Outsmart the smartphone

Tech Tonic

By Surit Doss
  • Published 19.02.18

Are you checking your phone many times a day even when you know there is most likely nothing new? Preoccupation with smartphones or checking out app updates per se may not be a cause for concern but if you display anger, depression, irritability or restlessness when you are deprived of your phone, then be warned. You may have smartphone addiction or nomophobia.

With new apps coming out practically every day, you can't be blamed for becoming a phone addict. App developers have confessed that they are made to develop apps that inveigle users into glancing at the phone as frequently as possible. A movement is already underway among teachers, social thinkers and software specialists asking the three most popular companies Apple, Google and Facebook to make their products less attractive so that children and young adults are not drawn into them.

At least two major investors in Apple have asked the company to develop the necessary boundaries to help parents take care of their children's health. Apple was the first to introduce parental control in their devices but that has not prevented children from getting addicted to their devices.

Google's former tech ethicist Tristan Harris suggests changing to grey shades would make the iPhone less attractive. Tech companies employ neuroscientists to gauge how colours affect the brain. Colours actually give the brain a high that is comparable to drug addiction. Therefore, scaling down the colours to grey shades would deprive the brain of that high and result in the addiction petering off.

To enable greyscale on any Android phone, first enable Developer options on your phone. By going to Settings-About phone and tap on the Build number several times. You should see a message telling you that you are now a developer. If you are using a Mi phone, you may have to tap the MIUI version instead of the Build number. Go back to Settings and you should now see Developer options towards the bottom of the Settings page. On Mi phones, Developer options are under Advanced settings. Tap on Developer options-Simulate colour space-Monochromacy.

On iPhones, navigate to Settings-General-Accessibility-Display Accommodation-Colour Filters. Slide the button to switch on Colour filters and select Greyscale.

Paradoxically, we have to turn to the device itself to control the obsessive compulsive disorder of using it more often. Here are some apps that help. The SPACE - Break phone addiction app helps you set up goals for phone use, monitors your behaviour and tracks your progress. While searching for the app in the App Store, remember to type Breakfree and not Space.

The Moment app tracks how much time you and your family spend on your devices and forces you off when you exceed your limit. Around 2,00,000 people have paid for the app's additional features. So, there is clearly a demand for it. The app is still not ready for Android devices. The Self-Control to Focus - Lite app helps you to stay in focus by literally blocking you out of your own account for distractive sites such as Facebook and online games. The Hold app targets students. Every 20 minutes of not using your phone earn you points that can be redeemed for rewards and coupons. Other than Hold, Android users should also try Forest, StepLock and Onward.

You can also use more common- sense methods of getting over your addiction. Simply delete all the distractive apps and do not sleep with the phone next to you. This will prevent you from reaching for it as soon as you open your eyes. A good method is to turn off all notifications. Each ping of notification is a lure to pick up the phone. Without them, you can control when you log on to WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or to check your email.

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