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4 steps on how to avoid becoming a phone zombie

You haven’t blinked in what feels like 30 minutes, and your arm has grown numb from holding your phone in front of your face — there’s hope for you yet

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People look at iPhone 15 phones during an announcement of new products on Sept. 12, 2023.

People look at iPhone 15 phones during an announcement of new products on the Apple campus in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.

Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

“You’ve reached the weekly deactivation limit for this Instagram account. Try again in 3 days.” This was the notification that popped up on my screen when I was trying to deactivate my Instagram account for the 100th time this year. In other words, Instagram was saying, “Stop pretending — you want me.”

Call me stereotypical, but I can’t stand the grip that social media is capable of having on me. I deactivate my Instagram every couple of months, I refuse to keep TikTok downloaded and I tell myself I only keep Snapchat for the memories on it, all while telling myself that I’m in control — am I?

Statistics on smartphone users in 2023 found that “the average person spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone each day. And 1 in 5 smartphone users spends upwards of 4.5 hours on average on their phones every day,” with the average person picking their phone up 58 times a day, per Exploding Topics.

So how does one become the exception? The one that the majority all look at in awe, wishing they could be less of a phone zombie, too. Here are a few tips on how to turn your technology use into a tool and less of an addiction.

1. Turn off notifications

This tool has been key for me. Every time I get home, my phone automatically turns to “personal” mode, which means all notifications are silenced. After staring at a computer all day, the last thing I need is to stare at my phone, looking at what strangers did with their day.

“More than two-thirds of college students have purposefully taken time off from social media, and one in three regularly takes time off,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. “Spending too much time scrolling social media, often a ‘highlights reel’ of the best parts of people’s lives, can leave people feeling left out or disheartened about their own circumstances.”

At first, it felt like I was missing notifications and checking my phone more, but as I made it more of a habit, I found myself caring less and less about whether I was getting texts or not. If you feel like you are paranoid that you’re missing an important message, LinkedIn recommends that “the best thing you can do is prioritize and summarize notifications.”

2. Keep the phone out of the bedroom

For many, the first thing you do when you wake up or go to sleep is check your phone. According to a study in 2017 published in PubMed, looking at your social media 30 minutes before bed is directly associated with disturbed sleep at night in adults.

“Electronic devices emit bright blue light that your brain perceives as sunlight, tricking it into delaying sleep and keeping you awake longer than you’d like,” per The Sleep Foundation.

In order to improve your sleep habits and electronic habits, make the phone sleep in the living room.

3. Limit app time

Most smartphones allow users to set limits on how much screen time they use on certain apps. Like in any relationship, setting boundaries is key.

Android’s and iPhone’s latest technology allows users to know just how much screen time they are using weekly and which apps take up most of their time. “Instead of just reading the reports, take a proactive approach: turn on limits for apps you want to cut down on,” The Guardian suggested.

The couple of times out of the year that I do have Instagram downloaded, I have a 15-minute timer for the amount of time I use on the app each day. You might be tempted to hit “ignore limit,” but don’t cave! Let that reminder knock you out of the mindless scrolling.

The American Psychiatric Association advises smartphone users to monitor screen time in order to limit how much they’re viewing each day.

4. Set goals with somebody

Whether starting a diet, fitness plan or social media limit, it’s easier to achieve with someone than alone.

“Research shows that it’s easier to achieve our goals when we’re not trying to go it alone,” per the Harvard Business Review. “When you invite someone to join you in setting and striving for goals, you are not only asking them to cheer you on when you reach certain landmarks, you are also empowering them to point out when you are unfocused or off track.”

When you make set plans with another person, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable in order not to disappoint your partner, making the goal more achievable.