My journey of reclaiming my life from my smartphone

5. General

My journey of reclaiming my life from my smartphone

You don’t own your smartphone. Your smartphone owns you.

We all know about our smartphone addiction problem. This magic-device has taken over our lives and just doesn’t let go. Howsoever useful it may be, the hours of attention it demands from us (and the consequent loss of productivity) is too high a price to pay.

What can be done? Cal Newport has some answers in his recent book ‘Digital Minimalism‘.

Think of the book as a de-addiction program that will help you slowly reclaim your life.

My Journey

My own journey over the past few months (which is still work-in-progress!) may offer you some tips. Here’s how I’m going about it:

i. Delete Social Media Apps from the phone

Social media can be addictive – but it is incredibly more addictive on your phone app, as compared to the web version. I realised that and began slowly deleting these apps from my phone (despite the convenience they offered):

– I’d deleted Facebook a long time back. I hardly ever used it anyway.

– I was a Twitter-addict though. Deleting it was my first proper salvo against the Attention Economy. Now I have completely stopped using it.

– Social media apps are like the Hydra monster. If you cut one head, another would step up to take the time-slots it vacated. After deleting Twitter, I had withdrawal symptoms – which would make me pick the phone and browse the next available alternative. That happened to be LinkedIn.

Now LinkedIn is super-critical for my work… But mindless scrolling of LinkedIn posts was not. And so, one day I deleted the LinkedIn app too. (I still regularly use the web version).

– Another culprit was CricInfo. I would mindlessly fire up the app and look for articles about obscure cricketers/matches. Out it went.

Now, if you try to do this yourself, ask this question of every app on your phone: ‘Does the app have an endless stream of content that you can scroll through (Insta, FB, Twitter, News) OR is it just a means of communication (email, messages) or getting a job done (Uber, Maps etc)?’

If it’s the former, (and if the app isn’t mission-critical for your work), delete it, and use the web version (if required). You’ll find your social media use declining drastically, and surprise, surprise – life will not come to a halt!

ii. Regulate Whatsapp usage

The next big time-drain for me was Whatsapp. Part text-message communicator, part video-caller, and part source of news and entertainment – Whatsapp wears many hats…which is why it is difficult to get rid of.

Break down the problem. You can continue to use it for the basic communication (especially one-on-one), and for calls. You’ll then identify the culprit responsible for most time spent on Whatsapp: The Groups.

Groups are the boon and bane of Whatsapp. Great for one-to-many communication and useful to ask questions from many people at one go. Unfortunately though, once you are part of a group, you cannot repress the need to scroll through all messages…

My solution: I finally mustered the courage to exit from all my Whatsapp groups… except for a few:

– Close family

– Close friends

– Trip logistics groups (the utility of Whatsapp is unparalleled here – the good thing is that these should be temporary groups)

– Work-based groups

(Some of the above are also under the scanner!)

iii. Use DuckDuckGo browser

Chrome is great, but has this feature where it displays “curated” news articles on every new tab – for instance:

These links are just an invitation to click and read random stuff. Use DuckDuckGo (or other alternatives) which ensure more privacy and don’t bother you with “curated reads”.

iv. Have a Plan for the freed-up time

That’s the other thing the book talks about – have a plan for your freed-up time. It gives a number of examples from real-life users on how they are using their time better.

For me, one part of that is the Kindle app on my phone and the Paperwhite device. My book reading time has gone up now. I also keep the guitar handy at home for short practise sessions when I want to take a break from work. In short, if you don’t have a plan of what you’ll do with your freed-up time, the magnetic pull of your device will take you down some other rabbit-hole.

It’s your life – let your smartphone not dictate how you live it.


Featured Image credit: Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

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