Imagine — it’s the end of a long week, and you get that dreaded 0. It’s hard not to feel guilty or embarrassed upon seeing that you spent the equivalent of a full-time job mindlessly scrolling. You could’ve been reading a book, learning a new language, or cooking a meal. So here’s a novel idea, put the phone down, touch some grass, and embrace disconnection.
Wake up, pick up the phone. Eat, Pick up the phone. Exercise, pick up the phone. Nowadays, it feels like these handheld devices are a necessary companion for every real-life activity, no matter how mundane. Though these five-inch devices look innocent enough, their influence is more destructive than you think.
World-renowned memory and brain coach Jim Kwik warned of the negative side effects of too much screen time. “It is really rewiring their brain,” Kwik said. Additionally, the exorbitant dopamine release that occurs in the brain while interacting with social media is “training [you] to be distracted all the time,” Kwik said.
Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Included Health, Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, also stressed the danger of phone use in the morning.
“The information overload that hits you before you’re fully awake interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks,” Benders-Hadi said. In this golden age of the internet where our devices are lifelines to school, work, and our social lives, is it possible to avoid the consequences of excessive online stimulation?
While it might be impossible to forever discard our bad phone habits, developing some good ones can correct for them, helping regulate our time spent on and off our screens.
Benders-Hadi recommends beginning your day with mindfulness and meditation. This could include journaling, creating a to-do list, reading or listening to music, and enjoying a satisfying breakfast. Kwik also suggested keeping the last hour of your day phone free to leave time for reflection and relaxation before bed.
Some students have already cracked the code on fighting the irresistible appeal of frequent phone usage. Junior Gabriel Torres explained that he has his phone set to a black and white display setting so he can regulate how his brain is processing social media content.
“Every single color on your phone is there for a reason,” said Torres. He believes that brands may exploit color psychology to market their products more effectively to stakeholders. Thus, eliminating that visual
factor from his phone allows him to feel “more intentional about what I consume online,” he said.
As mentioned by Benders-Hadi, cutting down on morning screen time is another key component in training ourselves to resist spending more time online. Junior Sofia Perez-Baux is a supporter of that stamen.
“[I’ve] recently tried to not use [her] phone as much in the morning.” Instead, she uses that time to go outside, water her plants, and enjoy some sunlight. Freshman Alexandra Carrillo uses the Apple “do not disturb” feature to her advantage, blocking any notifications from popping up on screen and preventing pesky distractions. She also makes sure to take time to read books or hang out with friends, and spend as much time away from both screens and classwork as possible.
As school starts to pick up, increased time spent on screens may look inevitable for most students. However, try and save your free time for disconnecting from your phone and use those precious moments to connect with yourself, others, and the outside world. And who knows, in time, maybe that weekly “screen time” number will start to look a little less scary.
Alternatives to Technology
This popular analog device is surely coming back. Finding one at a local shop such as Bellows Film Lab or Cardinal Film Lab can be a great come up at $50+ a piece. Be in the present moment and with film, you’ll feel more intentional about what you’re capturing without taking 300+ photos.
Painting, drawing, doodling can help with releasing stress. Try not take it too seriously and let your brain be the director of your creation. Whether it be on canvas or a piece of paper, squiggly lines or hearts around your name, it can help distract you for a bit.
Pick up an empty notebook and jot down your feelings and goals. Make it easy for yourself and try to have a pen and paper handy for all your eureka moments.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2022 print issue.