It's scary how much time we spend with digital devices and screens today. Go into your device's settings now and look up your usage time – you won't believe it either.
After returning from my three-week field trip to Kyrgyzstan, I was finally able to realize how excessively we use our smartphones, computers, and tablets. During the field trip, my average daily screen time was 30 minutes.
Of course, this is not a realistic goal in everyday life, but it showed me that life without screens is possible. Just a few decades ago, it was perfectly normal to leave the house without a phone. And yet today we behave as if we depend on technology to survive.
Because of this experience, I decided to fundamentally rethink my relationship with technology – and have found that it not only makes me more relaxed, but also simply makes me feel better. In the process, I already established a philosophy of technology use for myself some time ago! That will be explored in more depth in this article.
Putting Technology in Its Place
The use of technologies has penetrated far too far into our everyday lives. We use technology for every purpose imaginable. So, the first step is to limit this all-encompassing use.
I wear a wristwatch when I'm out and about, so that eliminates that purpose for my phone. I also have only the absolute most necessary apps installed on my phone, including not a single social media app.
Technology is only a means to a specific end, not a panacea. It should serve a specific purpose – and nothing more.
I also set a daily 30-minute timer. I'm not allowed to aimlessly surf the Internet or browse through YouTube videos for more than that amount of time. Once you get used to this restriction, you realize how many better ways there are to pass the time.
One important tip is to use social media on a very limited basis. I myself only use YouTube and LinkedIn in addition to WhatsApp. No Twitter, no Instagram, nothing. TikTok in particular can mutate into an incredible waste of time.
Raise Usage Friction
Along with limiting usage, I try to make it as difficult as possible to use. For example, I only use the web versions of YouTube and LinkedIn instead of their apps, and I don't save my log-ins.
The apps are tailored to capture your attention. The web versions are harder to use because you have to go to your computer and log in first.
I also have “do not disturb”-mode enabled on all my devices at all times. This means that even the few notifications I allow at all are muted. The only exceptions are for text messages from my family, all calls, my banking app, and my calendar.
If you're disciplined enough, you can try to set an intention each time before you use a device. I try to do this every time I open my laptop or pull my phone out of my pocket.
Trust Is Good, Control Is Better
To check my progress (and sometimes my relapses), I look at my screen time stats every day and record them in my journal.
This is better than relying on your gut feeling, because it can sometimes trick you. In the beginning, I estimated my screen time lower than it actually was. That's why the saying “trust is good, control is better” applies here.
It also gives you a certain sense of pride when you've pushed your screen time below a certain threshold!
 Cal Newport's book “Digital Minimalism” was very helpful in this transition.