There was a time when people spoke about addiction and meant drugs. Today, it is also about behaviors and technology, in particular, phones and the apps on them. Tech companies often describe how their product will make the world a better place. Even though they may have been created with good intentions, some technologies are built so well that people have become hooked.
According to Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at New York University and author of the recent book Irresistible, more screen time tends to make people less happy and healthy. In fact, a recent study found that people who use multiple social media platforms have three times the risk of depression and anxiety.
Alter argues that part of the reason that people get hooked to their smartphones is because they have become an adult pacifier. Much like children who use pacifiers as a way to comfort and soothe themselves, adults use smartphones when they feel uncomfortable or anxious. When researchers from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania studied the relationships between smartphones and stress, they found that this was true.
Although most know that too much tech is unhealthy, people don't know when or how to quit. To break a tech addiction and regain focus, Alter suggests these three techniques.
1. Avoid distractions.
Email is one of the biggest distractions when it comes to work. Alter says that the average work email takes only six seconds to open, but it can take a person as much as 25 minutes to get back to work at the level they were before checking their email.
Oftentimes, you may just be checking your email as a distraction or a way to soothe yourself in a moment of boredom. Instead of trying to distract yourself all the time with technology, Alter suggests that you not only tolerate boredom but embrace it.
2. Set physical boundaries.
Curbing your tech addiction probably won't happen overnight, but you can take it step-by-step and increase your offline time as you go.
Alter recommends: "When you go for a coffee at work, leave your phone in the office. It makes it physically impossible to do the thing that you're trying to get over or avoid."
Eventually, try to have the device near you physically, but resist the temptation to use it.
3. Use downtime proactively.
It has become commonplace for people to pull out their phones and start swiping when they are in the elevator with strangers, waiting in line at the store, or in any situation where they might feel uncomfortable or bored.
Use that time to think about something instead. Alter says, "I'll pick a problem that's been nagging me, and then I'll use that 15 or 20 minutes to think about that."
Whether it's at work or during down time, technology consumes huge chunks of the average person's day. The problem many suffer from is that they don't know when to put the screens down. Instead of interacting with strangers or thinking about important problems, people pull out their phone automatically, comforting themselves without even realizing it.
The constant connection to technology can prevent you from connecting with others in real life. With these three techniques, you can begin to limit your screen time and notice a change in how you use your time.