PUNCH, 7 September 2017 

We are living in an increasingly mobile-connected age. From a tool whose greatest utility was once tied around making calls and sending short messages, mobile phones have become indispensable gadgets that play multi-faceted roles including computing, banking, online shopping, virtual assistant, fitness coach, personal physician, news source, and compass.

It has become our window into the increasingly fast-paced world.

According to the research and development unit of Yudala, Nigeria’s pioneer online and offline e-commerce outfit, the growing utility is admittedly related to the rise and penetration of the smartphone: pocket-sized mobile devices, some of which have the capabilities to out-perform even some Personal Computer laptops.

The foregoing has seen a growing dependence on smartphones for a variety of tasks. Indeed, a significant majority of users polled in a recent survey revealed that their first action on waking up was to reach for their smartphone. Another research study on smartphone use found that over 90 per cent of respondents admitted to being phone junkies, claiming a sense of loss/disorientation or a feeling of being cut off from the world when without their smartphones.

Usage patterns indicate a growing addiction to smartphone among various classes and demographics of consumers. Interestingly, this is not only limited to millennials as research indicates that many in the older generation display similar patterns. The reality of smartphone addiction is now a major concern, especially in view of its debilitating effects on work, health and human relationships.

If you are caught in the web of smartphone addiction, the following tips from Yudala will help you break the habit:

Turn off instant notifications

You are in the middle of a crushing schedule at work, with deadlines looming. Suddenly, your phone buzzes! Immediately, your attention switches to the device to see who has hit you up on WhatsApp, commented on your latest Facebook post, retweeted that tweet or liked your picture on Instagram. Instant notification is one of the features of the smartphone that has contributed to getting a lot of people hooked on their devices. Good news is that, you can break that cycle by tweaking your settings to turn off push notifications for the various apps on your smartphone, especially the distracting ones from social media. While this may make you a bit late to social media activity, the overall benefits are immense as you will gradually regain control from the tendency to check your device each time it buzzes. For other apps such as emails, you can choose to manually check once every hour or even turn on the notifications when out of the office so you don’t miss out on important correspondence.

Use your smartphone less (with some help from apps)

This is actually possible. By setting particular times in the day when you can use your device and sticking to these religiously, you can gradually begin to ease the heavy usage of the smartphone, which often results in dependence and addiction. It is common to see individuals in a social gathering actually devoting more time to their smartphones, thereby defeating the aim of the meet-up. As a rule, the smartphone must be kept far away from you during meetings, social gatherings or when having your meals. Interestingly, there are a number of apps that can help limit your smartphone use. Flipd, Moment and BreakFree are three very good examples. These can be installed and set up to gauge and help you control your smartphone use.

Uninstall unnecessary apps

If you fall into the category of app-happy smartphone users, you stand a better chance of kicking that smartphone addiction by uninstalling the unnecessary apps on your device. Rather than being app-happy (always in a hurry to download any new app you come across), the right mindset to smartphone use is to be app-smart. This way, you weigh the benefits and utility of each app and even check out the reviews before you download and install them on your device. Take the time to go through the tons of apps on your smartphone and decide which ones are serving duplicated roles or those that are actually enslaving you to the device. An app that notifies you of new comments on social media, for instance, may be one of those to let go of. By reducing the number of apps, you are taking a strong step to overcome the addiction to your smartphone.

Turn off your device an hour before going to bed

For most people, this is a seemingly impossible task. The sad reality is that many smartphone addicts fall into the class of those who can be found using their smartphone until sleep comes, often far beyond the normal hours. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there is a strong correlation between this particular improper use of the smartphone and a host of sleeping disorders including, but not limited to, snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation and restless legs syndrome. In addition, the eyes come under excessive strain when you peer at the harsh glare of a smartphone screen for hours in a darkened room. It is advisable to switch off the phone at least an hour before going to sleep. In addition to helping you sleep better, the extra hour before bed can be put to better use through meditation, reflecting on the day’s activity, writing down your accomplishments for the day, reading a book (paper copy), communicating with your partner/spending time with your family, which is a very important part of bonding.

Keep the phone away

A common observation among smartphone addicts is their tendency to keep their devices within reach. One of the ways of beating this particular habit is to put some distance, physical or virtual, between you and your smartphone. When at work, you can have the device locked up in a drawer with set times for checking it. The same practice can apply at home, especially when spending time with family or friends. Complicated or multiple passwords or screen locks could also come in handy in preventing you from constant use of the device. Reviewing your smartphone use patterns can also be a good way of achieving this. Keeping the phone locked up in another room, for instance, can help you break the habit of immediately reaching for it upon waking up in the morning. Same goes for the ability to hold back from posting a picture on social media immediately it is taken. Control and self-discipline is key.

Switch to a feature phone for a while

To break your smartphone addiction, you may need to take a radical step by switching to a feature phone for a while. While the prospects seem unbearable, you may discover that the decision could eventually help you regain your life, enrich your relationships and may not be such an uncomfortable experience after all. For a start, you can use a feature phone for a month before switching back to a smartphone once certain you are in better control of the addiction. The experience may turn out to be a life-changing one…

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