“I’m three weeks behind on my lectures”
“I would love to learn a (language/instrument/skill) but I just don’t have enough time”
“Hey, did you see this tik-tok?”
Does this sound like you?
How much time do you spend on your phone everyday? It’s question we don’t ask nearly as often as we should. Often you don’t even realise how much time you actually spend, especially in lockdown. Right now you don’t need to go to uni, likely don’t have to go to work, and definitely don’t have any social events planned. But it’s good, you don’t have to be stressed out from the hectic amount of commitments on your schedule! You’re finally free to get everything done and do whatever you want! Right?
But it doesn’t feel like you have more time. In fact, when you have all the time in the world, you have none. When there’s no deadlines looming over your head and everything can be watched online, there’s no motivation. When you’re sitting there with a vague idea of stuff on your to-do list, but have the excuse of time, you feel less inclined to force yourself to do anything. Instead of freedom, time becomes a prison. Something you longed for is now torturous in its abundance.
17 Years on Your Phone
The average Australian spends 5.5 hours a day on their phones. Let’s think about what that actually means. Across your entire life that’s 17 years; or 1/3rd of your waking life spent on your phone. (Data from Reviews.org)
But you’d be right in saying that phones aren’t just an evil time-sink that sucks away our life like a pocket-sized black hole. They’re one of the most useful things ever invented. For one they keep us connected. Without them, how would we talk to our friends during lockdown? We would feel more socially isolated than ever. They’re also the world's greatest facilitators for information. We can learn anything, anywhere, at any time! A pocket PC of apparently infinite possibility.
But how do you use your phone? Maybe you think you’re responsible and use it only for relaxation. I’m sure a lot of your time is enjoyably spent chatting with friends, or listening to your favourite playlist, or laughing at dumb videos to help you de-stress. But, do you always choose to spend time on your phone? Or is picking it up and opening an app sometimes just the default response when there’s nothing immediately occupying you?
At these times, do you actually enjoy the time you spend on your phone? As uni students we’re the next generation of the world. We’re the ones that come up with creative ideas, embark on ambitious projects and create innovative things! But we sometimes get lost. We struggle resisting the addictive temptations of apps created for us by previous generations of profit-maximising, unethical and uncaring multinational corporations.
FOMO 'n' Phones
These corporations don’t care how their addictive apps harm our mental health. Phones are an opportunity to socialise, but often they’re the opposite. They’re far too often used as anti-anxiety medication in social situations.
We’ve all seen, or even been a part of, hangouts with friends that devolve into a group of people mindlessly scrolling on their phones, barely speaking a word to each other. There have also undoubtedly been times you’ve stayed up late at night, mindlessly consuming content until you finally decide to sleep at some ungodly hour. Of course there’s also the toxic FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) we get from seeing other peoples’ stories. We see people out at a party, hanging with people we like, or living a life we think is far better than our own and automatically get that all too guilty feeling of envy, rejection and isolation.
Why not bring up beauty standards too while we’re at it. I made a poll asking whether people use a filter on all/most of their photos. Out of all the responses, over 50% of the cisgendered women said yes, while 9/10 cisgendered men and non-cisgendered people said no. That means as a cisgendered woman you’re 4x more likely to feel the need to use filters.
Imagine you're one of these people. You open your feed and you’re immediately met with some unrealistically attractive model, you scroll down a few posts and you see some person with a filter that makes their skin perfect, scroll down a bit more and there’s your friend doing the exact same thing. When you’re bombarded with this day after day, you can’t help but subconsciously reconsider whether you’re attractive or not, you question whether you’re even worth looking at. Eventually, you may get to the point where you feel the need to filter who you truly are, otherwise, won’t other people judge you for being ugly?
Ask yourself the following questions. Does the time you spend scrolling instagram bring your life value? Do you actually benefit from watching Tik-Tok’s “for you” page? Do you remember any of the lessons learned from those random youtube videos that showed up in your recommendations? What do you actually get out of these activities?
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
What else could you accomplish in that time?
Let’s look at how else you could be spending that time. I’m going to make the very conservative assumption that you waste about 1 hour on your phone each day. I’d hardly call that a stretch, I know people where that number goes exceeds 8. If you dedicated that time to a passion, any passion, you would finally have the time to do the things you’ve been holding back on doing. You could finally learn to cook that fancy recipe you saw but got scared of when you saw the ingredients list, or learn to draw people that don’t look like glorified stickmen. In 1 month you could spend 31 hours on your passion, in 3 months that’s 93 hours, 6 months is 186 hours, in a year that’s 364 hours. Here's an infographic to help you understand what results you can actually achieve with them:
And all of this is only after 6 months of a single hour of your day. What would happen in a year? Imagine if you even did them for 2 hours a day instead.
I’m not suggesting it’s easy to just start doing some of these things. Starting habits that enable you to develop your passions is a whole other monster to tackle. But it shows that time is never an excuse, and that you can achieve the things you want with just a small change in your daily routine.
Tips to change your daily routine
If you’re wondering how you can change your daily routine then here is a list of scientifically-backed recommendations around using your smartphone:
Turn off all non-essential notifications so your phone isn’t constantly interrupting you.
Set aside a block of time per day to look at your social media feeds, if that’s what typically distracts you.
Use the screen time functions on your phone to set limits on daily phone use.
To improve your sleep quality, don’t keep your phone beside your bed at night. Preferably charge it in a different room.
If you’re studying, put your phone in a different room to keep it from distracting you, even if your notifications are off this can still have measurable benefits
But ultimately, it’s up to you. Just remember, even an hour less scrolling a day is enough to change your life.
If you have a friend who immediately comes to mind after reading this article, please share it with them. You might just make a difference.
Writers Bio: Patrick Crown-Milliss is a UNSW student studying Law and PPE. He loves experiencing what people make in the creative world of self-expression and inspiration, whether that be in music, paintings, films, books, or any other medium. He’s not afraid to be the life of the party and is always happy to have a deep convo, but he does listen to Olivia Rodrigo, which has led many people to question his mental health.