New Steps to Take on iPhone Addiction

If you feel like you are addicted to your iPhone, you probably are. Apple now provides a handy way to see just how many hours you spend. But using that data to live better is the next step. Here’s how to get started.

With the recent release of iOS 12, Apple now shares the time spent on your phone daily. For anyone who worries a bit about their phone usage and wants to reduce it, this is a huge boon. Saying, “yeah, I’m addicted to my phone” and saying “yeah, I picked up my phone 114 times and used it for a total of 3 hours and 27 minutes.” And yes, those numbers are real — that was my day upon seeing the screen time feature debut a week ago.

Having easy access to this data is great, and Apple also provides some tools for managing that, letting you browse the data and set limits by app. But for most people, setting limits is a non-starter. Perhaps it is human psychology, but creating artificial limits on oneself feels unnatural. And even if you do set one up, it’s often just an annoyance you remove the first time it comes into play.

 

We are only beginning to understand the impact of smartphones on our psychology.

Indeed, though Apple is making this data available to you and though they give you ways to control it, many early reviewers note that this changes nothing as the limits become annoying and eventually are turned off. It will be interesting to see if Apple shares any details on how overall usage changes, but we’d expect it to drive very little long-term change in user behavior.

But the problem is that a lot of us should change our behaviors! The average smartphone user picks up their phone 47 times per day, uses it for almost 3 hours per day, and spends an 75 minutes per day on social media (source). Merge that with recent studies linking phone usage to depression and suicide attempts in teens (source), and we can say that it’s pretty likely that your phone usage is negatively impacting your life.

The reality is that reducing screen time (or any habit) takes willpower and self-control, and that these are skills that are developed over time and ones that technology can, if used correctly, help develop. As a creator of a platform designed to build that, I am quite excited to use WeAchieve to start to reduce my phone usage. I am using it fairly uninhibited for the first week in order to get a baseline of behavior.

My phone usage in hours over the first week of tracking, with the 3h 6m average noted in black

 

So what does that look like? It isn’t pretty. For the first week, I averaged 3 hours and 5 minutes per day and 99 times picking up my phone (this would be about once every 10 minutes). Particularly distressing was the 66 minutes per day that I spent on Twitter. Yes, I am embarrassed by that. And no, no one is happy after spending time on Twitter.

How many times did I pick up my phone each day? Saturday topped out at 136, but was mostly due to excessive camera usage.

So again, this data is great, and now we can at least say “well, I should probably spend less time on my phone, and less time on Twitter.” But goal-setting theory and common sense tells us that this isn’t going to change anyone’s behavior. Saying “well, I should do this addicting habit less,” has no way to define success and no real way to keep yourself accountable. Without a system in place that does both of these, the addicting system will win out and you will return to your past behaviors.

For the week, Twitter was a much bigger use/waste of time compared to other social media: Facebook and LinkedIn (graph shows total hours over past 7 days)

But we can use WeAchieve to create that counteracting force. While willpower will still be necessary, we can make sure that we’re properly incentivized and supported in exercising that. So I’m setting up four goals and each will run for the rest of the month. As you can see in the image below, they focus on each of the metrics that I am most embarrassed by: averaging less than 2.5 hours per day and less than 70 pickups, and also spending less than 30 mins on Twitter every day, as well as having one “No Twitter” day each week.

WeAchieve can be used to track many different kinds of goals so that the goals can be tailored specifically to what you want to do.

So that’s my plan to start! Note, these goals are fairly relaxed, and represent a ~20% reduction in phone use, which should be quite manageable. But like other bad habits, going easy at the start can “put one in the win column” and set yourself up for bigger gains later on, rather than setting an aggressive first step and failing miserably. Should this work, I can tweak the setup and/or make more aggressive goals in November and beyond.

Want to hear how it’s going? Subscribe and stay tuned for updates! Want to try it yourself? Apple has not yet made this data available in an API, but you can use WeAchieve’s iOS app or use us on the web, easily enter your data, and follow along!

Want to learn more about how WeAchieve can help you reduce your bad habits? Check out our websitedownload our app, and give it a try for yourself!

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