I've been making a concerted effort to reduce how much I use my phone. On a typical weekday I'll have screen time of about two hours, and on the weekend it'll range somewhere between one and three hours depending on the day. I'm sure that's probably under the average for my age group, but I still see value in reducing my phone use further.
My biggest concentration right now is to make as many of my phone interactions into "pull" rather than "push" situations. That is, I will check my phone when I want to, not when the phone wants me to. This is as much a way to limit distractions while I try to focus as it is to reduce the amount of time I spend specifically on my phone. My phone already goes into Do Not Disturb automatically from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day. It also spends most of its life set to vibrate. But now, with the Google Pixel 3 XL, there's one feature that helped me achieve my goal of using my phone less: "Flip to Shhh."
This feature debuted as part of Google's "Digital Wellbeing" effort, which I admittedly have criticized for seeming incomplete and insincere. But this is one part of Digital Wellbeing that is exactly the type of thing I find useful and many others can as well. It's dead simple: when your phone is face-down, it's in Do Not Disturb mode. It never comes out of DND, and no app or service can remove it from DND. The phone is silent until I choose to pick it up.
Yes I can easily turn on DND manually from the notification shade with a swipe and a tap, but that misses a huge part of what makes Flip to Shhh great. The reason why this feature is so ingenious is the psychological benefit of tying putting your phone face-down with setting the phone to silent. You're using one motion to both physically take control over the phone's display, making sure it's no longer visible, and also turn off its distractions at a software level. A face-down phone isn't tempting or enticing in any way. You don't see notifications, calendar appointments or anything else on the ambient display. You don't even see the time.
Tying putting your phone face-down with setting the phone to silent has a huge psychological benefit.
Just as importantly, you don't have to interact with the phone's software in order to quiet the phone's software. Get it? It's quite unintuitive to have to unlock your phone (showing your apps and widgets) and expand your notification shade (showing all of your notifications) to turn on DND so you aren't bothered by these things. When you can Flip to Shhh your phone, you just turn it over; it's a hardware action, not a software button.
There is, of course, the added social benefit as well. When sitting in a cafe, restaurant or conference room with someone, the most respectful thing you can do nowadays is set your phone face-down on the table in silent mode and pay attention to the person you're with. (Leaving your phone somewhere else would of course be better, but I know there are often requirements to be close to a phone for obligations and emergencies.) We all like to think that we can handle the mental overhead of having a phone face-up in our peripheral vision, sneaking a glance or even a quick pick-up to check notifications, but we can't.
At some point I may be able to leave my phone on silent 100% of the time, turn off all notifications, or just leave my phone turned off entirely. But I'm not there yet. In the meantime, the Pixel 3 XL has given me the perfect tool to curb phone addiction. And lately, my phone's been spending an increasing amount of its time face-down.
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