Free yourself from your smart phone

Is social media eating up your time? Here are 7 steps to get back in control.

By Soren Kenner and Imran Rashid

Most of us spend heaps of time online––chatting, gossiping, keeping up with the news, checking out the latest diets and fads––and not least scrolling through a never-ending deluge of social media keeping up with people we hardly know and finding out everything about what their pooch had for breakfast yesterday.

It’s a natural thing to do––humans are social animals and we are “hardwired” to stay in touch, to reach out, to engage. You are designed to read body language, micro-cues, emotions, and needs––but the truth is that social media is a poor substitute for the real thing. A little like looking at a picture of a glass of water, when you are thirsty.

Even worse, there is a mounting body of evidence tying smartphones and social media to stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, decision fatigue, concentration issues and lack of focus.

The culprit turns out to be what is known as “addictive design” –– the cumulative effect of the notifications, buzzers, lights, emojis, cliffhangers, forever scrolls, likes and prompts that all clamor for your attention––techniques that have been lifted from the gaming industry (from slot machines in particular) and which are now being put to use keeping your attention riveted to your phone, tablet or monitor.

What can you do about it?

Do you feel anger and frustration if you cannot get online? Wake up in the middle of the night and thumb through Facebook? Have trouble concentrating or staying focused when you are with friends? Are you usually more online than offline –– feeling a stronger pull from the virtual world than from your friends and family. Here’s a few suggestions to take the edge off:

  1. Turn off all of your notifications. Stop your phone from blinking, vibrating, beckoning to convince you of some sort of non-existent urgency. 
  2. Stay focused on the real world. Leave your phone in the bag and stay focused on what is going on around you instead.
  3. Don’t bring your phone to the dinner table and leave it in the bag when you are with friends and family. Talk with each other instead. It’s actually quite pleasant.
  4. Leave your phone out of the bedroom. Get an alarm clock instead.
  5. Schedule your online time. Do all of your browsing in the morning or at the end of the day. But do it all at once and set limits on your online time.
  6. Spend time with people instead of diving into online-euphoria. Need distraction? Read a book, play a board game, learn to play the piano or how to draw or keep a diary.
  7. Be a role model. Show your kids, your friends and your family that being together without constant online intrusions is fun and pleasurable.

Weaning yourself off the on-off-on-off-on-off online carousal can be tough but once you do you will soon begin to notice the benefits –– getting better at being in and performing in the here and now, making better decisions, being better able to focus and concentrate and last but not least getting closer to the people you share your work and life with. What’s not too like about that!

Dr Imran Rashid and Soren Kennerare the authors of new book OFFLINE: Free your mind from smartphone and social media stress. It has sparked an international debate by revealing the “mind hacks” Facebook, Apple, Google, and Instagram use to get you hooked. To find out more go to: