Picture yourself during your usual commute from the office ‘discovering’ some landscape you’ve never seen on that route. It’s always been there and you probably never noticed it because your attention was always on something else — your smartphone.
According to a report by Dscout, an American research platform, the heaviest smartphone users click, tap, or swipe on their phones 5,427 times a day. And in sessions, “the average user engaged in 76 separate phone sessions a day. Heavy users averaged 132 sessions a day.”
Undoubtedly, our smartphones and social media are powerful tools that help us stay in touch with friends and family, promote our work, and follow the latest news.
These days, there are multiple social media platforms to choose from and they are often designed to keep one addicted as a result of the instant gratification they give.
Cal Newport — in his book, Deep Work — advised quitting social media to focus on a cognitively demanding task. I decided to give it a shot by going on a two-week social media and smartphone detox.
Suggested Read: How to stay focused in a world full of distractions
The goals were to find out if I was addicted to my smartphone and the number of things I could achieve by staying away from my smartphone and social media.
How I dumped my smartphone
I started the detox by suspending all social media and instant messaging apps on my phone using the Android app Freezer, which restricted all notifications and messages from the frozen apps.
For a proper smartphone detox, I used a feature phone with just phone call and text functionality. This really took me back to the early 2000s when I didn’t own a smartphone. Since I couldn’t do anything that required WiFi or data outside of work, I did all the work that required Internet connectivity at the office.
The first few days of the detox were challenging as I itched to pick up the phone and check for notifications; however, by the following week, this wasn’t the case.
Throughout this period, I didn’t have to worry about charging my phone like I usually would when using a smartphone.
Because my job requires I use social media, there were times I had to check Twitter using Tweet Deck. At other times I used a colleague’s smartphone to get the information needed.
Before going on the detox, I believed I would miss out on a ton of things. But I realised that if the information weren’t so important, I wouldn’t be aware of it so there was practically no fear of missing out (FOMO) at that point.
Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives and we often forget that it isn’t real life, and more could be achieved when it does not distract us. Here are some of my achievements in the two weeks away from social media.
I was able to read more
It was always a battle to drop my smartphone and do any meaningful reading before my detox. A battle I largely lost because I struggled to focus on whatever material I was reading. Since I mostly read ebooks, notifications from social networks were unavoidable. Nevertheless, this isn’t peculiar to me alone.
A study by Common Sense Media (PDF) found that half of the teens studied say they often watch TV or use social media while doing homework, and 60% say they text while doing homework.
According to the study, of the students who multitask, two-thirds say they don’t think watching TV, texting, or using social media while doing homework makes any difference in the quality of their schoolwork, especially during study hours.
With no smartphone as a distraction, there was a lot of free time for me to catch up on other books I had missed reading.
My 8 hours of sleep were complete
Inadequate sleep often causes headaches and bloodshot eyes, which affect workplace productivity. Without a smartphone, sleeping consistently for eight hours during the detox was easy.
Unsurprisingly, my stress level reduced because the time I’d normally have spent going through different apps was spent reading books and getting more work done.
Focus on important things
Distractions occur easily, and they cost a lot. During the detox, I realised how much time is wasted browsing social networks without knowing it.
Prior to this, I would pick up my phone without cause to check for notifications. And when there were none, I’d scroll through my contact list and start inconsequential conversations that led nowhere. But realising this helped me focus on work, increased my levels of productivity, and made me more sensitive to my environment.
Why you might need to do a smartphone detox
If you feel like using your smartphone takes too much of your time, social media preoccupies your mind, or if you find yourself continually and habitually reaching for your phone, these might be signs that it’s time for a break.
Interestingly, you don’t have to do weeks or months without your smartphone if you don’t want to. It’s okay to start by muting notifications and choosing when you want to check updates. It is also okay not to respond to all notifications you receive depending on their order of importance.
A smartphone detox can also mean keeping your phone out of sight when you’re at work unless it’s necessary you use it.
Staying glued to your smartphone is neither a good nor a bad idea. All you need to do is to set a healthy boundary.
Setting a boundary will help you curb distractions, but more importantly, there must be a conscious definition of the kind of bond you want to share with your smartphone — how you deliberately unplug and cut down on screen time.
Although many believe they can’t do without their smartphones because they can’t afford to miss out on news and trends. Truth is, it’s fake.
Speaking with two colleagues who were once smartphone addicts, they recounted having to be without their phones for about two months and a year respectively.
For them, it was a period when they discovered better ways to stay focused and relaxed, devoid of the usual pressure to put up a post, a comment, hit the like button, or even get into an unpleasant argument with strangers on social media.
A smartphone detox isn’t just about avoiding something in a certain space, its divergent. For some, it gives them a chance to reflect and appraise life’s issues in an order of priority. For others, it’s a journey of self-discovery in relation to some paths of life, career growth, family, and other relationships. For me, it gave me the opportunity to get some rest, focus more, and be more productive.
Have you ever done a smartphone detox? Please share your experiences.