Who else gets horrified when they see their weekly screen time reports? The Covid-19 outbreak has had drastic consequences, not just on our physical and mental well-being, but also on the time we spend staring at our smartphones.
Even the people, who described themselves as “light” phone users before the global pandemic, are now constantly switching between their Instagram, WhatsApp and Tinder Accounts. People are simply bored during isolation and desperate for any kind of social interaction, they just want to know what their peers are doing during these uncertain times. Unfortunately, you cannot hide your activities from your phone, because it will tell you exactly how much time you’ve spent on each app whenever you check your usage with the ‘Screen Time’ function. And to be honest, this can be quite devastating…
“Your average screen time went up by 170% this week”. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Apple as well as Samsung keep you updated with your addictive consumption, but what they don’t tell you, is how bad this habit actually is for you.
Screen time impacts your cognitive as well as emotional processes and abilities. Studies by neuroscientists confirmed in 2018 that the reduction of grey matter and changes to the white matter in your brain are directly proportional to screen time. One may say that due to all the strikes and the Corona outbreak, one is not in need of those extra brain cells, but just as little reminder: whether you believe it or not, there will be a post-Corona time- a time of exams, dissertations and Teviot Pub Quizzes- and at least by then, you will be very happy about that extra grey matter. In the long run, one should consider whether reduced attention, memory difficulties and changes in the ability to think, read and write are really worth losing, just to watch the 99th video clip of someone playing football with a roll of toilet paper.
Not only will your intellect slowly deteriorate, also your happiness will decrease over time, whereas your levels of anxiety and depression will rise. However, you can also find reports and studies which claim that screen time can improve coordination and visual processing skills, but those are rare compared to the studies that highlight the negative effects of increased screen time.
In German, there is a saying, which is roughly translated to “alone the dose makes the poison”, and this can be applied to screen time as well. If you don’t have a healthy balance between using your phone and some off-time, you will put your social-emotional intelligence at risk. This will not happen from one Candy Crush Game to the next, but rather, in a slowly occurring, continuous process as your time increases each day.
The question remains: How can one prevent this? Luckily, there are multiple ways (and ironically multiple apps) to assist you on the way. The easiest and cheapest way for all iPhone users, is to go to your Screen Time Settings and set yourself some App Limits. You can also set Communication limits, if you need some (social) distance from a few peers and group chats. Apps that can help both, iPhone and Android users, to fight that smartphone addiction, are for instance Offtime, BreakFree or Flipd.
A secret tip for all sustainable addicts is to install The App Forest, which is ranked among the top five productivity apps in more than 80 countries. Users will earn credits by not using their phones and as a reward for their successful heroic efforts, real trees are planted all over the world. The only disadvantage is that it costs £1.99, but see it as an investment in your own productivity. If that is not a good enough reason for you, consider it as an investment in our planet.
Reducing your screen time can be hard in times like this, where our phone feels like our only outlet for expression and communication. Treat yourself and your brain to some time away from the lil outlet of light, and spend time being present in the real world for a while.
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