21 votes

Reduction of screentime leading to positive changes in daily life

Hi,
I think I have mentioned it here a few times, but I (used to) spend A LOT of time on my phone. I’ve tried to reduce it in the past with more or less success, and recently without any university work (I finished all exams half a year ago) and varying amounts of work as a freelancer, it crept up to 6+ hours of screen time per day. (this is excluding watching stuff to fall asleep, which I want to reduce but I am taking one step at a time) - So it’s a lot.

I tried a lot of stuff, reducing the hours, by setting limits for apps, turning off notifications, but that just leads to me extending the time by entering the password myself, or checking my phone more often because I am curious about whether someone texted.
So last week Wednesday some stuff changed. I took my first long bike ride in a long time, and that day I felt really good, I still had 5 h screen on time that day though. The next day I turned off notifications for Whatsapp, but I left the indicator next to the app on, so I could see that I have messages quickly, I also decided to just force myself to wait a bit until replying to people. Also my girlfriend is the only one that knows my screentime passcode now, so I can't sneakily extend my app time

That Thursday my screentime was 3h 16 minutes. I was hooked, I wanted to keep my time as low as possible. Since that Thursday, I have not hit the 4h screen on time once. Yesterday I was at 3h 59 min... it was an exhausting day though (Spending 1.5h at the waiting room at the doc) and I wouldn’t have blamed myself, but I still didn’t want to hit the 4h mark. Last Thursday my daily rhythm has changed quite a bit. I got Ring Fit Adventure this week, and I have done sports 4 times this week, I started to pick up playing guitar (literally got one yesterday) and ukulele again, and I just try to find stuff to do that does not involve my phone. I also played Persona 5 Royal on my ps5, I know it’s screen time but I feel less bad about it because I don’t take my PS everywhere with me, and these were the first days I have taken off in a long time… Next, I am trying to maybe work through my books that are on my backlog, finally finishing some more again. (my girlfriend gave me the book "South Sea Vagabonde, and I am meaning to read it, and I am also listening to the Audiobook "The Shallows")
One change just caused so many good changes. I am stoked and looking forward to how low I can bring my average, I know 4h per day is still a lot for most people. I am aiming at sub 3h next ( I had that once this week).

This scene from Bojack has been my mantra since then: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2_Mn-qRKjA

It really does get easier, too. Today I went biking and I managed to go much longer without breaks and I feel way less exhausted.

I just wanted to share my experience somewhere, maybe someone else is on the same path and this helps.

8 comments

  1. [3]
    dmje
    Link
    Interesting post, thanks for sharing! I did this in 2018 and am still doing it now. I'm now using a CAT phone rather than a Nokia, but the principle is much the same as it was then, namely: get as...

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

    I did this in 2018 and am still doing it now. I'm now using a CAT phone rather than a Nokia, but the principle is much the same as it was then, namely:

    1. get as much stuff as possible off my phone and onto my desktop / laptop where I have more control
    2. have a dumb phone for when I'm out and about: I want to be in the world rather than in my screen
    3. being mindful of all the time I spend in front of a screen and try and do whatever I can to minimise it

    I've slipped back a bit into fairly obsessive news checking territory during lockdown, but am forgiving myself for that because of the weirdness of the current situation. But broadly I know that when I do it well, I feel better for it, and get all the benefits you've mentioned in your post.

    Let's keep on going, this is good for us! :-)

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      ali
      Link Parent
      Thanks for sharing your article. I have thought about the dumb phone idea, but it’s just so frustrating to not have access to maps or my public transit schedule on the go... Wirh CAT phone you...

      Thanks for sharing your article. I have thought about the dumb phone idea, but it’s just so frustrating to not have access to maps or my public transit schedule on the go... Wirh CAT phone you mean one of those android ones? Or do they also come as dumbphones?
      I totally agree with the current time news checking, too. It’s the same as me at the doctors yesterday. There weren’t even any magazines because of corona, so I had the choice between my phone and just sitting around...

      I used to think this stuff is not that bad, but now I really do believe it causes long term harm, more so than other media. In ‘the shallows’ they mention the brain structure changing due to new technology. I wonder where the limit should be. If I can get all information within an instant, should I turn into a being that has good finger dexterity but 0 memory? (Of course this is a hyperbole, but the point stands I think)

      3 votes
      1. dmje
        Link Parent
        I do have a smartphone (I'd love to do away with it but mobile banking / 2FA makes this pretty much impossible - plus I work in web tech so need it for a whole bunch of reasons) - the difference...

        I do have a smartphone (I'd love to do away with it but mobile banking / 2FA makes this pretty much impossible - plus I work in web tech so need it for a whole bunch of reasons) - the difference is it's SIM-less which means I rarely take it out of the house. When I'm being good, I'm really disciplined with use around the house, too - trying to keep my time below an hour a day (failing quite a lot of the time!) and definitely no work email / notifications / social apps on it.

        For me my main reasoning in not having an "out and about" smartphone is this: I live in in astonishingly beautiful part of the world, and I have zero desire to have that experience (countryside, beaches, walks, LIFE!) punctuated with the always-on-ness that a smartphone tempts us into all the time. I see people walking the beaches here and not seeing anything because they're sucked into that tiny screen; I see people getting excited about sunsets and then not actually seeing the sunset because they look at it through a 3" screen; I see kids wanting to talk to their parent or a parent wanting to talk to their kids but no real communication happening because there's always a phone getting in the way of that connection; I see the need to check a fact so often eclipses a conversation you could have about that fact where the conversation is more interesting, funny and engaging than just "finding something out" and moving on to the endless next thing.

        So for me it's the "outside the home" part of this that is key, although we as a family also do what we can do minimise screen time - we're fairly Victorian with our kids and their use, and things like meal times are an absolute no-go as far as screens are concerned.

        To answer your q: yeh, the CAT is an Android phone - but think way more more dumb than smart! It's possible but awful to browse the web; it has maps but they're pretty rubbish except in an emergency; it's got WhatsApp but it's shockingly bad having to type texts in T9. The reason I upgraded from the Nokia is mainly because you can create a wifi hotspot with it - when I do really need a smartphone (say I'm away with work or whatever) then I can take both and tether as needed. It interesting how even this is more mindful - you have to try harder to get online, and by making it harder, you think about whether you need to a lot more!

        Your point about the "badness" here is interesting. I think there's so many layers to this. Firstly, I'm really, really sure that our attention and focus on detail is getting less. In part this is because so few places allow us to have detailed, in depth, expertise-led conversations. Secondly, so much of it is noise! The whole FOMO thing plays in at some level but when I actually look at it, my god it's all just endless nothingness that I genuinely don't care about missing out on.

        As some wise person once said: when I get to my death bed, am I going to give a shit about the number of Twitter followers or endless articles I read, or how many likes I got on that Instagram post? Or - am I going to remember my friends, my family, the conversations and experiences I had in this very beautiful world that we have only a small amount of time immersed in? I know the answer for me, anyway :-)

        7 votes
  2. [2]
    abbenm
    Link
    Wonderful, congrats! It's something I definitely have to work on, and having a metric for overall screen time may help.

    Wonderful, congrats! It's something I definitely have to work on, and having a metric for overall screen time may help.

    4 votes
    1. ali
      Link Parent
      Thanks. I wish you the best of luck. There’s apps for Android, but iOS supports it natively. It’s pretty nice. On Android I liked the customizability - eg. setting up 2 minutes per hour, which...

      Thanks. I wish you the best of luck.

      There’s apps for Android, but iOS supports it natively. It’s pretty nice. On Android I liked the customizability - eg. setting up 2 minutes per hour, which would keep you from spending the whole time at once.

      1 vote
  3. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    That’s of course relative. If I live in a war torn third world distopia more screen time can actually increase my mental health.

    That’s of course relative. If I live in a war torn third world distopia more screen time can actually increase my mental health.

    2 votes
  4. [2]
    JXM
    Link
    Do you not include things like watching television or movies as part of screen time? To me, that is part of “staring at the screen” time.

    Do you not include things like watching television or movies as part of screen time? To me, that is part of “staring at the screen” time.

    1 vote
    1. ali
      Link Parent
      I don’t include it at the moment because I find the grab on my smartphone a much bigger issue. It’s worse for my wrists, and it’s on me at all times. And I never watch stuff when I have better...

      I don’t include it at the moment because I find the grab on my smartphone a much bigger issue. It’s worse for my wrists, and it’s on me at all times.
      And I never watch stuff when I have better things to do anyways, so it’s not a huge time waster for me (I think)

      3 votes