Zoë Kaplan

67% of cell phone owners find themselves checking their phone for notifications even when they haven’t heard an alert.  The obsession with unlocking and tuning into our phones -- even when we know there’s nothing to respond to -- is eating away at our time.  Studies show that the average phone owner checks their device about every 6.5 minutes, adding up to nearly 150 times per day.  Because we’re checking and scrolling so often, the typical user spends anywhere from two to five hours on their phones daily.  The statistics seem too surprising to be true.  


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Yet, I admit I love using my phone.  It’s how I stay in touch with my family when I’m away at school, or talk to friends who are far away.  FaceTime doesn’t compare to seeing someone in person, but it still helps connect me with the people I miss.

Even social media has its benefits.  Sharing photos on Facebook allows my extended relatives or old teachers to see what I’m up to, and Snapchat lets me see my friends with silly pictures.  Even bSmart members connect with others via phones and computers; without social media, we wouldn’t be able to network with other members of the bSmart community.

But while there are positives of using our phones to communicate and connect with others, the consequences of overuse can be problematic.

Perhaps the most obvious is the amount of time we’re ‘losing’ in a day.  We can accomplish communicative tasks faster by sending a quick email or text, or share documents easily through Google Drive.  But what about all that time we’re spending watching TV or playing games on our phones?  What could we be doing with an extra five hours?

If we think we’d spend more time in the company of others, we may be fooling ourselves.  When my friends and I hang out, we all have our phones in our pockets or nearby, and frequently check Instagram and other social media for new posts instead of enjoying the time we have together.  We look to our phones even when we’re having an in-person interaction, and when we’re alone, we can’t help but scroll through Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram to see what everyone we know is up to.  The fear of missing out, otherwise known as ‘FOMO,’ proves to be more than just a joke; one study found that regular use of Facebook corresponded with a decrease in an individual’s overall well-being.

The right answer for the everyday person isn’t to quit using their phones cold-turkey.  It’s not sustainable and doesn’t account for the social benefits of using technology. But if we can limit our use and try to be conscious of when we take time for our screens, maybe we can reap the benefits without taking on the consequences.

I decided to start limiting my technology use by tracking my daily phone usage using the iOS app Moment.  The app tracks how long you’re on your phone by logging the hours your phone is unlocked.  It can also log how often you unlock your phone and which apps are taking up most of your screen time.

My results were upsetting: I was a culprit of nearly three to four hours of daily phone use.  That number didn’t even account for my regular laptop or TV screen time.


While there are positives of using our phones to communicate and connect with others, the consequences of overuse can be problematic.


I’ve decided to work with specific goals, breaking smaller habits instead of simply promising I’ll spend less time on my phone.  I no longer start my days by immediately checking my phone and scrolling through every social media site until I can stay awake.  If I can, I turn on my notification sounds, and then don’t pick up my phone unless answering a text or a call.  I’ve hidden some of my social media notifications so I don’t know whether someone’s liked my Instagram post until I’ve manually checked the app.

These aren’t the biggest changes, and I’m still guilty of using my phone frequently.  Yet I’ve learned how much I used to check my phone simply because I was bored or wanted something to scroll through.  When I’m using my phone, I’m now aware of my purpose in doing so.  I’ve become more present in conversations with friends and family, and notice how their phone usage inhibits their ability to communicate.  I still check to see who’s seen my Snapchat story or liked my Instagram post, and I may never stop caring.  But becoming conscious of my phone habits and taking steps to be mindful of my usage has made a positive change already.


Zoë is a rising junior at Wesleyan University majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.  To read more of her writing, please visit www.writersblock.space or The Wesleyan Argus.


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