If you’ve ever browsed /r/NoSurf or been on the internet for any length of time, you realize how common technology addiction is. The problem is that it’s so addicting as other types of addictions, but society doesn’t see it that way.
We see “no smoking” signs everywhere, there are laws about alcohol across the world, most drugs are illegal, but there are no rules or regulations when it comes to technology (except in some countries where it’s outlawed or regulated completely… but that’s a different topic).
Actually, if you’re on your tech devices all the time, people think you’re a hard worker or that you’re hip to new technology. (However, your significant other and family members will hate it.) While that may be the impression externally, what you deal with internally is a whole other battle.
If you’ve ever read Deep Work by Cal Newport, you’d understand the dangers of allowing technology to run rampant in your life.
The whole premise of the book is that you need to regularly dive deep into the thing that matter most in your career. He’s an excellent example of this theory because his writing is so deep and thought-provoking. It’s a must-read for any creative.
In there, he makes the point that people who are interrupted all the time or who multitask are mental wrecks. They can’t filter out irrelevancy. We know the dangers of technology addiction and how much it can wreck your mind and productivity. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a chance you want more out of life than endlessly scrolling through social media, so let’s take a look at how you can combat this addiction and get your life back.
And no, this won’t include a “digital detox” because I don’t believe it’s realistic in today’s world. If you want to delete social media, that’s fine, but I already tried that experiment and for me, it didn’t work so I don’t believe in it.
Confront the real problems
I know at least half of you (or more) are going to click off here. This step is real and heavy. Instead of feeding you some BS about “oh just install some social media blockers and you’re cured!”, we’re going to go deeper than that.
Technology addiction is a bandaid to something real going on, just like most addictions.
Maybe you’re lonely.
Maybe you’re going through a breakup.
Maybe you hate your job.
Maybe you know you need a divorce.
Maybe you haven’t overcome abuse from your childhood.
Whatever the issues are, you have to acknowledge it.
Yes, technology is designed to be addictive, but the fact is that there’s something more going on.
You don’t have to change your life overnight, and I’m not going to pretend like it’s just that easy. You have to start by acknowledging what’s going on. This will give you perspective on your life. Instead of beating yourself up and thinking, “I’m a loser because I can’t stop scrolling Reddit,” it gives you the power to switch it to, “I can’t stop scrolling because I picked the wrong college major and I don’t want to confront it.”
Start scheduling blocks of no technology
Even if it’s 5 minutes a day, schedule blocks of time where you don’t use any technology at all. No phone, no tablet, no computer, no gaming, no iPod.
Do anything else in its place. Clean your place, walk around outside, go grocery shopping, or do anything else that keep you away from your devices.
Do one mindful activity a day
Mindfulness basically means giving your full attention to something. Pick one thing a day where you’re going to sit and focus on that activity.
One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is when I eat. Get away from technology, stop scrolling through Twiter, don’t play your favorite tv show, just sit and focus on your food. Pick whatever activity works for you.
This is a form of meditation because every time your brain starts to stray away from what you’re doing, pull it back.
If you’re truly deep in a tech addiction, you probably can’t pick your work yet for your mindfulness activity. It usually takes too many hours and you need to build up your stamina. This is why you need to be careful committing to something huge. Going from zero focus to wanting to play an instrument for an hour a day when your focus is destroyed will only end in disappointment and hurt your confidence.
Start to measure
Most iPhones now have a screen time measurement in Settings. There are also a ton of computer apps for tracking how much time you spend online. Get these numbers and start measuring.
Find quiet places
Silence these days seems non-existent. From constant notifications, emails, roommates, partners, children, etc., we’re left with no quiet time to think.
Most of us go to coffee shops to think, but have you ever noticed how insanely loud coffee shops are too.
You need silence, WITHOUT music. Yes, without music. You can introduce music back into your routine down the line, but for now, you need to treat yourself like you’re in recovery. You need to retrain your mind.
Use technology to fight technology
If you’re looking to use technology to fight technology.
Here are some articles to help with that:
How to Quit Mindlessly Surfing the Internet and Actually Get Stuff Done
How To Apply A Minimalist Mindset To Your Screen Time Without The FOMO
The Complete Guide to Breaking Your Smartphone Habit
Podcast #168: The Value of Deep Work in the Age of Distraction
How To Overcome Internet Addiction and Build Deep Work Habits
There are some incredibly valuable nuggets of wisdom in there to combat your internet and cellphone addictions.
Get to know pen and paper
I don’t even need to go over the benefits of carrying pen and paper. You can get a notebook for $1, and start carrying it around. You’ll see the benefits.
Start doing your to-dos offline
So many tasks require technology to finish them. Unless you have incredible discipline, it’s too easy to start browsing in the middle of when you should be productive.
Start batching your to-do’s by internet to-dos and offline to-do’s. For example, I wrote this whole post on paper first, and although it’s time-consuming to have to type it, I was able to write far more than usual.
Schedule in your mindless browsing
The last thing to do to start to combat your endless scrolling, you need to schedule in time for you to mindlessly browse. Don’t pretend like you’re going to go cold turkey, because you’re not. It’s easier to work hard when you know at 5 PM you can freely browse for an hour that evening.
These tactics won’t guarantee you’ll beat it overnight, but with baby steps, you’ll be able to start to conquer it.
2 thoughts on “How to Break Free From Technology and Cell Phone Addiction”
I’m an avid writer and reader who adores the feeling of real pages However, I’m also crazy for the environment and mostly use technology to stop using paper (yes I know this makes little impact, but I still do it). Would you happen to have an idea that could fit both? Other than that, great post!
That’s a great question! One possible workaround is to find a planner that’s eco-friendly. I know there are some out there that are from recycled paper or soy-based ink.