Although we’re not being attacked by sentient robots just yet, we do live in a hyperconnected world dominated by technology. This has brought about lots of positive changes – it’s easier to stay in touch with friends and family, follow the news, and has even helped the growth of economies worldwide.
However, it’s easy to forget that technology has a darker side. For instance, you know that small feeling of pleasure when your social media posts get a ‘Like’? This is your body triggering the release of dopamine, which is the same hormone that can make gambling so addictive. Our digital habits can also have more obvious, physical drawbacks too, such as eye strain, RSI, and poor stature.
Clearly, it’s important that we control our technology, rather than letting it control us. Although it’s unrealistic to give up all of your screen time, there are a few ways to develop a better relationship with your tech:
Say no to notifications
Push notifications on our phones can be handy, but having your pocket buzz every two minutes can be seriously distracting, and prevent you from being present in the moment.
Have a flick through your phone’s settings and purge all but the absolutely essential notifications. Similarly, if you have any particularly noisy whatsapp groups, turn them off for 24 hours or a week at a time – you’ll be more focused as a result!
Turn it off
Sadly, it’s common to see people out and about for a meal or a drink, ignoring their companions in favour of the latest internet memes. This can be detrimental to those relationships, so try turning your phone off completely when you’re with company – instead of waiting for your screen to light up, you’ll be directing your energy towards the people that matter.
Another, more fun option is to turn your phone addiction into a game. At the start of the night, get everyone to put their phones in the centre of the table – the first person to give in to temptation has to pay the bill!
Make your bedroom a digital-free zone
Most of us use our phone as an alarm clock, but that makes it so easy to start browsing reddit or twitter. Not only is this distracting, but our phone screens emit a blue light that disrupts our internal body clock, making it difficult to sleep.
To stop this, try to keep your bedroom a phone-free zone by purchasing an alarm clock. You’ll soon find yourself sleeping better, and are more likely to cosy up to your partner, rather than your facebook feed!
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It may seem counterintuitive, but you can actually cut down on your phone use by downloading more apps. Apps like Offtime and Moment track how much you use your phone, and set daily limits to help shepard you away from your screen. They can even selectively block calls, texts and notifications, and will flood your page with annoying alerts when you try to spend too much time with your device.
You can also supplement these tools by moving your most addictive apps into a folder away from your home screen. This will stop you from subconsciously clicking on them the moment you unlock your phone.
Protect your body
An Ofcom study has shown that one in five people in the UK spend more than 40 hours a week online, and on average Brits check their phone once every 12 minutes. This takes a toll on your body, with eye strain, ‘text neck’ and ‘smartphone thumb’ becoming commonplace.
To combat eye strain, use the 20/20/20 rule – for every 20 minutes you look at a screen, look up at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Additionally, try to make use of the ‘night shift’ mode on all of your devices, which will eliminate harmful blue light in the evenings.
‘Text neck’ is a complaint caused by poor posture when holding your phone: head forward, shoulders rounded, and back slumped. This can cause aches and pains, so try to hold your phone higher, so the screen is more in line with your eye level. There’s even a Text Neck app that can help with this!
Finally, ‘smartphone thumb’ is a form of repetitive strain injury, caused by the constant flicking and swiping of your thumb across a screen. To avoid this, try to take regular breaks, and mix things up by operating your phone with your index finger, or your opposite hand.