In a year of physical disconnection, technology has been a great help for many. Our phones have helped us escape while we’ve been homebound, they’ve kept us connected to distant friends and family and provided entertainment while we’ve been locked down. But now that the pandemic is loosening its grip in Australia and offering us more of the freedoms we once enjoyed, is it time to take a step back from technology?
A lot of the data suggest that maybe we are using our phones too much. But it really is up to each person to decide when phones go from a help to a hindrance. And phone ‘pick-up’ is one of the new ways we can gauge it.
How Long Are We On Our Phones?
These days, it seems impossible to imagine life – or even a few hours – without our mobile phones. Trends within the tech industry itself would suggest that we’re using our phones too much. There’s been an increase in the number of apps and native features designed to help us limit our use. One of those is RescueTime, a time tracking and training app that helps users get more control over when and how they use their phones.
Their research has found that people generally spend three hours and fifteen minutes on their phones per day. That’s just the average. The top 20% of users can spend upwards of four and a half hours on their phone.
What we have to remember is that this doesn’t happen in one big chunk of time. While that can be seen as a good thing, a broken and haphazard usage pattern can also be just as bad.
Phone Pick Up
The number of times we pick our phones up is now one of the new metrics used to measure phone-use. A recent Deloitte survey found that an average American checks their phone 47 times per day. Half of all phone pick-ups occur within three minutes of the last one, and users will only stay on their phone for just over a minute. That paints a pretty scattered picture of focus and attention.
The three or four hours we’re spending on our phones a day isn’t even meaningful. Most of it is just checking in on notifications across various apps. What we know from understanding our pick-up habits is that our phones are sucking up our time, attention, and constantly distracting us from tasks or people during our day.
Before you judge yourself too harshly, remember that our phone use habits are by design. It’s widely reported that social media has been designed with the same tactics used to attract and keep our attention at casinos. The apps on our phones are designed to tap into our tendency to want to shift our focus which is what we’ve been hardwired to do.
It’s behaviour that is useful in orienteering to help us navigate through situations and environments that are dangerous. But when you’re sitting in the office or at home with a long to-do list, a tendency to shift focus can kill productivity. And if you’re not careful, an attention-seeking phone can really get in the way.
Is Frequency So Bad?
If your goal is to live or work productively and with focus, the answer is yes. Frequent phone pick-ups are bad news. This is especially problematic for people that aren’t good at multi-tasking.
Constantly picking your phone up while you’re supposed to be engaged in another task is a form of context switching, or multi-tasking. Expert multi-taskers may claim that a quick glance at an app can’t do much harm. But when you’re constantly picking it up, you can never fully focus on the task at hand. Psychologists think that even quick mental shifts (like the minute you take to check your phone), can lead to a 40% decrease in your productivity.
You’re also unlikely to undertake the task with your full potential because of what Sophie Leroy, a professor at New York University calls ‘attention residue’. This is when your brain is still engaged by a previous activity while attempting to start a new one, which means that you’re not giving your task full brainpower.
When you constantly pick up your phone you’re neither here nor there fully. Sure, you may work through your tasks, or you might think you’re taking the time to see a friend. But if you’re constantly on your phone, you aren’t giving it your full attention. This is inefficient, counterproductive and will leave you out of focus.
Phone Pick Up Can Affect Our Physical Health Too
It’s also worth considering how our phone pick-up habits can affect our physical health. 2020 has been a year of seeking connection. It’s also been a year of seeking good hygiene. Many of us were reacquainted with the importance of washing our hands thoroughly, and how this could help keep us healthy.
Think about this: you’ve just come home from a public place so you wash your hands. But do you wash your phone? Did you wash it after any of the 40 plus times you picked it up during the day? We know that viruses (such as COVID19) can remain on our phone surfaces for up to 28 days, and yet we touch our phones multiple times per day. Technically this means that each time we touch our phone we’re transferring whatever is on our phones to our hands and vice versa. This begs the question, why don’t we go to the effort of thoroughly cleaning our phones?
Decreasing the frequency of phone pick-ups will be difficult. Especially if you consider that they’re designed to seek your attention. The good news is, making that pick-up a clean one is easier with UV cleaning technology. Phone sanitisers that use UVC can eliminate up to 99% of bacteria. They’re like little tanning boxes that you place your phone inside for a 360-degree UV light bath. The light penetrates cells of viral DNA which renders them inert, and leaves you with a sanitised phone. All you need to do is place the phone inside, then choose a sanitising cycle. We suggest taking this opportunity to wash your hands while you wait for the LED indicator to let you know when the cycle is complete.
Next time you put your phone down – put it in a UV sanitiser. Then set and forget. If you can, do that literally – leave it in the box for beyond the timer. Having it clean and hidden away could do you good in more ways than one.