Phone-Life Balance Is a Thing, and You Probably Don't Have It
Take this quiz to see just how obsessive your phone habits are, then use these tips to find #balance.
Your alarm goes off, and you roll over to tap your phone awake, scrolling through any new notifications or Instagrams that may have popped up overnight. You tote your phone to the bathroom while you shower (or do anything else there, for that matter). You have it easily accessible in your pocket on the way to work (checking during every red light or while waiting for the train), and lay it faceup on your desk (so you can peruse while waiting for that annoying rainbow spinning wheel to disappear). It stays on the table throughout your dinner date (you can't miss what's happening in the group text), and you do five (okay, 45) minutes of absentminded scrolling before bed.
Sound familiar? Thought so.
Motorola just released a Phone-Life Balance Study that shows exactly how consuming your phone obsession is. They surveyed 4,418 smartphone users aged 16 to 65 in the U.S., Brazil, France, and India and found that, while 60 percent of people surveyed say it's important to have a life separate from their phones, 65 percent admit they "panic" when they think they've lost their smartphone and 29 percent agree that when they're not using their phone they're either "thinking about using it or planning the next time [they] can use it."
All that device time isn't just giving you fun things like tech neck and digital eye strain, shortening your attention span and messing with your memory. It's ruining your social life too: One-third of respondents to the Motorola survey reported prioritizing their smartphone over engaging with people they care about and want to spend time with, and more than half of Gen Z respondents describe their phone as a best friend.
And when your most important friendship in life is with something that needs a USB charger, you know things need to change. (See: How Your Smart Phone Is Ruining Your Relationships)
How's Your Phone-Life Balance?
You probably know you're a little obsessed with your phone-but everyone's doing it, so it's easy to excuse as "normal." Take a second to assess the daily decisions you're making regarding your phone, and you might just startle yourself.
To see where your cell habits fall, take this 10-question phone-life balance quiz developed by Motorola; it'll quiz you on occasions where you do (or would, hypothetically) use your phone, how many hours you have it within reach, and how soon you're grabbing it upon waking up. Then it'll rank you in one of five categories-Phonosapien, Mindfully Mobile, Phone-Prone, Phonophile, and Phonatic, ranking from least to most phone-obsessed-and give you tips on how to back off, if needed.
"One of the hallmarks of addiction is that you lose that sense of control over your behavior," says Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., an expert in mind-brain behavior and the science of happiness at Harvard University and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. "While most people aren't at this extreme level, it would be beneficial for most people to identify and control their own problematic behaviors."
Even without the quiz, you can probably tell when your phone use is getting excessive: "Overall, think about how much you're enjoying your phone versus how much it feels compulsive or like it's not under your control," says Etcoff. "How much is it affecting other more important things in your life: your relationships with friends and family, your ability to get work done, your ability to get together with people face-to-face." (Did you know your smartphone could increase your risk of anxiety or depression?)
How to Stop Being a Phonophile
1. Stop using all the bells and whistles.
Let's face the facts: Smartphones make life way easier. You're not going to ditch your phone, go Google Maps-less, and spend all day getting lost in the name of breaking your cell phone addiction.
"What you can do is pick and choose which behaviors you'd like your phone to help you with," says Etcoff. An easy one: Go back to using an old-fashioned alarm clock to reduce the temptation to scroll before bed and immediately upon waking up, says Etcoff.
2. Be selective about alerts and notifications.
Do you really need to be notified of every single "like" on your latest Instagram? Think about which notifications are mission-critical, and disable those that aren't. (Here are a few more to-dos for digital detoxing.)
3. Use a phone-use tracking app.
Though it might sound counterintuitive, you can actually use your phone to get you off your phone. Meet Space, an app that's specifically dedicated to helping people find phone-life balance-without being shame-y. It helps you decode your phone-usage personality and understand your emotional triggers, then tracks your phone usage over time to help you really see the level of your obsession. Opt into the notification blocker and screen dimming tools, or even compete with friends (Fitbit-style) to discourage phone obsession and encourage more real-life moments.
Even without the app, you can make a pact with friends or your S.O. to stow phones during dinners or other social moments. You'll be more present and the conversation will be so much livelier, says Etcoff. (And if you need an even more aggro intervention, convince your friends to visit one of these digital detox travel destinations with you.)