Sunday, February 05, 2023 | Rajab 13, 1444 H
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Let’s talk digital well-being

If I ask you how many hours do you use your smartphone or iPad in a typical day you may hesitate then give me a number that is less than you actually do.

If you are interested to know then your own smartphone will be able to provide you with an accurate figure. All you need to do is to activate a small feature in every phone called digital well-being designed to address smartphone addiction.

There is no doubt that smartphones, iPads and apps are essential parts of our daily lives. Most of us start their day by opening their smartphones, checking WhatsApp messages or exploring social media platforms.

Throughout the day we use smartphones for several other activities such as communicating with others, reading news, updating documents or passively scrolling down different websites while having our coffee break. Some of us have that habit of being on our device while having a conversation with others, something I personally used to hate but gradually learnt to accept and sometimes catch myself doing it.

This is why experts are calling for us to evaluate our relationship with these devices. Are they helping us do more of what matters most to us? Or are they distracting us from achieving our goals?

The term digital well-being was recently introduced to explore the relationship that we have with digital technology and how it’s impacting our lives.

Recent studies showed that awareness of digital well-being is helping people change their behaviours. These studies suggest that one in four people have made changes to their technology to gain a greater sense of digital well-being by deleting certain apps on their smartphone, and changing device notifications to receive fewer unwanted notifications.

The study also showed that four in five people who took steps to improve their digital well-being reported a positive impact on their overall well-being.

Those who didn’t see a positive impact attributed it to “difficulty sticking with the change”. This is a very interesting finding as it highlights the importance of adapting to the new situation after deciding to cut down on use of digital devices and replace it with a new behaviour like reading a book or changing to people face-to-face or simply having a walk without mobile phone.

I was curious to try digital well-being, so I activated the service on my mobile and on that evening my phone went blank as I was scrolling down Instagram and a message appeared on the screen saying ‘you have exceeded your daily use of Instagram. I felt like my smartphone is my parent enforcing digital lockdown, the screen also gave me the option of asking for a 15 minutes extra time “just as a caring parent would do.”

I selected that but remained conscious that my 15 minutes would soon end and I would get that warning again. I found that a good boost to my willpower so the following day I managed to keep my phone down before getting the ‘digital lockdown’ screen.

The service can also provide you with a breakdown of what you have been browsing each day, but I did not dare to use it again after seeing that, on a particular weekend, the time I spent watching movies was more that’s used on productive work.

Maybe I am not ready yet for that form of strict digital policing from my own phone. So my dear readers, would you be interested to try out digital well-being on your phone?

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