Since Apple dropped its screen time feature last June, I’ve spent quite a bit of time obsessing over the amount of time I spend on my phone. I’ve averaged a total of four hours per day hunched over my screen – which is almost 29 hours a week.
Last week’s usage amounted to 22 hours spent on social media. Instagram took the reins as my most used app with about 13 hours spent mindlessly scrolling through meme pages and an unhealthy amount of stalking. Twitter came in second, with almost four hours of use.
Whatsapp was next, followed by three hours of what Apple categorizes as ‘productivity,’ which includes browsing the internet, checking emails, and a considerable amount of calculator usage (disclaimer: I’m really bad at math).
The report horrified me. I asked myself, “what kind of person spends a full waking day per week consumed by their phone?” The unread books sitting on my shelf suddenly haunted me. Surely there are much better ways for me to curb my boredom.
My thoughts quickly transformed into justifications. Over the last few years I’ve built incredible friendships with people I’d met on Instagram. As I moved, I managed to maintain long-distance relationships thanks to that very same app, keeping up with relatives and friends’ happenings via what they post.
Thanks to Whatsapp, I get to chat everyday with my friends who live across the globe, and my sister who lives in a small rural town in Tanzania.
What I initially viewed as a transgression transformed into a larger question. It goes without saying that a lot of our time is being spent in front of the screen. But, how much screen time is too much?
According to a study by The American Journal of Family Therapy, screen time can lead to a lack of sleep, and even physical problems, like pain in your fingers, wrists, neck and back as well as narrowed eye blood vessels.
This all rang true. I regularly sleep less than I should. What haunted me most is my permanently bent pinky finger that’s directly caused by the way I hold my phone.
A massive wave of guilt took over. I began to limit my non-work screen time. I no longer sleep with my phone under my pillow and instead I leave it to charge overnight in my living room. On top of using Apple’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, I now turn off all notifications for my most used apps and I’ve immediately noticed how much less time I spend browsing them.
I have become committed to overcoming screen time’s adverse effects, which has had a meagrely positive impact on my life. I think I now fall asleep faster than I normally had, but it’s hard to measure.
Most of all, I feel a lot less guilty today about my phone usage. But the question of how much screen time is too much is still left unanswered, and I’m not sure we’ll ever really find out.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Ben Romdane