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I recently took my mom to the doctor. My siblings have a Telegram group where we can keep each other up to date on mom’s doctor visits and appointments. The group is also used for notes at the doctor appointments. At the last appointment, I felt guilty for being on my phone while the doctor was examining mom. So, for each specialist, I explain what’s going on so they don’t think I’m just not paying attention and playing Doodle Jump during the appointment.

That got me thinking, why is it when you see someone on their phone, you immediately think they are mindlessly scrolling through Tik-snap-o-gram? Part of it is that yes, they are doom scrolling. Is our productive use of our smartphones so low that they are glorified TVs? We pay thousands of dollars for a device that is basically entertainment?

Last week, my most used app was Telegram. This is understandable since my family uses it for all communications. Second is Apple Maps, and that’s because we went on a day trip. Third and fourth is Google News and Reeder (my RSS reader). Rounding out the top five is my podcast player. I tend to think I use my phone for productive uses, and apparently, I have the data to back that up!

I know I’m usually using my phone for productive uses, but, being an example of positive phone use is tough since so few others actually see your screen. How do we promote creative uses of smartphones? Telling others to stop doom scrolling doesn’t work, so what I’ve started to do is to show others how they can get some work done. To help with social media addiction, I offer two tips. The first is to turn on gray scale mode. When pictures and videos are black & white, it is less enticing to doom scroll. The second tip is to remove the apps from the phone and use the mobile site in the web browser. This not only adds just enough friction to make you stop and think about whether you want to get on Tik-snap-o-gram, it more importantly, stops the push notifications.

I’m not one to think that all social media is evil, but, all things in moderation. I love chocolate, but I know I can’t survive by only eating it.

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