Whether you’re on public transportation, vacation or even — dangerously — driving down the road, seeing people with phones in their hand has become commonplace. But how much screen time is too much?
There are some compelling reasons to leave your phone at home, at least once in awhile. Here are 12 good reasons to take a break from your phone:
- To promote a work-life balance. When we are constantly connected, others learn that we are readily available — particularly bosses and fellow employees. If you leave your phone at home here and there and let a few hours go by without responding (you can do it!), you implicitly communicate that you value your own time too. If you work a traditional 9-to-5 day, consider taking a full weekend without checking your email from your phone.
- To sleep better. Recent studies show that cell phone use before bed correlates with insomnia. Using your phone right before bed is a surefire way to sleep badly and have less energy the next day. If you’re anything like me, half of the problem is charging your phone on your nightstand and also using it as an alarm. Break the habit. Charge your phone in another area of your home and get a traditional alarm clock.
- To be happier. Researchers have determined that cell phone addiction is correlated with emotional instability. Most of us suspect that our phones do a little more than provide communication and convenience, but as our world grows more and more mobile, studies show the effects can be particularly harmful, right down to our happiness and stability. Scary.
- To feel better about yourself. An overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that Facebook use contributes to low self-esteem. Most of us have seen the quote bouncing around online: “On Facebook, you’re comparing your reality to someone else’s highlight reel.” While that may be true, it’s hard to internalize it. All we see is someone else’s seemingly perfect family laughing and enjoying an expensive vacation. It makes others feel bad about themselves. At the very least, that’s a reason to leave the phone behind.
- To be less materialistic. Anybody with an Instagram or Pinterest account can attest to being blasted with images of products, clothes and luxury brands. In fact, as social media use increases, so does a person’s materialism, one study shows. When that many images of what we don’t own are coming our way, we tend to want to buy more.
- To be present in life experiences. My brother’s senior recital consisted of me trying to hold the iPhone camera steady for his three-minute song. Then, it was over. Just like that. I felt like I didn’t even really watch it. How often does this happen? Our meal becomes Instagram “food porn.” An engagement quickly turns into getting the picture of the ring onto Facebook with the appropriate check-in and accompanying hashtag. If every milestone is reduced to merely an opportunity for a social media post, are we really living at all?
- To drive safely. The University of Michigan presented some interesting results about texting and driving. When driving, we don’t necessarily turn off habits, prompting us to want to pick up the phone and text. Surely not everybody texts and drives, but it doesn’t have to be everybody to be deadly on the road.
- To have better relationships. I’m sure there are studies on this, but do we even need evidence? How many times do we see (or are guilty of) texting on a dinner date or playing Candy Crush during a conversation? We are so compelled to check our phones that, sometimes, they quite literally take priority over everything else. There is no way that can be healthy.
- To set a good example. I try to advocate for less screen time for my students. My youngest ones are notorious for incessantly logging into YouTube to watch TV shows on their mom’s iPhone, while others put my own obsessive phone checking to shame. I make it a point to show my students that phones are not appropriate for certain times and places, like when working with a teacher!
- To focus better. Have you ever counted the number of times you were distracted by your phone while trying to complete a task? If it is always right by your side. Even “silent” mode doesn’t stop a screen piling up with notifications. Taking a break can help you read better, study better and finish your work without losing focus.
- To protect your eyes. The Vision Council warns us that small phone screens prompt some level of squinting, which can strain your eyes.
- To remember who you are without your phone. Combining many of the reasons above, one of the most compelling reasons to do a phone fast is to remember who you are. Remember what food tastes like and looks like without taking a picture. Remember what it feels like to talk to a friend face-to-face. Remember what is is like to drive around and have to actively figure out your own way without GPS. Taking a break helps us to check back in and to simplify our lives.
—Brett Murphy Hunt