All the ways I tried to reduce my phone addiction, noted


Madeleine Holden has tried almost every technique in the book to reduce her screen time. She rates them all for IRL.

Like most everyone I know, I would like to use my phone less. Over the years, I’ve made pretty good progress on this front: in my early twenties, I was the annoying bored type that kept pulling my phone out in the middle of brunch to check Twitter or WhatsApp ; a decade later, I’m only moderately addicted. I still quote too many irl memes, but I can often be found touch the grass and maintain full conversations without interruption.

It took a little more than sheer willpower. Tips and tricks for reducing screen time are proliferating on the Internet, and I’ve given most of them, with varying levels of success. Here are all of my favorites, as well as the duds that didn’t help, rated out of 10.

deactivate the notifications

What this implies: What it says on the box, really. You can turn off and change your app notifications in the “Settings” section of your damn phone.

Advantages: A banger technique with few drawbacks. Be absolutely blunt: I decided there was no need for push notifications or banners of any kind, a decision I never regretted, and only left badge notifications on them. applications where I am in frequent communication with people who are dear to me (Whatsapp, Messenger, SMS). I’m not at all convinced that you need to hear news, music, podcasts, games, or meditation apps.

The inconvenients: Nary one that I can think of. You might hear about a new episode of your favorite podcast three days late, but really, who cares?

Evaluation: 10/10

We’ve all been there. (Photo: Paula Daniëlse)

Screen time

What this implies: This Apple-centric feature provides reports on the time you spend on various apps, with an option to set you time limits.

Advantages: About the only good thing about this feature is the hard data. Seeing how many hours you are wasting on social media forces an existential calculation and the problem becomes undeniable.

The inconvenients: Screen time sucks. When you reach your self-imposed time limit, a notification asks if you want to continue for an additional 15 minutes, and there is no limit to the number of times you can abuse this option. After easily getting around your own limits, Screen Time bombards you with constant notifications and annoying reports about how you let yourself down. Feelings of guilt and self-loathing are skyrocketing, as are hours spent online.

Of course, Apple doesn’t care at all if you’re addicted to their products, which I guess is why their “fix” is so poor.

Evaluation: 1/10

Perpetual silent mode

What this implies: Quiet mode, all day every day (or at least, by default, unless you know an important call is coming).

Advantages: This is probably my most controversial technique, because while it’s great for me – I never have to hear annoying sounds from my phone – it’s annoying for people who need to reach me unexpectedly. . It’s not unusual for me to miss courier deliveries or see six missed calls from my boyfriend an hour ago, while he was at the supermarket and wondering if we needed milk. So frustrating for him! So relaxing for me!

The inconvenients: It is theoretically possible that I could miss a crucial call this way. I haven’t, however, in all the years I’ve been on silent by default, and I guess if my sister went into labor or my grandpa was rushed to the hospital. , I would realize… the next time I check my phone? So like, an hour or two later? It’s a bet that won’t suit everyone, but it works great for me.

Evaluation: 7/10

It’s… good, I guess? (Photo: Ar Ducha Misfa’i)

Do not disturb

What this implies: Calls and SMS are cut as long as this mode is activated.

Advantages: This option technically has all the advantages of my default silent technique, without the risk of missing a crucial call: there is an automatic bypass option if the same person calls you twice in three minutes, and you can allow exceptions for certain people. or lists of people.

The inconvenients: Bo-ring! Live on the edge of silent mode! Also, it’s too complicated for the administrator to configure exceptions and remember to turn them on and off.

Evaluation: 4/10

Put your phone in a basket or jail

What this implies: A little cute, Live laugh Love Optionally, the idea here is that you lock your phone in an area designated “DO NOT USE” and then leave it alone while you do other things.

Advantages: It is generally presented as a social option: everyone puts their phone in the basket so you all have to be ~ present ~ with each other. Could this kind of bossy peer pressure work for you?

The inconvenients: Honestly, this option is a dud. Telling your loved ones to lock their phones in a box gives strong wowser vibes, and if you’re doing it solo, there’s no reason it would work better than willpower alone. You also sometimes want your phone to do the useful things it provides (a timer when cooking, background music from your Spotify app) without being distracted by social media and messaging apps. There is no middle ground here.

Evaluation: 1/10

Eliminate them all. (Photo: ODD ANDERSEN / AFP via Getty Images)

Ask a friend to kick you out of social media

What this implies: You hand over the password to a loved one on the social media platform that causes you the most anxiety, they come in, change your password, then log you out, preventing you from accessing your own. account. I covered this extensively here.

Advantages: It’s more realistic than self-regulation, and can encourage camaraderie between online terminals. The shame of having to beg to get reconnected means you’ll need a really good excuse, too.

The inconvenients: You need someone in your life who you trust with your accounts and the news of your low self-control, and you have to endure the indignity of pleading for reconnection, as you inevitably will on occasion. .

Evaluation: 7/10

Remove the most addictive apps

What this implies: Remove apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook from your phone by default, and if you really have to use them, manually download, login, do your thing, then delete again when you’re done.

Advantages: Often times you only open an app because it is the – this avoids this automatic and senseless checking. Plus, sheer human laziness means you’ll usually find more trouble downloading and connecting than it’s worth, which is fine.

The inconvenients: This one relies on your willingness to delete as soon as you’re done, although the process does become oddly satisfying, so it’s not as big a hurdle as you might think.

Evaluation: 8/10

In the end just a huge pain in the ass. (Photo: SSPL / Getty Images)

Shades of grey

What this implies: Clear the color (and joy) of your phone screen so you’d rather watch almost anything else.

Advantages: It’s easy to set up and really lowers the quality of your phone’s slot machine.

The inconvenients: This makes reading your weather app and maps quite difficult and taking a photo a little more difficult, but these are small compromises for a less addicting phone.

Evaluation: 9/10

What this implies: Take out an old Nokia or flip phone and enjoy its lack of features.

Advantages: Your phone is not addicting because it doesn’t do anything fun! (Snake game aside.)

The inconvenients: I recently used a Nokia brick for a whole summer, and while it made me feel like a maverick, it was also a huge pain in my ass. You need to press the jelly buttons up to four times to each letter of each text message. You can’t search anything. The whole exercise makes you feel like smartphones are modern miracles, which is bad when it comes to loosening their grip on you.

Evaluation: 3/10

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