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I’m sure many of us have experienced those moments when we sit down to study and bring out all the materials we need to ace that upcoming test or quiz. But at the back of our mind there’s something that keeps nagging us to check our phones. In most cases we usually give in and spend the next half hour or so scrolling through never ending posts about things we usually don’t care about.

Is this a common problem for you? You might have a social media addiction.

In today’s digital world, living without our phones and an internet connection is difficult to imagine. With 55.1% of the world now connected to the internet, we have reached a level of connectivity never seen before, and this is bound to increase further in the future. Social media is changing the way we network, socialise and interact with one another.

As amazing and ground-breaking this increased connectivity will be, there is an underlying issue that is currently plaguing our already networked society. Addiction. Specifically, social media and internet addiction. A 2017 report published in the journal Technology in Society found a staggering 210 million users across the world suffer from internet and social media addiction, and an increase in technological dependence is likely to see this number rise.

Why is this an issue? Well, studies have shown that people who spend more time on the internet have fewer interactions with the community such as family members and friends. This impacts our social skills and our ability to make meaningful relationships in the real world. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to social media, especially amongst teens and young adults, has been proven to be one of the causes in a rise of depressive symptoms seen within this group. Reasons why this occurs has been linked to dissatisfaction with one’s life when compared to the seemingly perfect lives of Instagram stars. Therefore, our mental wellbeing is at stake if we continue down this path.

So, is there any way to combat this? While many people will categorise their internet and phone habits as “normal”, we are often unaware of how those little five-minute glances at Insta or Twitter can add up to multiple hours per week. No need to worry, I have a bunch of little steps you can take to curb your phone and internet habits.

Step 1: Figure out why you want to limit your screen time.

I know this step may sound stupid, but when you have a greater purpose to fulfil, you will have stronger willpower to achieve your goal. So, take out a journal, a piece of paper, whatever works best and come up with three reasons why you want to take this challenge. it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or huge (if they are then good job) but small things will do. Ideas include: trying to reach a certain WAM, wanting more time to read or cook, incorporating mini exercises throughout your day. Basically, think about all the time you spend on your phone and then think about something you’ve always wanted to do but “never had enough time” to do it. If you limit your phone usage wouldn’t that finally give you an opportunity to do it?

Step 2: Monitor your time.

If one of your goals for the new year is to cut down the amount of time you spend on your phone, then you should start off by tracking your usage during the week. Tracking is effective because it helps you understand more about your habits and can provide you insight about yourself that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise..  The iPhone conveniently has a built-in Screen Time feature to track and limit the time you spend on certain apps. If you’re an iPhone user, consider checking the Screen Time statistics at the end of each week and verify which apps it is that you spend the most time on. For Android users, there are heaps of apps out there that can provide the same service. It’s up to you if you want to pay for one or use a free app; try finding what works best for you. Once you gain that understanding you can then make effective changes to curb your unhealthy habit

Step 3: Set small, but achievable goals.

While quitting cold turkey is a very commendable feat, it probably isn’t an easy and practical goal for many of us. One way to perhaps better cut down screen time is to set small, incremental goals. For example, if you typically spend two hours on social media each day, you could limit your daily social media consumption in the first week to an hour and fifty-five minutes. By doing so you won’t notice too much of a change and every time you adhere to this goal it’s a small win! These small wins make you confident and therefore, while you move along reducing the time it will feel less like a chore.

Step 4: Get an accountability buddy!

If you’re finding it hard to cope away from your screens, you could involve a friend or family member to hold each other accountable and stay on track. If you’re the competitive type, having a “rival” in your digital detox journey will also keep you motivated. You and your buddy can compete with your goals or even have a little bet as well if that can keep you on track.

Step 5: Fill your spare time with productive activity

All the spare time you’ll now have away from your screens can be filled with more fulfilling activities. For example, instead of checking Twitter before bed, you could read a book for 10 minutes. You could listen to an audiobook or podcast during your regular commute on a train or bus. If you’re taking a digital detox to become a more productive student, then make sure you’re actually hitting the books! You’ll have ample time to do what you want most and when, so don’t waste these opportunities!

Our phones tend to have a huge impact on our productivity levels, so it’s important that we lessen the amount of time we spend on them. Why not take the new year as an opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do?

Illustration by Lauren Rosenberg
Heela Mayar

The author Heela Mayar

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