December 3, 2021 | LIFE | By Katie Kamio | Illustration by Sydney Morris

I am not one to speak on having a healthy relationship with your phone.

I don’t remember the last time I was not in close proximity to my precious connection to the internet. And throughout the pandemic, my phone usage only got worse.

Recently, I’ve felt constrained by all the time I spend on my phone and so I set out to find ways to curb my phone usage. While I am not sage on this topic, I hope that what I have found will help you too — even if it is just to ruminate on the topic.

My first realization was that all the social media cleanses I had seen in YouTube videos and from websites — that encourage people to turn off their phones for long stretches of time  and delete social media apps — would not work for a college student like me.

There is no way; you can’t cut out email and text messaging from your day-to-day life without missing out on crucial messages from professors or notifications from friends about social events. Even cutting out Instagram seemed too extreme, since some clubs post the majority of their deadlines or event information exclusively on their feed.

Eventually, I found that it helped to think about what my ideal healthy relationship with my phone would really look like. Then, I tried different tactics to limit phone use and see how each one worked with my own life circumstances, hoping to make this vision a reality.

I started writing down ideas or tactics I read about in my planner that I keep in my backpack, but if you feel like that is too much effort, just noticing when you are distracting yourself with your phone and noting that to yourself can be a good start.

I once read an article in The Atlantic titled “Your Smartphone Reduces Your Brainpower, Even If It’s Just Sitting There” and it completely changed the way I study. There’s nothing worse than needing to complete work but finding yourself on Snapchat News in procrastination.

So, I usually hide my phone in a deep pocket of my backpack so easily that reaching for it is not a possibility. I find that even hiding my phone under a sheet of paper or notebook when I’m rushing to read or submit an assignment helps keep me laser focused and resists my urge to distract myself.  

Similarly, I’ve found that text or email notifications, on my phone or computer, are my personal kryptonite. One second, I’m quickly replying to a friend and then I find I have no idea what happened in class or where I was in a paper. So, I’ve found that turning off specific computer notifications for text and email and silencing my phone allows me to choose when I want to check my notifications.

One of the hardest times to not be on my phone is right before bed since I feel like I can scroll and catch up on the day right before sleep. Sometimes I stay up late catching up on news or scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. Sound familiar? I’ve caught myself doing this more than I would like to admit.

My solution is sleeping with my phone plugged in across the room or out of reach from my bed. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I feel drastically better on mornings I do this, and I swear I get better sleep. The only catch is that this only works if you have a separate alarm clock or wake up naturally at the time you want.

How I use my phone might not apply to you and your life, so I challenge you to think about your own phone habits. What kind of relationship do you want to have with your phone?

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