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UHV student: Spending time app-bingeing is overload

By BY CAT TOTTY
March 17, 2014 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2014 at 10:17 p.m.

Cat Totty

Have you ever sat somewhere waiting, a restaurant or doctor's office perhaps, and clicked app after app on your smartphone? Time usually flies while you play away on your phone. Smartphones have adapted helpful tools, mapping, calculators, scheduling and translators, but are they time-wasters as well?

I have found that I cannot put down my smartphone. For instance, I come home from work, change into some comfortable clothes and immediately begin checking my daily apps. This may include Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, local news and games such as Candy Crush. Before I know it, an hour has gone by. Before my smartphone and apps, this time after work was used for picking up the house and returning calls before preparing supper. Now it is a time of unwinding after a long day at work and vegging out on my phone.

But constantly using my apps - or app-bingeing, as I like to call it - is not just for this time of day. I find that I pick up my smartphone every morning with my first cup of coffee, at lunchtime in the break room and every night after work. Gone are the days where I watched hours of television - now, instead of TV, I cannot turn off my phone.

And it's not just me; it's my husband as well. When he gets home and changes, he sits down and begins clicking on apps. There are times when we mumble conversations to each other - "How was your day?" - as our faces are glued to our smartphones. It's sad that most of our conversations are held through text messages and posts on Facebook.

I recently counted how many apps I have on my smartphone - 65.

I have 65 apps! If I actually used each one daily for only five minutes each, that would take about 5 hours each day. That is a lot of time that could be spent cleaning, reading, spending time with my family - the list goes on.

The seductiveness and ease of app-bingeing is why I cannot put my phone down. If I want to check my email, buy something online or check the weather, I can - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's convenient and addictive, and I rely on my phone for almost everything.

But when does it become too much?

Although my smartphone is my quick connection to anything at any time, I have had to learn when to connect without it. My family and I have set up rules for when to put the phone down. For instance, my communication with my husband was lagging because of our long hours at work and then downtime on our smartphones. We made the decision to set a time, 8 p.m., when we set aside the phones and spend the rest of the time talking or going for a walk together. There are times we even take our phones to another room and walk away so they are not in arm's reach.

And instead of staying in touch with a group of friends only through Facebook, we make a monthly appointment to meet, either at one of our houses or out for happy hour. We keep our phones in our purses and only check them if one of our kids or husbands are trying to contact us. This way, we all give each other our undivided attention to what everyone is saying.

Another effective method of preventing app-bingeing is to install an app that monitors your use and shuts down after a specified amount of time.

That's right, another app. Although these are typically used for children as a timer for their game time, it can also be used for adults.

As an experiment, I downloaded a timer app and had my husband type in a pass code, so I couldn't cheat. He set the timer for two hours each day, and the timer would reset for the next day when my time was up.

The first day I used it, I ran out of time before lunch! I couldn't check my emails or text, and it was a little frustrating. After that, however, I watched how much time I spent on apps so I could use my phone throughout the day.

Even though I don't use the timer app anymore, I have learned to watch how much time I spend using my smartphone. Do I still app-binge? Yes, typically on a Saturday morning while I'm still in bed. But now that I am more aware of where my time goes, I spend it doing more productive things. Instead of coming home and bingeing on my phone, I charge my phone in the bedroom and turn on some music while I do things around the house. I talk to coworkers at lunch rather than ignoring them and playing on my phone.

I don't know if I could live without my smartphone. I'm still pretty dependent on it, but I would rather spend my time enjoying life with family and friends than staring for hours at my phone.

Cat Totty is a senior at the University of Houston-Victoria. She lives in Pflugerville with her husband, Scott, and son, Andrew.

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