The Habit Society

⚡️ Cut The Screen Time

To: Society Members

Good Morning!

Spooky October hit hard this year. Netflix’s new documentary The Social Dilemma may be scarier than the thought of another presidential debate. But, no need to abandon ship. This week’s issue is on how to maintain a healthy relationship with those attention-seeking gadgets.


Cut the Screen Time

You told us, and we listened. In a survey run by yours truly, 52% of THS readers said that they want to stop running marathons with their thumbs. We definitely needed help in this area too, so to whoever filled out this survey, thank you.

As a million buzzes and beeps compete for our attention, it’s almost impossible to stay off our phones. In a recent study, one-third of Americans said they would rather give up sex than their phones (kudos to Tinder for combining the two). If that doesn’t scare you, then we don’t know what will. But, how do we stop using a device that was specifically designed for us to be addicted to? Well, surprise surprise – we’ve got some advice.

Here it is: notice when you are a slave to your phone. Is it when you’re struggling to get through a long report? When you get into bed? Or when you get home from a long day? If you indulge in a 45-minute scroll after a shower (#guilty), here’s a simple solution: leave your phone outside your bedroom. Now, there’s nothing to do post-shower but to get dressed and continue your day (crazy huh?). Simple hacks can make for monumental changes.

This math is nausea-inducing

That 45-minute scroll costs 315 minutes a week…1,260 minutes a month… 16,380 minutes a year. That’s almost 12 days a year of just scrolling. Sickening.

Take a look at the diagram below. Look familiar? Our dopamine decreases (cue) making us want more (craving), so we pick up our phone (response) and our dopamine increases (reward). Tadaaa, it’s The Habit Loop.

The Dopamine Reward Loop

From Lemonade

You must eliminate the cues that would lead you to check your phone. A major cue, like simply having it in sight, makes it difficult to ignore. Other possible cues: push notifications, sounds, ringtones, beeps, buzzes, chirps, tweets, dings, clacks… you get it.

Adam Alter, author of the book Irresistible wants to make it clear that our lack of willpower is not the issue. It’s that “there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.” Eeeep.

Nana’s not the only one with a gambling addiction

Slot Machine Apps (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…) are basically the apps that use variable rate rewards to make sure you continue to choose them over your well-being (#selfcare?!). The reward we’re constantly trying to satisfy with social media is what Nir Eyal calls, ‘Reward of the Tribe’. He says, “we’re meant to be part of a tribe so our brains seek out rewards that make us feel accepted, important, attractive, and included”. No wonder we’re always preying on those likes.

From ‘Hooked’ by Nir Eyal


Two psychologists in 2013 proved something very interesting. Pairs of strangers were brought into a room to engage in conversation. Next to some of the pairs was an idle smartphone, and next to the others was a paper notebook. The strangers that had the smartphone next to them struggled to connect and scored their relationships as lower quality and their partners as less empathetic. It’s obvious how disruptive being on your phone is to your conversation but, this study proved how disruptive the mere presence of a phone is, even when it is not being used. The reason for this is because it triggers us to think about everything else besides the conversation. So, next time you’re on a date, place your phones completely out of sight. Unless he has a man bun. Then, scroll away.

There’s nothing more shameful than getting the ‘Your time’s up’ reminder on Instagram, then clicking ignore and immediately return to scrolling. So, let’s all try to avoid that using the tips in the next section.


Tips to help you get off your phone:

1. Eliminate the triggers (notifications, sounds, and the mere presence)

2. Use screen time as a reward for completing a task. Set times in your day to check it: “After completing X, I will allot 10 minutes to using my phone.” This will give you a strong incentive to complete important tasks.

3. Put slot machine apps in a folder called ‘Bad For You’.

Other name options:

‘Don’t click me’


‘Put your phone down & talk to your girlfriend’

‘It’s 5pm get out of bed’

I don’t know, we’re just spitballing.

4. If you indulge in a morning scroll session, plug your phone in out of reach, so that once you’re up, there’s no turning back.

5. Make your phone boring. Make it black and white. Here’s how.

6. Use Screen Time Reminders.


You may want to think twice before you check the 18th meme you just got tagged in…

“One recent study shows that an interruption of approximately 4.5 seconds triples the amount of errors an individual commits when getting back to the task at hand. An interruption of only 2.8 seconds doubles the error rate.”

– Scott G. Halford, Activate Your Brain