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An Addict's App

Thursday, June 13, 2013
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Dear Miriam,

I love my phone, but I hate that I'm becoming one of those people who's constantly looking at it. Do you have any suggestions for curtailing this habit? Is there a good app that will limit the time I can spend on my phone?

Signed,
An Addict's App


Dear Addict,

Good for you for recognizing the problems inherent in phone obsession. When you're more interested in the device in your pocket than the people in front of you, it's absolutely time to do something different. These habits can cause relationships to break down (even while virtual relationships, seemingly, may flourish, though those relationships may only with your co-workers or that annoying elementary school classmate who posts pictures of her dogs wearing holiday-themed costumes).

I'd love to say that you should just turn the thing off, or turn off certain notifications so at least it's not beeping all the time, or set nighttime settings so you get a break while you're sleeping (while saving battery life), but I know it's not that easy. So many people updating facebook statuses! So many new articles on the latest episode of Mad Men! So many food blogs! (So, now you all know what I'm doing on my phone.) 

It is fantastically meta that you want an app to help you limit your usage, but I guess fight fire with fire, right? A very brief google search got me to "AppCap," which can be customized to limit your usage of particular apps. There are also a variety of parental tools that are pretty easy for kids to get around, but if you're setting them up for your own good, you won't get anything out of outsmarting yourself. Kaboom is a good-looking example. As long as you're looking at your phone anyway, browse through the available apps, even try out a few different ones, and then decide what's really going to convince you to take a break. Also, check out this article for some stats on American's cell phone usage and some other tips for cutting back.

If your phone is off at certain key times, you might experience phone withdrawal anxiety, and maybe you will miss an important call, but you'll be removing yourself from the situation and proving to yourself that you can survive without it. Shabbat is one obvious built-in way to help curtail your addiction. Even if you're not at all religious, Shabbat can be a great motivator to do something that's different from the rest of your week. Reboot has started a campaign called the National Day of Unplugging that encourages people to put their technology away for a day. They also sell cell phone sleeping bags through their Sabbath Manifesto initiative. A blogging colleague of mine, Nina Badzin, recently wrote a post on this topic and said that, "Shabbat has not been the magical answer I'd assumed it would be." Even so, she offers some great insights into her experiences trying to cut back. If nothing else, she and others writing on this topic will give you something to read on your phone.

Be well,
Miriam

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