If I were to ask you to unlock your phone, open up your settings application and show me your screen time, would you be embarrassed? A few months ago, I would’ve run away from anyone who dared to ask me that question and silently lecture myself before opening back up the TikTok app.
So, I made it a point to add it to my resolutions for the new year–something that I pride myself on strictly following. My three major goals are as follows: read 50 books, consistently work out and limit my screen time to an hour a day.
With more than a month into 2023, I have read eight books and showed up to the gym every Monday through Friday. And yet, my lousy screen time average remains at five hours. Why is that?
It seems to be a weekly conversation with friends, family or even classmates that social media has somehow crept upon us out of nowhere, becoming a constant in our daily lives and never leaving. I mean, it’s so bad that sometimes I catch myself exiting an app just to immediately reopen it. I’m embarrassed even admitting that, but it’s the truth and one that I believe others do as well.
I’ve noticed that we are also just no longer comfortable sitting alone with our thoughts or in mere silence. Most people I know need it to go to bed, including me (even though the bright light makes it harder to fall asleep, so the joke is on us) or bring it to us on our quick bathroom trips. It’s the first thing we check when we wake up. We use it to scroll through while using public transportation, when we’re eating at a nice restaurant or when we find ourselves bored amidst a conversation.
Our attention span has become tainted due to quick videos and short captions, and it is a habit that remains because our brain reads it as being productive. As quoted by Nancy Deangelis, Ph.D., CRNP, Director of Behavioral Health, in Jefferson Health, “Social media platforms drive surges of dopamine to the brain to keep consumers coming back over and over again.”
Of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t indulge in things that we enjoy–hence why I still wanted to allow myself one hour of screen time, not zero. I really enjoy using online platforms to find new recipes that I hadn’t thought of, songs I would’ve never found or fashion trends that I think suit my style.
When these resources become a need rather than a want, however, that’s when I think it becomes a major problem. In 2019, Lee Health ran a survey, in which they found that “40 percent of U.S. online users aged 18 to 22 years reported feeling addicted to social media [and] five percent of respondents from that age group admitted the statement ‘I am addicted to social media’ described them completely.”
It’s a scary reality and one that I want to genuinely improve upon, while still being able to enjoy its presence in small doses. A few tips that I had come up with for myself in the past week to aid me in this process is to charge my phone across the room at night, so I am not tempted to check it if I am having trouble falling asleep and it is not the first thing I look at when I wake up. Next, is just simply setting up a screen time limit in my settings. If I genuinely need my phone, I can override it, but it will serve as a strong reminder that it’s time to pick up a book instead.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with depending on their phone for quick bursts of entertainment, so I suggest that you try to start thinking of ways to reduce your screen time as well before it’s too late to reverse your harmful habit.