An effective way to stop wasting time on smartphones
When was the last time that you checked on your smartphone to see whether a notification had just popped up out of nowhere? Maybe two hours ago, one hour ago, thirty minutes ago, five minutes ago, two minutes ago, or just sometime between reading the last line and this one — what is your answer? Mine is the last one. I have already checked on my phone twice since starting this piece. Now, the question is, why?
The phone is just in front of me, resting beside my laptop. What other choices do I have while it is staring at me and tempting me with its seductive charm? I feel no shame in checking on my phone once or maybe twice or then perhaps one more time, please!
Wait, give me a few seconds, I will just make a dash and put my phone in another room!
Ah, I am free from the shackles of my smartphone now, what a relief! Tranquillity lingers in the air. There is nothing to distract, and we can have a serious discussion on what the hell is going on with this growing addiction. Nowadays, you can forget your wallet before leaving your home, but one thing that you don’t leave behind is your smartphone. People are losing the reality to pursue the pleasure of the virtual world. How have we become so addicted to something?
My experience with smartphone addiction
When the government imposed the first nationwide lockdown across India, a different sort of addiction hit me.
I would watch videos on YouTube all day.
The video-streaming platform had recently introduced a new feature to track the time one would spend watching videos. At first, the idea fascinated me. “Wow, I can see how much time I have spent there?” That seemed so cool. But after going through my statistics, I felt the shockwaves running down my veins and hitting my spine with utter vibrancy. It was as if someone had hammered my head.
During the lockdown period, I would watch 10 hours of content daily on YouTube. Firstly, I did not apprehend what on earth I was doing back then. Following what felt like an aftershock, I chose not to touch my mobile for the next five minutes.
As the time frame of five minutes passed, I picked up the phone and showed some resistance in a bid to say, “I am not opening YouTube, you hoax, again!”
Then, I opened Twitter. Twitter doesn’t have the same watch-time feature. So, I could be relaxed and could just scroll down the feed. Finding humorous tweets, I would “retweet” them. And if I would find a rational tweet, I would leave a “like” to encourage the owner of the respective tweet. Twitter soon became my world, emerging as a suitable replacement for YouTube in my heart. But it is not anymore. Over the last few months, I have managed to build a barrier between me and my love, Twitter. I don’t spend as much time on Twitter as I used to do.
I opened an Instagram account ages ago, coming under the hypnosis of FOMO (fear of missing). But I don’t use Instagram anymore as I don’t find any motivation in observing someone’s activities reflecting a pretentious world through the eyes of expensive lenses.
I used to own an Instagram account, which I later disabled. It has been more than one year since I deactivated my account on Instagram. But I have seen people, mostly friends, using Instagram more times in a day than it should be used, in my opinion. If truth be told, I feel as if it is their go-to platform to watch people posting images and videos. It has already become their addiction.
I am on Facebook, but I never wanted to join Facebook in the first place. But circumstances led me to build a profile. I started writing professionally in 2017. I used to be a regular contributor to SportsKeeda, now one of the biggest hubs to garner sports news in India. I would write about European football. Back in those days, they made a private group on Facebook. In that group, the editors for the site would pitch ideas ahead of a gameweek, and the writers had to pick topics they wanted to work on over the course of the gameweek.
Unable to find an alternative and driven by the fear of missing out on those ideas, I eventually created my profile on Facebook only to join the SportsKeeda group. The group is now dead as it has also been more than two years since I left SportsKeeda. But my profile on Facebook remains. I am hardly online there. To be honest, I only use Facebook as a platform to collect and share memes. It has gradually become my preferred destination to find laughter.
Other than these, I used to play games. I have played games like Free Fire, FIFA mobile, PES mobile, PUBG, and many other titles. But now, they are just distant memories. I might’ve continued to play games had not my smartphone taken that irritatingly long time to launch a game. In simpler words, my phone would’ve been extinct by now if I had not stopped.
There was a time I used to spend the majority portion of my day in front of my mobile display. Then when being away from it, I would feel so exhausted and dull that I would not even consider doing another chore. It was as if I did not have a drop of dopamine left in me.
Smartphones & Dopamines
I remember reading something about dopamine that I would like to share with you today. During the mid-1900s, a team of researchers, in an attempt to find whether dopamine really excites human nature, ran a test on rats. Firstly, the researchers injected some extra dopamine into a rat’s body to see how it would react. After a few minutes, the team noted a drastic change in the rat’s behaviour. Its heartbeat was getting faster, and it was looking much more energetic after receiving the injection of dopamine.
On the contrary, when every ounce of dopamine was taken out of a rat’s body, it went numb. It started showing no interest in doing anything. It didn’t eat food and stopped running around the cage. It would just lie down for a few hours before passing away. Conducting the experiments, the researcher came to the conclusion that humans, like rats, feel the same rush of dopamine that enables a person to operate a work.
I am writing this blog because my level of dopamine is motivating me to write these words. But when I am finished with my writing, I will surely feel exhausted as there would not be any secretion of dopamine. Without the emission of dopamine, one can never get motivated to do a job, as the aforementioned study suggests.
It is the pleasure or emotion that leads one to accomplish a job. In the same way, we feel exhausted after watching videos or playing games on our smartphones for a long time. In the process of doing something pleasurable, we release so much dopamine that it leaves us with a fatigued body. The same thing happens after musterbation: we release so much dopamine in search of instant pleasure that it leaves us with weariness.
I hope you understand how you and I waste dopamine while scrolling down social media and spending time on other time-consuming platforms. And it is not just you and me. Smartphone addiction has turned into a global crisis these days.
You might not eliminate your desire to watch content on smartphones completely, but you can take a firm grip on how much time you choose to waste on it. Via some simple steps, I am going to share my personal remedies, using which I have gained adequate control over my utilization of smartphones.
“Stop it. Get some help.”
Do you remember I mentioned, at the opening part of this piece, how I put my phone in another room to avoid any sort of distraction caused by its presence?
Now, this might surprise you: since putting my smartphone in another room, I have not been tempted to check on it for a single time. You might counter by saying, “you are just telling that to prove a point to us.” Well, I am not. But, to clear the confusion, let’s discuss why I have not been tempted to look at my phone for once throughout this period — when I am certain I would’ve done otherwise if the phone had been here, in front of my eyes.
The psychology behind this weird form of procrastination:
First of all, I would like to thank James Clear. By reading his book, “The Atomic Habits”, I got to know about this method. It is an inversion of the third habit-building law: Make It Hard.
The human brain works in such a mysterious way that it always encourages you to do the easy job. Don’t you agree? Well, let me give you an example. Suppose it is a wintry night. You set an alarm on your mobile with a resolution to wake up early in the morning. But when the alarm rings in the morning, you put off the wake-up call and go on to sleep for a much longer period. You ignore the alarm, your resolution in an attempt to accomplish a task that feels easy to your brain. Your brain thinks, “Who is going to go out of the comfort of the blanket and face the freezing cold out there?” That’s a difficult task. Your brain encourages you to skip it, and you subsequently skip it. You end up being late for the task you wanted to finish in the morning. And this is just one example of you getting manipulated by your brain.
The growing trend of online shopping is another embodiment of looking at the same aspect but from a different point of view. If you want to buy a book, would you prefer going to a book shop or an online bookstore like Amazon or Flipkart or XYZ? I tend to buy books from online stores. I cannot recall the last time I went to a bookstore physically to buy a book. With online bookstores, it is so easy to search and find the preferred one. I don’t have to go to a store and order a book. It saves you some extra time, effort, and money if you are taking a bike or a car into use. Science and technology have made it so easy for us that our brain always encourages us to exploit online services.
Now, let’s come to the focal point of our piece. If the time-wasting on smartphones bother us so much, why don’t we make it hard for us to access the smartphone? If it is so easy for us to spend time on social media, why don’t we make it hard for us to access social media? Whenever you think that you are doing something important and don’t want the distraction caused by your phone, you should consider putting the phone in another room or at least inside a drawer far from your work desk. Whether to keep it on the general mode or silent mode, I leave that choice to you.
Believe me, your mind would even consider checking on your phone. And even if it does, your brain would not encourage you to fetch the phone from another room or open the drawer again and again. Then, once you are finished with your important job, you can check on it for newer messages or notifications.
It has proved to be pretty effective for me. And I assume that it would help you stop wasting your time on smartphones too.