It’s 7:30pm on a workday as I’m writing this post. I’ve already spent 3 hours and 28 minutes on my phone today. 35 minutes on brain games, 22 minutes messaging, 16 minutes on social media, 15 minutes on Clash Royale, the list goes on. And at the end of every day I sit back and think I wish I had more time. More time to workout, or run, or blog, or dinner with a friend, or a phone call with my family. And I never think back and wish I’d spent more time on my phone, on Facebook, or Clash Royale. Our phone is an addicting device that steals time from us without us really noticing. We think it’s just used to fill in our moments of boredom throughout the day or to provide us with a quick update about our social followings. But, our screen time rarely provides us any long-term benefits, and is secretly stealing away our motivation, happiness and life.
Phone Use and Happiness Correlation
The World Happiness Report for 2019 came out a couple months ago. In the report, they mentioned a number of studies on 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. The average happiness for these students has steadily declined every year since 2011. During this stretch, internet hours has increased each year while sleep and in-person social interaction have decreased.
Below, is a list of activities that have steadily increased or decreased within the past 7 years and what I’ve found to be the effect of that.
- + Social Media: Increasing social media use causes us to view more of what other people are doing with their lives. We usually only see the goods things about others, the things they want us to see. We get this false sense that everybody is doing something awesome all the time. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and become dissatisfied with our current state.
- + Games: Mobile game use has increased. So many times when we have a moment of spare time, we open up a quick mobile game to entertain us or keep us busy. We love games because they tend to be quick to learn and rewarding throughout. We’re constantly provided with immediate feedback and expect life to be as immediate and rewarding as our games.
- + TV/Movies/Shows: It’s easy to find content online that matches our interests. We no longer need to travel because we can watch travel shows, no need to cook because we can watch others cook way better than us, no need to find entertainment in everyday life because the virtual world is sitting, waiting to entertain us.
- – Sleep: We’re spending much less time sleeping. If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’ve seen all the studies that show how important sleep is to living a happy, healthy life.
- – Face-to-face interaction: We’re spending less time talking in person. Whether it’s using a phone to distract us from small social encounters in elevators or lines, to developing “friendships” with people you only follow online. When you avoid interacting in real life, and create a virtual world of friends, we’re forgetting what it’s like to develop true friendships and experience real emotion.
- – Boredom: By filling all our free time with screen time use, we’re not truly bored anymore. There’s always something that’s just interesting enough to watch, play or follow. When we always have some sort of digital entertainment to fall back on, we don’t strive to be creative and do things in real life. I could go to the gym, take a walk in the park, write a blog post, or I could find a virtual alternative that’s waiting for me right now online.
I’ve found that all of these activities have effected me in some way too and usually without noticing it. It’s hard to guess how much we’re using our phone, and how much it’s really effecting our lives. That’s why I’ve started using my iPhone’s new feature called Screen Time.
Screen Time Experiment
Screen Time is a feature built into the latest software update of an iPhone and is a great way to track your usage. If you’ve never tracked your Screen Time usage before, you’re in for a big surprise. As an experiment, I asked everyone in my family to enable the Screen Time feature and send me their 7-day results. Here is what I found:
My younger sister and brother, both Gen Z, literally spend enough time on their phone during the week to be working a full time job. That’s mind blowing… Even my dad and mom who mainly use it for communication (Messages, Mail and Calling), each spend over 20 hours a week on their phone. And it’s likely you’re a culprit of this too.
Before I started measuring and managing my Screen Time, I was averaging about 3 hours per day. I then decided it was time to see what happens when I limit my time to only essential items. I decided to only use it for calls, texts, brain games, and important queries (weather, directions, etc). By doing this, I’ve been able to consistently average around 1.5 hours of screen time per day. And, what I’ve noticed most was how much more productive I was. I get chores done sooner because I don’t delay them with phone use. My work is more productive because I don’t pause to check Facebook or Instagram. I have more time to blog with the additional 1.5 hours gained. And, in general I just do more productive things. It’s not only that I’m saving 1.5 hours a day, but that I’m living more in the present. I feel present, not distracted, and therefore I do more things that have a purpose and benefit. And at the end of the day, I do feel happier.
When you measure your Screen Time, you get a clear view of your actual usage. I feel this is an important thing to do because if you ask anyone how much time they spend on their phone, they’ll almost always underestimate it. Only by measuring can you start managing. So I have one challenge for you today, it’s to check your phone’s screen time. See what your daily usage is and see if there are ways you can reduce it. I think you’ll be presently surprised by how much happier and more productive you are throughout the day. (How to Use Screen Time on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch)
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