“The media have become masters at packaging stimuli in ways that our brains find irresistible, just as food engineers have become expert in creating ‘hyperpalatable’ foods by manipulating levels of sugar, fat, and salt. Distractibility might be regarded as the mental equivalent of obesity. The palatability of certain kinds of mental stimulation seems to be hard- wired, just as our taste for sugar, fat, and salt is. When we inhabit a highly engineered environment, the natural world begins to seem bland and tasteless, like broccoli compared with Cheetos. Stimulation begets a need for more stimulation; without it one feels antsy, unsettled. Hungry, almost.”
– Matthew Crawford, academic and author of “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction“
Earlier this month, I challenged you to start keeping track of how much time you spend on your phones every day; I shared the strategies I use to minimize time on my phone; and last week I encouraged you to share your experiences and impressions about this experiment.
The results are in. Here are some highlights from your testimonies:
Question 1: Have you been surprised by the report in Moment (or Apple’s Screen Time) showing you how much time you spend on your phone? Did you underestimate or overestimate it?
“I was shocked by how much I was looking at my phone. It made me feel legitimately, not great.”
“Not surprised but had no clue before I used the app. So now I know. Thank you Realists!”
“Overestimated it, in the sense that I thought I spent far more hours in general. Surprised by the amount of time spent only on Instagram.”
“I definitely underestimated it. I predicted it would be about 2 hours max, but it was double that on some of my worst days. It averaged about 3 hours usually.”
Question 2: Have you adopted any new habits to decrease how much time you spend on your phone?
“I try to set time limits for myself, especially before bed. I also try to limit social media usage in the morning and just stick to email and weather apps. I’ve also avoided bringing my external charger with me places in hopes of spending my battery only when necessary. I’ve also noticed myself using my laptop more to keep my usage time down.”
“Any time I find myself looking at social media and become aware of it, I say to myself, ‘This isn’t important.’ And then I try to engage myself in reading, writing, or working on music.”
“Not yet, I think the only way is to remove apps from the phone for a while.”
Question 3: Any additional thoughts?
“When I initially discovered my usage times, I felt ashamed, unaware and dependent. How could I be so disconnected from my own reality? It almost feels like I’m devoted to this phone and that makes me uneasy. I’m so glad you are shining light on this epidemic!”
“I’m enjoying these updates because I feel like they’re helping to keep me honest about how much I’m using my phone. So, thank you!”
Thank YOU for participating! Whenever someone asks me to describe The Realists, I always emphasize that it is more than just a documentary: the community and educational sides of the project are what I’m most passionate about. It’s been amazing to get you involved in this first challenge.
Last but not least, I would love to share with you one extra strategy I use to limit my screen time – my most effective by far.
Moment has allowed me to identify the app I use most frequently: Twitter. iOS’ Screen Time lets you to set time limits on specific apps, but once you reach the limit, you can simply undo it with a single tap. I needed more friction – an additional obstacle that would prevent me from checking Twitter. For work reasons, I could not delete the app from my phone, but I thought about an alternative: parental controls! As it turns out, Twitter is categorized as an app for people age 17 and above. So, I regularly turn on parental restrictions by going to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Apps > 12+
This automatically hides all apps rated 17+ from my phone, Twitter included. It simply disappears from the home screen, but remains physically installed on your phone. In the old version of iOS, you had to enter a password to turn parental controls on and off. I LOVED it: I used my mom’s birthday, as an extra reminder that I should not be wasting precious time using Twitter on my phone. It works wonders!
Thank you again for your extraordinary support through this first month of The Realists.
November’s theme is metrics. Stay tuned for articles and videos about quantification on social media (numbers of new notifications, likes, followers, comments) and their powerful impact on our attention, self-esteem, and ultimately on our well being.