How to Break Up With Your Phone

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I still wanted to use my phone when it was helpful or fun. But I wanted a new relationship with it — one with better boundaries, and over which I had more control. I spent the next year and a half researching habits, addiction, behavior change, mindfulness and neuroplasticity, and developed a comprehensive strategy for how to “break up” with my phone. The goal wasn’t to never use my phone again; it was to create a sustainable relationship that felt healthy.

Two years later, I feel that I’ve succeeded. Here are some of the key things I learned on how to navigate a successful breakup and create a better relationship with your phone.

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Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

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“The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies — Google and Facebook — and where are we pointing them?” Mr. Harris said. “We’re pointing them at people’s brains, at children.”

“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he said. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm.

“This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong,” Mr. McNamee said.

 

‘Never get high on your own supply’ – why social media bosses don’t use social media

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I used to look at the heads of the social networks and get annoyed that they didn’t understand their own sites. Regular users encounter bugs, abuse or bad design decisions that the executives could never understand without using the sites themselves. How, I would wonder, could they build the best service possible if they didn’t use their networks like normal people?

Now, I wonder something else: what do they know that we don’t?

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, broke the omertà in October last year, telling a conference in Philadelphia that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to social media.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments,” he said.

 

Is Your Child a Phone ‘Addict’?

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Instead of becoming overly fixated on teens’ smartphone use in general, it is important to think about “what are the applications on the smartphone and how is your particular child using the applications on that smartphone,” said Katie Davis, assistant professor at the University of Washington and co-director of the UW Digital Youth Lab, whose research explores the role of new media technologies in young people’s personal, social and academic lives. Parents trying to monitor use can have difficulty distinguishing abusive behavior from appropriate use, especially since teens use their devices for both schoolwork and free time, often simultaneously.

Mobile phone addiction? It’s time to take back control

Illustration of giant hand in 'stop' gesture coming out of a smartphone screen

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“Raising awareness of one’s own smartphone use can be the first step in the right direction of decreasing smartphone use,” says Dr Daria Kuss from Nottingham Trent University. “Often, individuals are not aware of the frequency and extent of their smartphone use.”

Dr Sarita Robinson, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, says: “It is a little like getting on the scales after Christmas and being confronted with how much weight you have really put on – when adding up your phone use over a week, the amount of time you are wasting can come as a big surprise.”

Seeing this data is just a first step, however. As Burke says: “Having the insight is only so good. What are you going to do about the insight? How are you going to make a change?”

 

Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone?

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In an effort to break my smartphone addiction, I’ve joined a small group of people turning their phone screens to grayscale — cutting out the colors and going with a range of shades from white to black. First popularized by the tech ethicist Tristan Harris, the goal of sticking to shades of gray is to make the glittering screen a little less stimulating.

I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse. We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.

…“You don’t buy black-and-white cereal boxes, you buy the really stimulating colored one, and these apps have developed really cool tiles, cool shapes, cool colors, all designed to stimulate you,” Ms. McKelvey said. “But there’s a vibrant world out there, and my phone shouldn’t be it.”