 AM on February 22

I have done a few things:

1. FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO! I loaded up my kindle with books, found some boring TV that I can enjoy, bought a new video game, and got more focused on painting.
2. I installed "AppBlock" to set times where I can't access time-wasting apps. For me, that's before 9am or after 10pm.

These tow combined have helped me start to change my habits, and I find myself using less because of it.
posted by rebent at 10:34 AM on February 22

I had a surprisingly successful 'no net November' last year by explicitly giving myself permission to look at my phone whenever the urge struck. The magic words were: you can if you need to. And it worked! It made me consider whether I actually needed to. So the few times a day when I did, I still had internet access without having to disable a bunch of goofy traps first. And when I didn't, it took away the forbidden fruit appeal so I wasn't 'tempted' to 'cheat.' Soothing the addictive impulse by meeting it with a sense of full freedom and generosity was much more effective than any artificial techno-austerity.

You can if you need to! Try it today!
posted by jinjo at 8:55 PM on February 23

I make sure I have an ebook I'm interested in on my phone. If I catch myself tabbing back and forth between apps I open the book instead.
posted by yarntheory at 4:45 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]

Smartphones are way too useful, so I don't have a smart phone.

Also I set it up so texts don't make an alert noise. Bonus: phone stays charged for days.

It is so great. A++ would quit smartphone again.
posted by aniola at 8:27 PM on February 24

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