Phones down, eyes up

Eva Bard, Guest Writer

Do yourself a favor and get off your phone. How five days of limited screen time shifted my lifestyle:

My homework is complete, my pajamas are on, my teeth are brushed and it’s time to answer my Snapchats. But as I tap my finger to the yellow ghost, the app does not open. Instead, a white screen with an hourglass appears and I am forced to simply go to bed. 

Five days later, I don’t even go for a nightly check.

According to a Pew Research Center study, only 24% of teens believe that phones have a negative impact on us. An excessive amount of phone usage is the new “norm,” so if our whole world is on our phone, why not use it?

Last week, I used the “screen time” setting to limit my time on my phone to 30 minutes, excluding the use of messages, calls and a few other apps I considered crucial.

By stepping back from my phone usage, I was able to clearly see how my phone was dominating my life. Without my phone, I was able to accomplish things more quickly: my homework routine, packing up at school and even trips to the bathroom.

In addition to everyday tasks becoming quicker, car rides and hallway conversations became more meaningful and substantive. Instead of checking Instagram in the car, I was able to debrief with my mom about the ups and downs of my day. I saw how phones dominated what should have been social time with my friends and family. Eye contact was barely made before the Z’man Kodesh bell each day and how lunches were dominated with “streaks and recents.”

But more important than any social encounter at school or home, I got more sleep. I was able to be more productive without the distraction of my phone and was in bed between 9:45 and 10:10 p.m. every night, 30 minutes earlier than usual.

I no longer feel the burden of picking up my phone after every buzz, and although I won’t be keeping my “30-minute limit” long term, I am excited to move into the next week feeling more accomplished, less stressed and with new habits to incorporate into my routine.

Of course, I am not trying to persuade people to suddenly abandon their phones. I am merely suggesting that people make the effort to look up once in a while and not allow the urge to scroll and tap overpower them.

Even if you’re not ready to do a phone cleanse, try to notice every time your phone bings and how you are taken away from the present moment. Try to notice car rides empty of conversations and time-filler phone checks at night. Stop using your phone as a safety net, and put it down once in a while. Trust me, after the separation anxiety fades, all your phone really is is a metal rectangle.

If you are interested in setting up screen time on your phone, go to settings, press “screen time” and then “turn on screen time.” From there, you can further customize which apps and times to limit yourself. This setting is only available on Apple products.