Mobile devices are great for many different purposes, but their greatest strength is being a distraction.
There is no easier way to kill time than pulling out your phone or tablet, and the constant stream of notifications makes it more difficult than ever to keep the devices off of your mind. Even if you hear vibrations from someone else’s device, you often feel inclined to check your own.
For years, I was entirely under the command of my smartphone. It vibrated to summon me, and I responded dutifully. The funny thing is that most of the alerts I received were far from urgent. Once the phone was in my hand, it became nearly impossible to put down.
It was insanity and I had to put an end to it. I had to decide what was important enough to make me take the phone out of my pocket. I don’t immediately need to know when someone likes my new Facebook status. I don’t need to know when there are new tweets for me to read. All that really matters is that I can take a call or receive messages.
Once I realized that, I decided to take greater control over my smartphone. I didn’t uninstall Facebook or Twitter, but I disabled notifications. I only see what happens on social networks when I consciously decide to check. Without notifications, I found that this was far less often. However, I still found that I was using my phone more than I would like to because of a larger problem.
All of my favorite apps used feeds. I quickly learned that feeds are a great way to take up huge amounts of time. If you don’t constantly check the notifications you could potentially have a lot to catch up on since they constantly update.
I turned to a fairly radical solution. I gave up the apps entirely and uninstalled them from my phone. I knew that I could still get access to them all through my web browser so it was not a big deal. However, that takes extra work and most of the time, I was just not up for it. As a result, I spent significantly less time on the services than ever before.
Despite all of this, I still get a considerable amount of notifications from my phone so I decided to buy a smartwatch. The idea was simple: If my watch vibrates, I can see at a glance whether or not it is worth pulling out my phone. More often than not, the answer is no.
After making these changes, I no longer feel compelled to use my phone for the purpose of entertainment. I moved all of my entertainment apps to a separate device and I have never felt better. While I am still working to reduce my phone’s presence, I feel that I have made a very significant start. The big issue is it takes additional work and setup. You can’t just buy a phone that only tells you information that is relevant. Perhaps they aren’t so smart after all.