Curbing Our App Addiction – My Journey To Digital Zen

So, here’s a confession. I check my emails and social media pages within 10 seconds of waking up. At 5am. Every day. A fact that is indeed horrible. If you jump on your favourite apps before brushing your teeth in the morning, you’re not alone! A Decade of Digital Dependency report published by Ofcom revealed that 40% of adults have an app addiction. We look at our phones within 5 minutes of waking with 65% of under-35s partaking in under-the-covers browsing. But is the situation really that bad? Let’s take a closer look at the current smartphone-led climate.

We love to splash out on apps

Apps have sent us a little bonkers. In fact, we’re prepared to shell out for our favourite digital tools without so much as a second thought. Incredibly, the total revenue from mobile app downloads, advertising and in-app purchases is predicted to surpass $188.9 billion by 2020. That’s a 113 % increase in four years showing how comfortable consumers are at buying online.

Favourite apps reign supreme

Excluding apps that come pre-loaded on many Android devices, the most popular apps of 2018 according to AndroidRank’s date include:

Facebook – 4,119 billion downloads

Facebook Messenger – 3,408 billion downloads

WhatsApp – 2,979 billion downloads

Instagram – 1,843 billion downloads

Indeed, social media apps dominate the most frequently used apps (39%), while gaming and communication/messaging apps tie for second (10%).

App addiction really is a thing

As Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind told CNBC: “Most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications.” He continued: “We’ve built up this layer of anxiety surrounding our use of technology, that if we don’t check in as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.”

This is backed by important data with the Decade of the Smartphone report revealing Brits check their phones every 12 minutes. 37% of adults also check their apps before switching off the lights for bed, increasing to 60% for the under-35 age group. The younger generation is most addicted with 15-24 year olds spending four hours a day on the phone compared with 2 hours 49 minutes for adults. The young also check their phones every 8.6 minutes!

Negative Health Implications

As well as increased anxiety and the inability to focus, smartphone and app addiction can lead to numerous other health problems. Facebook itself has admitted that passive use of the app might make you feel ‘worse’ about life, particularly watching others live their lives from the side lines rather than engaging in active online conversations.

Students from the University of Michigan assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were left in a worse mood than those encouraged to engage, Facebook tells us. Depression has also been linked to social media usage when people feel their lives are not living up to the hype of others or they’ve not reached the same goals as their peers.

Curbing That App Addiction

So it’s clear. Excessive app usage can be a problem and is a real threat to the smartphone driven society of today. And I’m guilty. So what’s the cure? Well, of course, apps form a large part of everyday life for many of us. A significant part of my role as Creative Director for Contentworks, for instance, is overseeing social media for our clients. I need to be on-the-ball and connected for a huge chunk of the day, but there are still way I and others in my situation can step away from the screen.

Here are a few tips whether you work with apps or check them more than you’d like!

1. Delete any apps you don’t use

This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people keep apps on their phone that they never use. Free up your homepage so you’re not ever tempted to look at them.

2. Turn your phone to greyscale

This is interesting with regards to psychology. Social media is purposefully designed to be addicted and hijack the mind according to former Design Ethicist at Google and founder of the non-profit Time Well Spent, Tristan Harris. Turning your phone to greyscale, says Harris, can make apps like Instagram and Snapchat a lot less appealing. Also, red symbolises urgency therefore prompting action. If you don’t have those red notifications starting at you, checking your phone may become less of a priority. Harris has a wealth of other useful tips here.

3. Stay accountable

If you are working with apps for work reasons, know why you are doing so and what you hope to achieve. By setting actionable tasks and laying out specific goals you can hopefully reduce a whole lot of aimless app surfing. With all social media projects it’s very important to set Key Performance Indicators known as KPIs as these help you identify what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and whether your goalposts are realistic. They’ll focus your mind and prevent you slipping into a social media rut.

4. Download Apps for Smartphone Addiction

This sounds totally nuts right? Well, actually it’s more logical than it seems. There are many apps available these days which are designed to reduce your phone and app usage. Examples include:

  1. Hold – this rewards you with free points for every 20 minutes you spend off your phone between 11am and 7pm. These points can then be converted into super cheap cinema tickets, free coffee and Amazon gift cards. You can even choose to donate to charity if you please.
  2. Moment – this tracks how long you’ve been on your phone and allows you to set a daily limit. Once your limit has been reach, you’ll get annoying notification until you just want to throw your phone out of the window or never use it again.
  3. Flipd – warning! This is for the hard-core, desperate to curtail their phone usage. Essentially, there are two modes. One allows you to casually lock your phone to see how long you can go without using it. The full lock mode, however, is the adult version of putting yourself of the naughty step or taking time out. If you choose the latter, calls and texts are allowed but social media apps will be banned until the timer runs out! Told you it was brutal!

Use Physical Versions of Digital Apps

At the risk of sounding old-school I might also suggest using physical versions of digital apps. This can be extremely beneficial if you’re trying to kick an app addiction.

So, try using good old fashioned pen and paper instead of note apps. Or, read paperbacks instead of the digital versions. Go to a gym and monitor your progress there rather than downloading every fitness app under the sun and perhaps call your friend rather than spending hours on WhatsApp. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s worth a shot.

Another advantage to doing this is using an actual physical alarm clock in the mornings in place of your phone. If your WIFI is off, then there’s no need for the phone to be in your hand until later in the morning. By that time you could have had your exercise, meditation, shower and coffee without the stress of checking your digital updates. That’s my plan anyway!

If you want to reduce the amount of time you’re spending on apps, speak to the Contentworks team. Our team will do all the hard work for you, leaving you freed up in your happy place!