Technology Mindfulness Project
Hi, my name is Maddie Bauer. I am a sophomore at Coastal, and I think this project will be really beneficial to me. I find myself getting distracted by my phone very easily, and it leads me to hours of distraction. Being at home this semester is hard, so the only thing I really do is sit around on my phone finding ways to make the time go by. But, I really dislike the fact that my phone has such a huge part of my life and isn’t benefiting me at all. So, by doing this project, I hope to change my habits, fix my focus, and become more connected with the world.
#1: For the first week, I had to take the Smartphone Compulsion Test. Based on my results, I think this accurately describes my smartphone usage habits. I scored a 7 out of 15, which was described as “It is likely that you may have a problematic or compulsive Smartphone use pattern.” I admit that I do use my smartphone an excessive amount, but it’s usually when I’m bored or have nothing else to attend to in the moment. I don’t like using my cellphone in public, like when I’m out with friends or family. I like enjoying the moments I’m spending with them, the phone can wait. But, because of coronavirus, I’ve definitely found myself on my phone a lot more than usual since no one could leave home for a while. I do prefer talking over texting, and that includes calling, since I’m at a school far away from my family at friends, I think it’s more special to call them from time to time instead of texting. I also just find texting and scrolling through social media so distracting. A lot of times, it’s so easy for me to lose track of what homework I’m doing because I end up getting sucked into some app. I think it’s so annoying that I do that, but when a homework assignment is boring enough or hard enough, one buzz of my phone is all it takes to get me to procrastinate on it.
I don’t think I’m completely dependent on my smartphone. Yes, I like to have it on me when I’m out, only for safety reasons. I share my location with my parents so they know where I am in case anything happens, and if something were to happen, I have a list of people I can call instantly to get help if I need. Plus, emergency services are a phone call away, and you never know when something could happen unexpectedly nowadays. I don’t like the social media part of smartphones at all though, it’s definitely bad for teenagers’ mental health and self image, which is why I try to use my phone the least I can.
#2: This week, I had to describe my smartphone profile, and estimate the average time I spend on my phone and number of times I pick up my phone daily. I primarily use my smartphone to stay in touch with my friends. I talk to them on social media apps or through text/FaceTime. I am constantly talking to a lot of my friends over Snapchat, since they are all at different schools, and we have a big group chat on there that we all use pretty frequently. I also use my phone for my own creativity, I like to take photos (my minor is photography) so I spend some time taking photos of good moments I find myself in, I’ll edit some of them, and end up posting them on my Instagram.
My phone itself tracks my phone usage and how often I check it, but I’m going to estimate before I check it. Per day, I’d say I spend on average 5 hours on my phone. I think I check my phone about 150 times a day.
I checked last week’s average (Sept. 6–13), and it said I have a screen time of 7 hours and 1 minute, and that I checked my phone 1,451 times the whole week, with that Friday being my most pickups at 247. That’s crazy, I didn’t even realize how much I check my phone, even if it’s just for the time or for nothing at all, I need to cut down on that one. And I’m also aware I should cut back on my screen time, I’m working on that.
#3: The third week, I had to talk about my favorite apps. I have multiple favorite apps to use on my phone.
My top favorite app would have to be TikTok. I do spend a lot of time on it and find myself losing track of time on it, but it’s so entertaining. People post videos of comedy, art, anything, and it’s so interesting to watch all of the trending videos. Some of these videos are creative tutorials, some have music or movie recommendations, and a lot just make me laugh. I think it’s my go-to when I wake up in the morning, when I’m bored, or before I fall asleep.
My next favorite app would be Snapchat. I think it’s the easiest way for me to communicate with a lot of people, plus it’s a great way to capture a lot of memories in my life. I have memories saved in it from 2016 that I just love to look back on or get random flashbacks of.
Another favorite app is FaceTime. I always like FaceTiming people so that I’m able to talk to them while also seeing their faces or something they’re doing. I use it to talk to my mom because I don’t get to see her a lot, I use it to talk to my roommates since I moved out last month and don’t see them, I use it to talk to my big from my sorority, I talk to my boyfriend and best friend, and occasionally with my other friends at different colleges. It’s a nice way to catch up with someone and seeing their faces.
My last favorite app to use is Hay Day. It’s a game where you can build your own farm and complete levels. I’ve been using it since quarantine started and I have been building my farm a lot over time. It’s something you have to keep up with, like there’s amounts of time you have to wait for a building to finish building, or for something to be baked/cooked, etc. So, I don’t use it often during the day, but I like taking care of my animals and watching my farm grow and making money on it to further build my farm.
#4: I used my Moment app to track how much I have used my phone. On my usage monitor app, it is telling me that so far this week (Oct 18–20), I have used my phone for a total of 13 hours and 39 minutes. Also this week, I have picked up my phone 229 times. Based on the chart, Moment is showing me that I have spent almost or about 4.5 hours on my phone every day so far this week.
My all time data started September 7, and until right now (October 20), it is telling me that I have spent 177 hours and 49 minutes on my phone, with 3,443 total pickups.
For today, my app is telling me I have used my phone for 4 hours and 29 minutes, and that I have picked up my phone 60 times. I feel satisfied with my results, I feel like I use my phone a lot more, but I guess I don’t. I thought my numbers would be a lot higher, and I’m glad they are not. I think I just didn’t realize that being in classes, doing homework, working, and being with my family/boyfriend made me less focused on my phone, which is exactly what I wanted.
#5: I have to research some ways to lessen my smartphone usage, and I decided on three ways from this 12-Step Plan to do so.
Step 5. Change Your Nightly Ritual
Changing my nightly ritual would help my smartphone usage greatly. I always use my phone before I go to bed, and I tell myself that it helps me fall asleep. But, I can’t remember the last time I just didn’t use my phone at all before bed. What else am I supposed to do? I feel like it tires me out in a way, but I know it’s definitely not good to stare at a screen while in the dark. In order to fix this, I could start coloring before I go to bed, because I really hate reading and will never find myself reading a book voluntarily. Or, I could learn something new, like how to crochet, or make friendship bracelets, anything crafty is better than sitting on my phone.
Step 8. Turn off Notifications
Turning off my notifications would help immensely. I remember there was a time when I turned off all of my Snapchat notifications, and I swear I used my phone so much less for that period of time. I have notifications on for all of my apps, and every time I’m doing homework, a single notification pops up and draws my attention completely. Sometimes, when I have big assignments, I turn off my notifications just to stay focused and get the assignment out of the way, but I think I should turn my notifications off all the time. Like when I’m trying to fall asleep, when I’m eating with people, when I’m driving, when I’m working, basically anytime I’m doing something that doesn’t involve using my phone.
Step 12. Meditate
I think meditating would be a huge help with the amount of stress I have. Using my phone is not a good meditation tool, and I go on my phone sometimes just to avoid stressful situations or when I want to take my mind off of something. My boyfriend actually recommended that I start meditating the other night because my anxiety is getting so bad, and every time I’d get back on my phone after a breakdown, I’d find myself upset all over again over one lame post or just over the smallest thing. I’ve heard only good things about doing it, so I feel like doing that will not only make me happier but it will also make me feel healthier.
#6: On Tuesday of this week, 11/16, I attempted the experiment assigned. The experiment is to try to leave my phone at home for an entire day and see how I do. I am living at home for this school year, so I left my phone in my room all day. I wasn’t having a very good day from the start, so I found it difficult to not go on my phone to just distract myself, but I pushed through it and eventually got myself up and busy.
To start off my day, I got Dunkin’ for breakfast and decorated my room a little. I just got my room repainted and new furniture so it’s a huge work in progress, and since it’s getting colder in Maryland, I figured I could be productive doing that. I spent a few hours doing that and then waited for my class. It was cancelled, so I did some homework instead. I think I did homework for about 3 hours up until I had chapter. Chapter lasted 2 and a half hours, and I didn’t need my phone for it, so it wasn’t that difficult to not go on it. It was also nice not having my phone right next to me while I was doing some homework because usually the notifications can easily distract me from my work.
Although my phone was in the same room as me for most of the day, I didn’t really find myself urging to go on it. I don’t know if it’s cheating to access my texts through my laptop, but I couldn’t help but respond to people through there if they were important, like my parents. But, I didn’t go on any social media for the whole day, so I think that was an accomplishment.
I feel like if I had gone out to work or went for a walk, I would have felt unsafe without my phone, only because if I were to get into an accident or had an issue, I wouldn’t have my phone to call my parents or someone to help me. I feel like bringing my phone in public with me is essential only for my safety. I don’t care if I have it or not when I’m doing something in public while with other people.
I think I was also impressed with myself by not ending up spending any of my time watching Netflix or Hulu on my laptop, considering that’s what I did for basically the whole day prior. I didn’t want to use online platforms to distract me from my main distraction. I didn’t want to cheat the experiment.
Overall, I think I felt more relief doing this experiment than anxiety, I was anxious at first, but then I ended up just forgetting about my phone. I think this was a good way to find new ways to distract myself from picking up my phone. Other things I had considered doing as well were taking photos for my photo class project, working on my scrapbook, and baking desserts for my family, but since I wanted to do homework and decorate, I didn’t get around to that. I will definitely take more days off from my phone in the future, it was very beneficial.
#7: I was given a meditation activity to do with my smartphone and describe my experience with it. I have never meditated before doing this exercise. Before I did it, I read over the entire article to see what I should try to pick up on and what I should be trying to look for. While doing the activity, I did not particularly feel any type of want or uncontrollable urge to use my phone. I will be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time on my phone sometimes, however it is used in my free time and I know when to put it away when I need to focus on something. I did the breathing exercise for around three minutes and I had multiple notifications pop up while doing it. Some were from social media and others were from games. I did not really feel anything when I saw these. I knew that these would be there later and I knew that it would not affect me negatively if I didn’t check them right away. Overall, I would not say that I am addicted to my phone. I think that I like my phone and I like the things that I can do on my phone. I am fully capable of leaving my phone in another room or not bringing it somewhere. I would however prefer to have my phone with me, it makes me comfortable knowing that safety is just a call away in a time of an emergency.
#8: The last entry is made up of two parts. The first one is to make graphs visualizing my smartphone usage, and the second part is to analyze my overall experience with this project.
Part 1: I used a line graph as a way to show my smartphone usage for the weeks of November 15–21 and November 22–28. I chose these weeks to compare how I use my smartphone on a class/homework/work-filled week versus a holiday break week. What is interesting about this is that it shows that I used my phone more on the week that I didn’t have homework, class, or work. I think what kept my phone usage so high on my busy week is the fact that I actually use my phone to work, I am a DoorDasher so I have to do everything through the app. I also use my phone to take photos of important slides during my lectures, and then I use it when I procrastinate. So, I understand why it appears to be used more during the busy week, but it was definitely a result I was not expecting.
I also made a bar graph showing how many hours I spent on my phone in each month of the semester. From September to November, the Moment app tells me that I have used my phone for a total of 378 hours and 2 minutes. In September, I used my phone for 81 hours, which may or may not be accurate, because I did download the app in the second week of September. In October, I used my phone for 157 hours, and in November, I used it for 140 hours. The fact that 378 hours = 15 days… I’ve spent over two weeks straight on my phone in less than three months. Thinking about that, throughout my lifetime, I’ll probably spend so much time, maybe years, just on my phone. (Sorry for the weird graph, it was being glitchy so I had to add an extra column, ignore it.)
Part 2: I am not really surprised with my results, I am aware that I use my phone more than I want to. Over the past semester, I think I have become more aware of my dependence on technology. I know I use it a lot when I don’t need to, and I know when I feel like I have to use it. This doesn’t really have an impact on my social life, I don’t post my life on social media or depend on my profiles to reassure myself that I have friends. I use Snapchat to talk to friends, but I don’t care for social media apps. I don’t think this has an impact on my professional life, again I DoorDash, so I know I have to use my phone doing that. Being online this semester, I have definitely practiced ways to not use my phone during my online lectures. At the start, it was definitely a big distraction because getting in the gist of school is never really fun for me. Once everyone was getting in the flow, I realized that I could use my phone to help myself and grades rather than hurt myself and my grades. I went from using TikTok during class to using my phone to get ahead on slideshows and take photos of important notes to have. Moving forward, I know I want to use my phone way less than I do. I might take advantage of the time limit feature Apple has and set limits for my most used ‘distraction’ apps. Another thing that I have been doing and that I want to continue to do is leaving my phone in my room when I don’t need it. I seriously always carry it everywhere with me, even if I’m just going down to my kitchen for a snack. I am starting to do that less, and I even leave it at home sometimes when I’m not going out alone, because I feel safe with people and they’ll most likely have their phone. I leave my phone in my car when I’m getting gas, at the grocery store, and when I am at the skatepark, it is definitely nice to not have to worry about it. I still do fear for my safety and worry that I’ll regret not bringing it with me, but I shouldn’t depend on it that heavily. I definitely see my future self benefitting from these steps to reduce my smartphone usage.