This time of year is traditionally when we set resolutions for the new year and leave the chocolate and alcohol soaked year behind us. I'm not generally a fan of New Year's resolutions. I prefer to leave big changes for the spring when the energy is rising and the days are brighter. But this year I decided to make another small change on how I use my mobile phone.
Since my daughter got her first mobile phone last Autumn I have tried to be more aware of my own use and attempted to model good phone habits. I quickly realised I really had no idea how to teach her and I had never taught myself how to appropriately engage with mobile technology.
Mobile technology has gradually crept up on me. From a Nokia brick I could barely make calls on, to something which could send simple messages to now basically a small computer I am carrying around with me (and rarely use to actually speak to someone!)
When I stopped to notice, I was actually using it all the time. On the way to get a coffee, at the supermarket, waiting for the children at school - any space I had.
I also realised this was totally unproductive time. I usually couldn't actually do anything with the information I had and thoughts would swirl around just adding to the list of things to do.
I recently read the interview with Sean Parker - ex Facebook president - who said that when Facebook was being developed the objective was: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” It was this mindset that led to the creation of features such as the “like” button that would give users “a little dopamine hit” to encourage them to upload more content".
The evidence is starting to pile up on the impact of mobile phone use on teenager's mental health, our hormones and our sleep cycles.
The average person in the UK checks their phone 28 times a day and from my own experience there is something verging on addiction in the way we use them. So at the end of last year I decided to make some changes -
1. I kept my mobile phone down stairs when I went to bed and put an ordinary cabled phone in my bedroom in case anyone needed to call me.
2. I removed the app with my work emails off my phone. So I could only only get emails when I sat down with my laptop and could appropriately consider them.
3. I moved all the social media apps on to the second page of my phone screen so I didn't see them every time I picked up my phone.
4. I unsubscribed from all the mailing lists which clogged up my email box and made me feel overwhelmed with either things to buy or things to read.
It has made a difference. There's no more "oh I'll just send that quick message before I go to sleep" leading to an extra 20 mins in Instagram. I'm not asking the children to wait while I read a work email. I check social media much less often. I spend less time browsing, shopping and looking at things I really don't want or need.
Generally my head feels less busy.
So at the start of the year I decided to make one more small change -
5. Stop all the alerts on my phone so I can't see if there are messages waiting when I pick the phone up
This has caused much frustration from my family. I am now only checking for messages a couple of times a day but I'm basically missing all their requests - to pick things up on the way back from work, arrangements for activities, can I go to Xs house...
It's actually working well for me as there's much less to do, but they're not so keen... I guess it's still work in progress...