Smartphone addiction part 1: Methods to reduce electronic addiction

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*** Disclaimer ***

This editorial discusses some of the technological aspects of internet/smartphone addiction. It’s important to reiterate that no one on the Pocketnow staff is a trained medical professional. In discussing this topic with our audience in an entertaining way, if you feel you might have a problem with addictive behavior, please seek help from a qualified doctor or counselor.

Last week, our intrepid reporter Juan Carlos Bagnell, took the initiative to track down one of the leading experts in addiction. Specifically, Dr. Timothy Fong is leading the charge when it comes to digital addiction. You know, it’s the thing that statistically speaking, you’re participating in by reading this article. Thanks! But this particular addiction strikes close to the heart of Juan since he has been trying to ease off the whole information overload thing of late.

Black and white

Juan has spent the past few months (when not reviewing for us of course) keeping his phone screen black and white. The theory is that the less bright and pretty the screen is, the less likely it will be to draw him into the screen. This temptress that we like to call the digital world is best viewed in color, and by denying that Juan is finding himself less immersed in the time suck that is the internet.

Well good for Juan! But since this is becoming a thing, we here at Pocketnow wanted to recommend another idea to those of you who may similarly be trying to shake off the bonds of excessive interneting. We’re all in this together – when we’re not watching cat videos that is. So let’s dive right in. We’ve already talked about black and white screens – or what I like to call the “Leave it to Beaver” resolution. So let’s look at another potential culprit, shall we? We shall!

Bong bong

Juan’s experiment is noble, and I personally can appreciate the need to unplug every now and then. I have a very addictive personality, so this is something I probably should reign back on myself. But I can quit any time I want – honest. But when I do decide to actually go ahead and do it, I know where I’ll start – notifications.

Let’s face it, notifications are one of the biggest problems when dealing with Internet and digital addiction. Because every time you pull yourself out of the black hole that is the internet, another email sucks you right back in. Notifications are the modern version of the phone ringing in the 90’s. I may be dating myself big time here, but I could never walk past a ringing phone back then. It just…had…to be answered. We have similar problems with notifications because by their very nature, they require attention.

Away with you!

So, turn them off! It’s an oddly refreshing idea when you think about it. There are two ways you can use a phone – you can own it, or it can own you. If you turn off your notifications, there is nothing to draw you back to the phone, except you. When you have time to work or play on your phone, you will devote yourself to it. But when you don’t, then you won’t. That’s the other side of notifications. They’re main function is to let you know when something happens – mostly while you’re not using it. If you were on your phone, you would know when something comes through.

If you want to shake the digital high of getting a like on a tweet or a comment on a Facebook post, you can turn them off. But maybe that’s too much of a leap. Maybe you can just scale back the frequency of those notifications. Not everything has to be push push push. Most apps will allow you to determine how often they poll to see if anything new happened. If going cold turkey won’t work for you, try setting your phone to poll every hour, or every two hours. What would you be missing? An important email? They can call you. An epic snap? I’m going to punch you in the face. Not everything has to be now, now, now.

Keep it on the home front

Another option would be to turn off the mobile data on your phone and use it only when you’re on Wi-Fi. I call this the Masochist mambo. The thing is, chances are the times you’re on mobile data will be the times you have time to kill. When you’re on WiFi, you’re at home, or at work, or at a friend’s house, or something like that. When you’re on mobile data, you’re on the train, or in a car (not driving, hopefully), or in line at the DMV or something. That’s when you can afford to be distracted. So, this isn’t my preferred route, but it’s a choice.

The benefits to most of these will be obvious right away – battery. Turning off mobile data, or severely reducing the amount of times your phone pulls down info from the internet will greatly benefit your battery – probably to an insane degree. The less your phone needs to work, the longer it will be able to..well…work. So, there’s that.

cellular data usageTake back your life

Plus, there’s the psychological benefit of taking back your life. A couple of years back, I swore off TV, Netflix, and other streaming services for Lent. It felt good having a lot of extra time available to play games, play with my kids, hang with my family and get things done. I would imagine scaling back distractions from the digital world might have the same effect. I might even try it. Lent is coming!

But, this piece doesn’t end here. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about whether or not you should scale things back. Is this about addiction, or is this the new reality that we live in? We’ll examine that and more tomorrow, same Bat time; same Bat channel.

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About The Author
Adam Doud

Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!