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Digital Minimalism: Should You Limit Your Screen Time?

We all know there are 52 weeks in a year, but what about this 52, courtesy of Deloitte’s Global Mobile Survey:

Americans are viewing their smartphones on average 52 times per day.

Maybe that finding doesn’t shock you, but it should, according to Cal Newport, whose latest book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World was just published.

Smartphone addiction, Newport explains to NPR’s Here & Now, is “what a psychologist would call a ‘moderate behavioral addiction,’ which means if you have it around, you’re probably going to use it more than is healthy.” Self-reflection and personal relationships are just a couple things that suffer when our attention is on the phone.

Yes, it’s a bit ironic to be talking about obsessive screen time, since you are reading this on a screen. And perhaps this is more of a concern for teens than it is for older adults. But awareness is still helpful. If you begin to sense that screen time is beginning to interfere with other activities you typically enjoy, maybe it’s time for some mindful effort to limit time on the phone. If you are very persuasive, maybe you can even convince your teen-aged grandchildren to join you.

Tips to Help You Manage Digital Addiction

Cal offers a few tips to break the addiction:

  • Go cold turkey for 30 days, (just use the phone as a phone) then rebuild your digital life with “real intention;”
  • Can’t/won’t step away for a month? Delete all apps in which a company makes a profit every time you use it;
  • Spend time engaged in pre-smartphone activities such as reading a book, listening to music, visiting friends;
  • Keep track of how much time you waste in front of the phone and replace it with something more meaningful.

As Cal writes in his new book:

“Some of these addictive properties are accidental (few predicted the extent to which text messaging could command your attention), while many are quite purposeful (compulsive use is the foundation for many social media business plans). But whatever its source, this irresistible attraction to screens is leading people to feel as though they’re ceding more and more of their autonomy when it comes to deciding how they direct their attention. No one, of course, signed up for this loss of control. They downloaded the apps and set up accounts for good reasons, only to discover, with grim irony, that these services were beginning to undermine the very values that made them appealing in the first place: they joined Facebook to stay in touch with friends across the country, and then ended up unable to maintain an uninterrupted conversation with the friend sitting across the table.”

How about starting a new exercise program to replace some of your screen time? You might find this guide helpful:

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