I remember my first cell phone. It was a blue Nokia 3310 and at that time it was one of the hottest phones in the market. The only app I spent time on my phone was a game called Snake (I guess today there is slither io). But today our cell phones is more than a phone. We use our fingerprints and now our faces to unlock (iPhone X) the phones. We have all our personal information and password stored in the apps. We rely on our phones for the daily news and we can purchase anything from this handheld device. And above all, we use this small device to connect with our friends and families instantly and constantly.

Tech activists Tristan Harris of Time Well Spent describes the tech revolution as “Our society is being hijacked by technology.” He simply summarizes the trouble of the four most used SNS applications:

  • Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
  • Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self-worth.
  • Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
  • YouTube auto plays the next perfect video, even if it eats into our sleep.

NYT columnist David Brooks criticizes the limitations of online platforms in his well-written column,

“Online is a place for human contact but not intimacy. Online is a place for information but not reflection. It gives you the first stereotypical thought about a person or a situation, but it’s hard to carve out time and space for the third, 15th and 43rd thought. Online is a place for exploration but discourages cohesion. It grabs control of your attention and scatters it across a vast range of diverting things. But we are happiest when we have brought our lives to a point, when we have focused attention and will on one thing, wholeheartedly with all our might.”

Our smartphones have penetrated so deep into our personal lives that many of us think that we cannot live without one. Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club (1999) said: “The things you own end up owning you.” Today we don’t own a smartphone, it is owning us.

Time Well Spent suggests some ideas to take back control of your phone like allowing notifications from people, not machines, charging your device outside of your bedroom and launch apps by typing.

Here are some of my own of how I take control of my phone:

  • I place my phone in my left pocket so that it’s more uncomfortable taking it out (just one more hustle to use my phone)
  • I turned off all notification
  • I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat on my phone. I use WhatsApp and a Korean messaging app Katalk (I think that if something is urgent, then they will call)
  • I turn my phone off when I spend my time at church (it’s like a digital sabbath for 3-4 hours on Sunday and I’m sure my phone appreciates it)
  • I sometimes write a short handwritten note of encouragement to coworkers instead of using a messaging app