A Phone App Intervention

I’ve never been a big gamer. In fact, with the exception of a few early-nineties Mario games, I never played video games at all. My brothers were/are all obsessed. So I had access to multiple gaming systems until I was fifteen, and often my brothers tried to get me to play but I just wasn’t into it.

I’m not into Anime either.

I point these two things out because it seems like if someone has an addiction to their electronics beyond stellar texting ambitions or social media, it’s some sort of game or anime, and I dodged the bullet on both.

So, imagine my surprise when I realized last month, I may have become addicted to my phone. It’s not just one thing. There is a Trivia app I’m all about, and Pokemon Go (though I’m more on the outs on that one), and then my latest craze: Sudoku. I have long prided myself on not having any sort of electronic vice. Seeing how much time my younger brothers wasted on games (when you can’t enjoy a vacation because instead of enjoying the sites you stay up all night playing X-Box and don’t want to do anything besides play X-box, it’s wasted time), I am like, “Phew, I missed that one.”

Then one night two weeks ago, I realized that for the fifth night in a row, I was playing Sudoku and Dots and the Trivia app simultaneously while watching TV. And I was playing these things because, “Why not?” Like it made perfect sense to pay more attention to my phone’s screen than the program I was watching.

I have enough restraint to not let it get in the way of my day (mostly), but when it comes to time when I’d prefer to be reading something or doing steps, I’m paying attention to my phone, and I hate that. Addiction to anything isn’t cute, even great things are less great in excess.

The first step is about acknowledging you have a problem. All right, “Hi, my name’s Michael, and I am addicted to various apps on my phone.” Now people clap or say welcome, and step one is done. Now onto step two: intervention.

I’m not going to go cold turkey on anything because I feel like that’s setting myself up for failure, and it isn’t all-consuming in my life yet. I’m fine with any of the apps I find myself glued to being accessed in moderation, as long as it really is moderation.

I thought about cutting out one app, but I don’t think that would help. Like if I stop using the Trivia app, I feel like I’ll just play PokemonGo or Sudoku more. It makes much more sense to me to limit my total playtime each day. Then I can break that down into whatever apps I want to accordingly.

I’m all about small rewards. As someone who practically lives in Excel, I’m all about planning, organization and prioritization. So if I write an essay, maybe I’ll give myself ten minutes of app time. That could mean ten trivia matches or a few games of Sudoku or talking a walk with PokemonGo at the ready. (When weather is nice, I actually love taking a walk, because I get to get my app fix in while walking clears my head, relieves stress and helps me hit my daily steps goal.)

I’ve been doing this for about a week and it’s working for me. It’s much better than a single “you get this much time” bucket because it makes me spread it out. I also think that doing it this way means I actually get less total time than if I had one big bucket. Using my previous example, writing a piece if I’m in the zone takes at least an hour, up to two or three. So ten minutes after all that work, I probably am on my phone less than ninety minutes a day (that includes my after-dinner-cheat-wind-down time).

I’m glad that I caught myself before I really got fully addicted or it started to get in the way of things. I just figure at the end of the day, I’ll enjoy reading a book or watching a movie way more than playing any silly game no matter how cool/interesting/addicting it may be.

I’m glad I have that perspective and enough self-awareness to catch myself. I’m also glad I’ve been able to stick to my plan and being productive (I’ve read three books in the last week – yay!) instead of getting blurry vision from paying too much attention to my phone’s screen.

Of course, it’s only been a week. Here’s hoping I keep it up, or I may need a real phone app intervention! 😛

-DMW

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