04 Feb 2021

Getting smarter with our smartphones

Smartphones have transformed our lives in positive ways, as well as ways we never intended. 

Yes, texting is almost instantaneous and tracking apps are proving their worth for dealing with a pandemic. However, constantly being switched on is impacting on our productivity, our creativity and our peace of mind.

Social media companies are encouraging addictive behaviour using intermittent positive reinforcement and our desire for social approval e.g. with Facebook ‘likes’. 

These companies are increasing the amount of time we spend using their services so advertisers can better target us as consumers based on our activities.

The more we go down a particular information rabbit hole the more we get targeted with information that supports a particular point of view even if it is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, thinly disguised lies. 

The more we use social media to interact with our networks the less time we have for deeper connections, richer conversations and shared experiences.

My concern is our potential loss of autonomy, and an erosion of the freedom to choose how we spend our time.  

Less is More Solution

It doesn’t have to be this way. The key to thriving in this ‘always on’ world is spending less time using our smartphone applications. 

We can stay connected and still benefit from social media by being more selective about what digital apps and tools we use and when.  

So how can we do this? Here are some ideas from Cal Newport’s * book.

Take a break - from optional technologies (like Facebook, LinkedIn, news sites and text messaging) for a few weeks. Maintain critical uses without defaulting to unrestricted access.

Rediscover favourite activities - and experiment with new interests that generate real satisfaction while free from digital distractions.  

Consolidate texting – instead of being ‘on call’ for instant responses, schedule specific times in your day to respond to texts (just like emails).

Create space for quality conversations –  set regular times and let people know when you are available for phone calls or in person meetings, maybe at a favourite local café. 

Reclaim leisure time - with high quality leisure activities like playing a musical instrument, reading a book or spending time in nature.  

Restrict low quality activities – if you put time limits on low value distractions you can replace them with high value alternatives which are much more satisfying.

Embrace slow media – replace constant breaking media feeds with more thoughtful better informed news items to read less often from a variety of trusted sources.  

Adopt a radical approach – which could be switching off social media altogether, deleting social media from your smartphone, or replacing it with a basic phone for calls and text messaging only. 

Taking steps to be more selective and intentional about our technology usage takes dedicated time and commitment.  And yet, the rewards will be worth it. 

For more about this… 

Read "Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World" by Cal Newport

Watch "The Social Dilemma" movie available on Netflix



Mary Somervell

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