I became aware of how distracting my phone was years ago.
Let’s face it, we are all actually aware of how much we’re on our phones, we don’t even need the frustrating “Screen Time” app to tell us how much of our lives we give to technology.
When I first realised I was on it too much, I was really frustrated. It was like I was being programmed to pick up, load an app and scroll aimlessly until I snapped out of it and was like “how did I get here?”. I didn’t feel in control, I had created such a strong habit without even realising.
Turning off Notifications
The first thing I did to try and combat the amount of time I spent on my phone, I turned off notifications. Not all of them, just the big ones like social media so Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Also any other random apps that decided to remind me of things I didn’t care about.
This made a huge different, my phone wasn’t “pinging” quite as much and it meant that when I loaded these apps I was a little excited to see what notifications I had (cue sadness when I loaded to find nothing).
Note: I also turned off “badges” the little number next to the app icon so even if I unlocked my phone, the number didn’t draw me to open the app.
Next came WhatsApp. Now I don’t know about you but 75% of the messages I receive are through WhatsApp, then probably 20% through messenger and 5% on iMessage.
So it wasn’t that my phone stopped pinging, it just stopped pinging less. As I started to enjoy the freedom of less notifications, I realised that I needed to look at other notifications and how distracting they were. WhatsApp was the obvious choice to stop next. Not just this but also the the major problems I have with the app is:
- People know not just when you’re online, they know when you were last online
- They know when it’s been delivered and when it’s been read.
(Which soon brings me onto the point of this article).
WhatsApp notifications are even worse when you’re in a group chat. Even when you mute it, someone can add you to another group and before you get a chance to mute it you’ve got 37 notifications and your phone won’t shut up.
No. The only way to guarantee freedom was to turn off all notifications and badges on the app.
One of the issues I found was that if I had a message, I felt compelled to see who it was and what they wanted. I couldn’t be working or meeting a friend and hear my phone go and not look at what it was. How rude is that on your friend that you’re clearly distracted and how frustrating when you’re in the middle of work and your phones buzzing. My curiosity always got the better of me.
Again, I didn’t feel in control, I felt I was a slave to it.
Shortly after turning off notifications I would check the app after maybe a couple of hours and some people had messaged me 2 or 3 times, the first message followed by “hello..?” or “…welll?”. Because it’s not normal to NOT check your phone after a couple of hours or they sent follow up messages in an attempt to buzz my phone again and get their attention.
This is the reality I was now living in, and I have to still continually remind people that I don’t have whatsapp notifications (which encourages some people to then iMessage so that they get a response).
I get that if it’s urgent and you need an answer then you can always PHONE me. However if you decide to iMessage me to get attention then I will also mute this conversation.
I’ve spent a long time on talking about notifications so that rant’s over. Let’s move onto the frustrations I have about those blue ticks and online status.
There are genuinely times when I’ve checked my phone, seen a message and not been able to reply straight away.
Unfortunately the other person reads that as I’m ignoring them.
And I’ll be honest..
..I would think the same thing.
This is what it’s come to, when you see a person’s online, you then think “oh those ticks are gunna go blue any second”..
Then they do and you think “great! They’ve seen it!”
Then you see they go offline and you think
Is it like a little form of rejection..
Why didn’t they reply?
What did I say wrong?
Are they upset?
Why would they ignore me?
Then you see they come back online and BAM you see those magic words
and all is right with the world.
You see they stop typing, and a message hasn’t appeared.
Then they go offline.
WHAT THE HELL!>!!>!?!?
Then it starts again… the anxiety, frustration. JUST REPLY TO ME.
See my point?
I am convinced most of us have been there.
And it’s not healthy! At least in my eyes. It’s causing us to question what we say, filter replies and feel pressure to reply instantly, sometimes saying something we haven’t had chance to think about.
It’s not just WhatsApp either, Messenger does the same, telling you when the person was last online or whether they’ve read a message by their profile picture appearing in the bottom right.
Well I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and a friend of mine told me how to switch off showing your “Last Online..” status and the blue ticks so no one will know if you’ve read a message or when you were last online, and you won’t know the same for them either.
I’m telling you now, these 2 small changes have made me feel liberated haha!
Turn off the Ticks
On WhatsApp go to the Settings Cog in the bottom right
Then go to Account
Then go to “Privacy”
Change your “Last Seen” to “Nobody” and turn Read Receipts off. It’s as easy as that!
The only 1 annoying thing is that if you do go online, it will show that you’re currently online. So if you’re both online in the chat window, they will see you’re there but won’t know if you’ve read the message. And when you go back offline they won’t know when you were last on. It’s a small price to pay!
Making Changes to Messenger
On Messenger I only found a way to turn off your “active status” so people won’t know within messenger if you’re online. To do this in messenger tap your profile picture in the top left and go to “Active Status”.
This will just turn off the feature within messenger, people in facebook will still know if you’re online so to turn it off there as wellll go to the 3 horizontal lines in the bottom right of the Facebook app
Then go to “Settings”
Scroll down to “Active Status” under Privacy and switch it off.
These small changes gave me such a relief. As I said I felt liberated haha!
I hope they do for you too.
The anxiety I feel these features creates is really bad for our mental wellbeing.
Especially if you’re already an anxious person, or speaking with an anxious person. You don’t know what’s going on in their life at the time they read your message or what they’re up to so there’s no point in worrying about if they’ve seen or not seen your message.
This takes that step out of the process and hopefully gives that person a little relief too in knowing that they can relax and if they really want an answer… PHONE EACH OTHER! (when they don’t answer and you know they’ve seen your message … 😔🤣)
If you’re happy with your phone buzzing all the time and these features aren’t bothering you then.. well… you’ve probably not got this far haha. But if you decide to not switch off these features, that’s okay, this is what worked for me and gave me a little bit more control over how I spent my time. I’m always super aware of how glued to my phone and the frustrations I feel over using certain apps.
Becoming aware is the first step to making change.
Now that we’re all so accessible since the internet and smart phones, it’s important to integrate it safely, preserving some privacy and wellbeing in the process.