Can't Put Down Your Phone?

What is the first thing you do in the morning after opening your eyes? Look through the window or perhaps do a little stretch in bed? Or maybe you think about your plans for the upcoming day. If you do that, then you are an exception to the masses since most people check their phones first thing in the morning. 

A girl on her phone in bed. Angelina Kuznetsova for AUBG Daily.

At first glance, looking at your phone for five minutes after waking up does not seem like a problem. And maybe it is not until it becomes a routine. According to a study from International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research company, four out of five mobile users check their phones within the first 15 minutes of waking up. A morning routine that consists of checking missed messages, notifications, the latest trending TikTok video, or an email from a professor could overwhelm a person with information that is hard to assimilate.

According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a psychiatrist at Doctor On Demand, "immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed." And yet, most people do it. 

Over the years, technology has been taking over our lives, making them simpler and yet harder at the same time. Tristan Harris, a 36-year-old Stanford graduate and the Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology, has spent his career studying today's major technology platforms and the dangerous influence they have over people. 

In reality, many do not question how technology can exploit our minds' weaknesses. In his article for Thrive Global, Harris compares product designers with magicians: "They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention," he says. 

Harris gives the example of a group of friends who go out to have a drink. Every one of them opens Yelp, a social networking site that lets users post reviews, to find the best bar recommendations. While scrolling down the app, they start comparing images of cocktails. "It’s not that bars aren’t a good choice, it’s that Yelp substituted the group’s original question (“where can we go to keep talking?”) with a different question (“what’s a bar with good photos of cocktails?”) all by shaping the menu," Harris explains. 

 Looking at a phone on the street. Angelina Kuznetsova for AUBG Daily.

But when they look down at their phones, the group of friends does not see the park across the street and the band playing live music, for example. They are missing out. There comes a moment when we assume that our phone knows best what the right choice for us would be.

When we look at our phones in the morning, we are bombarded with notifications, and no matter what we have to do throughout the day, we find the time to check all of them. Otherwise, we may feel like we are “missing out”, Harris says. Before we realize it, our phone has hijacked our time and attention, making us less productive. Once we have developed this unhealthy habit, it takes a lot of effort to get rid of it. So what can we do about it? 

Catherine Price, the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, gives some helpful advice on how to use our phones less. She realized that she needed to "break up" with her phone after having her first child. "The goal wasn’t to never use my phone again; it was to create a sustainable relationship that felt healthy," she writes. 

 Looking down at a phone on the street. Angelina Kuznetsova for AUBG Daily.

To spend less time on our phones, we could reframe the way we think about it. Each minute spent on the phone is a minute less with our family, close friends, or even ourselves. Another thing one can do is to create triggers that will remind them of their goals. Price says that if you want to spend more time reading, you should leave a book on the bedside table. Not your phone. Setting ground rules for yourself and your family of not keeping phones on the table during meals could work out well. 

There are numerous tricks to avoid spending too much time on our phones. But in order to succeed, we have to start small. For instance, putting away the phone while being outside with friends. We are missing too much time looking down at a 4-inch screen. Why not start now and leave your phone to rest and look around. You might see things differently.


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