Curbing My Smartphone Addiction

The Thinker, looking at a smartphone

Note: This post first appeared way back in 2012. I’ve since cleared my old blog out, but I left this up because it got some traction at the time. It’s interesting reading through the old comments on sites like that picked it up at the time, like Lifehacker. The comments mostly negative, ripping apart this idea of putting protections in place for smartphone addiction. I feel vindicated now (even though, sadly, I wish I wasn’t) since smartphone addiction is obviously very real. Books have been written about it. Dozens of locking apps are available for iPhone and Android. There are hardware solutions, and Amazon is filled with timed lockboxes for your phone. I’ll have to write soon about what I’m still doing these days to mitigate wasting time on my phone. I’m still keenly aware of it and I think I’ve been pretty successful all these years. Anyways, here’s a little time capsule from 2012!

The evolution of personal technology in the last few years is really an incredible thing. I bought my first cell phone in 2000, and I was floored that I was able to carry a phone around with me at all times. Now 12 years later, most of us carry not only a simple telephone in our pockets, but one that’s become an increasingly powerful computer.

Of course having such a phone is incredibly useful, but I started to find it to be somewhat of a burden as well. If you haven’t experienced the distraction a smartphone brings, I’m sure you’ve at least seen it – people whipping out their phones constantly to check on who-knows-what. Smartphones have taken over the idle moments of our lives – standing in line, waiting for friends – even waiting to cross the street. I kept becoming more and more guilty of this, and when I found myself checking Instagram or Facebook at stop lights I knew I had a problem. I tried to cut down on it, but it had became a mindless habit – when life stopped I automatically pulled out the iPhone.

A few months ago I had installed a Jailbreak app called “App Analytics”. It does one simple thing – lists all your apps with the time you’ve spent in them. It was eye opening to say the least. Some applications had racked up hours upon hours of use – and I knew many of those were in small, 30 second increments. I had to cut down.

I started thinking of ways to break my habit. I could just uninstall some apps, but I didn’t want to go that far. I honestly enjoy browsing Twitter or checking up on news – I just wanted to cut back. I thought about maybe finding a way to block out apps during certain times of the day, but that really didn’t fit my needs either.

I finally decided on password protecting the offending apps. There are several Jailbreak tweaks that do this, but I settled on Lockdown Pro because it seemed to have the most features (I’m sure Android users have similar apps as well.) I picked a long, complicated password that would be a pain to type in, and started locking all of those quick information-fix apps that waste my time so much.

So has it been working out? I’ve been doing this for about 2 weeks now, and I have to say I’m very happy with this strategy. Having to put in a long password definitely breaks me out of the mindless pull-out-my-phone-for-30-seconds habit I’ve been in. I actually think that simply seeing the password prompt reminds me “oh yeah, I’m trying to break this habit” and is enough to get me to put my phone away. Then when I make a conscious decision to use an app, I have no problems putting in that long password. Some apps I haven’t even used since I implemented this, and others (like the aforementioned Instagram) I’ve only been checking maybe once or twice a day. Another bad habit is on its way to being broken!