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Overcoming phone addiction

By Cassandra Jaramillo/The Dallas Morning News (TNS) • Jan 28, 2018 at 4:00 PM

There’s a bit of self-loathing that comes after you waste more than an hour scrolling through social feeds and comparing your life to the people online.

It’s painful, and it’s time that you’ll never get back. While social media and our connectedness to family and friends have positive attributes, many things about social media can be negative.

That’s exactly why Texas Christian University assistant professor Ashley English challenges herself to do a yearly cleanse from social media around the holidays until after New Year’s.

English is a busy working woman and mother of three. At 33, she finds a way to balance it all. Taking time away from her phone helped the most.

Indeed, I have been feeling that I needed more boundaries between my online life and real-in-the-moment life. I’ve been active on social media since I was a teenager on MySpace. More recently, I was active on multiple platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, occasionally Pinterest. Half of my life is documented on social networks.

When I think about babies today, I wonder if their parents even have baby photo books or if social media is the new baby book. The digital age has changed us. Now, how do we make ourselves change our bad, habit-forming behaviors online?

Despite being overly dependent on my phone as a reporter, I wanted to try to remove myself from social networks. Starting with baby steps, I took a long holiday weekend away from social media to test out English’s practices, which are pretty simple.

First, she lets everyone know to not expect her to answer social media messages or comments.

Then she deletes social media apps from her phone and mutes messaging apps. After the cleanse, her mantra is that 5 to 8 p.m. is “no phones” time. It’s all about family and kids.

We all have our own way to navigate this balance. When I did my cleanse, here’s what I found worked best and changed for me after coming back:

1. Delete the most addictive, time-wasting app from your phone.

Take your biggest time suck and remove it from your phone. For me, this absolutely was my Facebook app. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for Facebook because it is the platform where I have the most family and friends in one spot. It helps me keep up with everyone. But I found it is absolutely useless to check it multiple times on my phone. Now, I just check it through a desktop computer.

2. You’ll find being bored is great.

When we get bored, we reach immediately for our phones. During my break from social media, I found that when I got bored, it was a good thing. It gave me motivation to get back into journaling, running and do more leisure reading.

3. Turn off notifications you can live without.

I’ll be honest and say I couldn’t completely eliminate social media. I kept Twitter and Instagram on my phone, but I turned off the notifications. I don’t need to know every time there’s a new comment or follower on a platform. I found this simple change makes me less likely to open up the app, too.

4. Going back to texts and calls is healthy.

Nearly all of my conversations with people I care about take place on various platforms. Sometimes it was a Facebook comment, other times it was a Snapchat message. Keeping up with everything became annoying. My friends now know that the best way to contact me is through a simple text or — gasp! — a phone call.

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