Social Media

Addicted To Your Smartphone And Social Media? It Could End Up Being Harmful

It’s not hyperbole to say smartphones, social media, and technology in general has become the center of our lives. We communicate, work, play, date, take photos, and do a million other activities, all at the click of a button. It helps to make tasks effortless and quick.

But as the rule with all good things, there comes a problem. Social media and smartphones can have very addicting tendencies that are becoming increasingly obvious. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 49% of U.S. adults on Facebook — seven-in-ten users — say they visit the site several times a day, with 22% visiting at least once.

For Snapchat, 45% visit several times a day, while Instagram has 38% of users logging on frequently. The increased activity is especially prevalent throughout younger age groups, which apps like Snapchat are catered too.

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Of course, just visiting a platform doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted, especially if it’s only for a few seconds each. But, as Wall Street Journal family and tech columnist Julie Jargon explained, there a number of ways to tell if you’re obsessed with your phone and social media.

Jargon explained that if you find it hard to put your phone down, it could mean you’re using it compulsively, indicting addiction. Some examples of this might be a person refusing to do an action — such as going to the bathroom or walking down the street — without checking their phone.

This can certainly end poorly in a number of ways, from not looking while crossing the street or when driving, leaving both yourself and others in potential danger. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, texting while driving can reduce a driver’s attention by 37%.

Like with all habits, these compulsions can be hard to break. However, you have a weapon at your disposal: your phone’s settings, which can allow you to slowly chip away your need to be looking at the screen, even it’s its forced.

“Try logging how often you check your feeds in a day, including those brief glances during spare moments,” Jargon said, emphasizing turning off app notifications, turning on Do Not Disturb, and configuring settings that don’t allow the receiving of texts while driving. Finding other activities to put in place of the moments you use for your phone time can also help to fill the void.

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Among other signs to look out for include using social media to satisfy yourself, suffering withdrawal symptoms when not using a device, convincing yourself you have an audience you need to serve, or that social media use is getting in the way of your life and preventing you from time with family and friends.

All of those possible signs can have a draining impact on your self-esteem and relationships, while an addiction can also lead to other potential problems that can threaten mental states. Studies have found potential links between excessive phone usage and cognitive functions, emotional reactions, and medical problems that include a lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and physical loss.

So, what else can be done to help? Jargon suggested developing a schedule for social media and phone use, helping you to give yourself much-needed no-screen time while not cutting yourself off completely. Therapy can also be helpful for those that have developed serious conditions.

7 Apps Everyone Must Have On Their Smartphone

Smartphone purchases always seem to increase around the holiday season. Whether you’re getting your child their very first smartphone for having a great first semester at school, or maybe finally treating yourself to a much needed upgrade after a tough year, many are reaching for a new iPhone or Android device this year. Current smartphone users already know that there’s a multitude of standard apps one should download on their device to keep their lives balanced and organized, here’s a list of seven of the most popular ones available for all iPhone and Android models:

Pzizz: This app is the sleep-schedule assistant you didn’t know you needed. If you’re the type of person who may suffer from insomnia, and depend on taking a daily power nap to get through the day, this app is perfect for you. You can simply choose what type of sleep you want to achieve, quick nap, sleeping through the night, etc., and then the app will offer a ton of features, sounds, or passages that will help you relax and drift into a peaceful slumber. 

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LastPass: You’ve likely heard of this app or one that’s similar to it. When we’re setting up a new device of any kind, it can be so tedious to have to log back into our multiple social media, email, and streaming accounts. LastPass cuts out the middleman and stores all your passwords in one place for easy access. The app is also packed with security features to ensure that no one besides you has access to it. 

DropBox: One of the most popular apps and services on the market is Dropbox. Dropbox acted like the cloud before the cloud even existed by granting universal access to all of your documents, photos, files, etc. on any device that has access to the internet. You could go to a random library five miles from your house and log into Dropbox and automatically have access to whatever you decide to store on there!

Authy: Authy is another password-protection app that can also store downloadable documents, photos, files, emails, etc. The app uses two-factor authentication which is thought to be the “best way to protect yourself online.” The cyber security app guarantees to protect your information from any hackers or outside parties that you wouldn’t want having access to your information. 

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Freedome VPN: Speaking of cyber security, VPN services have grown in popularity a lot within the past few years. These services basically protect your internet connection to guarantee that outside platforms and individuals don’t have access to what you’re doing on your device. The app runs easily in the background while you use your phone to protect it from any and all data breaching. 

Speedtest: This app is more a necessity for tech-lovers and individuals who are on their devices/internet constantly for business reasons. Speedtest easily can test the strength of any WiFi connection and can help you better manage what services are using the internet in the background of your device and potentially slowing it down as a result. 

Tile: Finally, one of the most popular innovative apps that’s on the market right now is Tile. Users simply buy these small tiles on Amazon and then place them in anything that they tend to lose. You can place it within your luggage, laptop bag, wallet, and backpack. When you lose something you can simply go to the app on your phone and it will automatically show you exactly where that tile is located.

Kids on Smartphones

Utah Tech Company Creates ‘Kid-Safe’ Smartphone To Help Combat Excessive Screen Time

Gabb Wireless is a company based in Lehi, Utah that wants to give parents an easy way to satisfy their kids desire for a cell phone, while giving them the peace of mind that their children are staying safe from things like cyber-bullying or online child predators. Gabb has released a kid-safe phone before, but in their new second-generation smartphone for children the company tried to implement even more security measures and new features that will limit screen time. 

The Z2 Gabb Phone, according to Gabb’s Vice President of marketing Lance Black, was developed to protect kids and minimize the amount of time they spend on their devices. Black claims that they are the first company to tackle the issue of kids and cell phones head-on by offering a cell phone specifically for them. 

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“We’ve got data to show that kids who have Gabb phones spend 80%, less time on screens. We’re a strong believer that the thief of opportunity is distraction. If we’re less distracted, we can accomplish great things. So (have) less screen time and do more cool stuff.”

The phone itself has Bluetooth capabilities and 14 pre-downloaded standard apps that are designed to motivate kids to step away from the world of the internet, video games and social media. The Z2 Gabb phone retails for about $100 with monthly plans that range from $20-$25, so parents aren’t breaking their banks paying for $900+ smartphones and data plans. 

Like regular smartphones, however, the Gabb phone has fingerprint security and GPS capabilities to help kids track down their phones if they lose it and so parents can also locate where the phone is. The company is also gearing up to release even more kid-friendly products that parents will love too. One of these projects includes a potential smartwatch launch that will implement the same message to kids; that they should be living their life beyond just a screen. 

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“We protect kids on a safe phone, we connect families, we empower parents and we live beyond the screen.”

Black also claims that Gabb partners will local organizations to help spread this message as well. Most recently the company partnered with Defend Innocence, an organization that’s working to end child sexual abuse, as well as the Gabb Ambassadors, an organization of young people who act as role models for what kids can accomplish when they limit their screen time. 

The presence of social media has become a major point of contention for young people especially. With technology and influencer culture being what it is today, there’s so many unhealthy beauty and living standards that circulate throughout the internet. These trends of living standards are indirectly telling kids that they should aspire to be like all the other young people on apps like Instagram and TikTok, instead of motivating them to explore their own individuality beyond what’s considered standard in the eyes of society. 

Gabb Wireless is essentially rebranding the idea of a cell phone to be more like what it was in the early 2000s, before smartphones became the norm for everyone. Give kids the opportunity to have their own phone and feel that independence, but restrict access to platforms that they have no business being on as a child anyway. This way, life is able to keep moving forward, and kids will be able to explore their own outlets for creativity.

Woman on her Smartphone

How To Make Your Smartphone Run Faster And Live Longer

All smartphone users can relate to the experience of having your phone slow down or just stop working completely after you hit the two year mark with the device. iPhone/Android users especially know the pain of having your device crack under the pressure of storing all your photos and apps, leading to a reduced battery life, and less than enjoyable experience everyday. 

We need our phones for just about everything, so if you’re a smartphone user who’s noticed that your device has become much more slow/dies a lot easier than it used too, there are a few manual changes you can make that could help extend your phone’s life and avoid making another $500+ investment. 

The most basic fix that we’ve all tried is simply restarting your device. It may seem silly, but more times than not restarting any of your smart devices can help fix any bugs/issues you may be having. Simply quit every application and clear every notification from your phone and turn it off for at least 30 seconds; this gives your phone enough time to properly shut down every application. If you have a phone that’s lacking in storage when compared to other models, doing a weekly restart of your device has been proven to help your device’s performance and battery life. 

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Another simple solution is to check if your phone is due for any sort of software/app updates. A lot of smartphones have the option to automatically update your apps every time a new version is released. This is a smart function to have turned on, because when you have to update every app manually, you can forget to do it after a while and the more those updates build up, the slower your phone will become. 

The same can be said for software updates. One of the major benefits to any sort of system update on your devices is that every update is supposed to be designed to help your phone run smoother, and with less issues. Again, depending on your settings your phone may not notify you when a software update is available, so make sure you check that and update your device frequently. 

We use our phone’s everyday, and within those phone’s we all have a solid 5-10 applications that we all cycle through daily. Other than that we have a myriad of random games we downloaded on a whim one time, a few apps for specific doctors/services we use maybe once or twice a year so we can’t get ourselves to delete the app itself, and much more. Unused applications/old text messages are the two main killers of phone storage; besides photos, obviously. 

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The settings in your phone should tell you how often you use certain applications, and how much storage each one is taking up, so make some sacrifices and delete all the apps that you haven’t touched in more than a month. You can also change your settings to automatically delete your text messages if you haven’t gone back to a specific thread of messages for a certain amount of time. For example, you can set it so that your phone will delete any texting conversation if you or the other person hasn’t contacted the other within a week, two weeks, month, etc. 

As previously stated, besides messages and applications, photos take up the most amount of storage on a phone and they do it fairly fast. When your storage is full, your phone is likely to run a lot slower and run out of battery a lot quicker. It would be beneficial to you to own some sort of external hard drive or SD card to put all your photos on once you reach a high enough number. 

Obviously you can also upload all of your cell phones pictures to your computer as well, but an external hard drive will give you that additional layer of security. Services like Google Photos also offer free unlimited storage for photos if you have a google account. The Google Photos app automatically uploads every picture you take/save onto your device and makes it accessible for you anywhere you go where you have access to the internet/ability to sign into your Google account. 

So no matter what solution you try, make sure you do the research and truly exhaust all your options before biting the bullet and buying a new phone. More times than not, the solutions are indeed as simple as they sound and will work.

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade Creates a Niche for High-Quality Phone Games

For years, games for smartphones have broadly fit into one of two categories – either they were free-to-play, oftentimes packaged with obtrusive advertisements and microtransactions built into an experience designed to get you to fork over real money, or they were premium titles, requiring players to invest a nominal up-front fee. While the latter category usually offers more polished and fun titles, few smartphone users are willing to spend money in the App Store, making the former category substantially more profitable for developers. As a result, the number of premium games on offer for both Android and iOS devices has dwindled in recent years, and smartphone users looking to play video games on their devices are often left with titles that subtly encourage them to part with real money for in-game advantages. Looking to address this problem in the gaming environment on their devices, Apple announced the subscription service Apple Arcade, which for $4.99 per month provides iOS users with a selection of high-quality, ad-free mobile games with no microtransactions present.

The service, which launched just a few days ago, is already being praised by media outlets for offering a solution to the dearth of quality games available for smartphones. For the price of a typical premium smartphone game per month, Apple Arcade gives access to more than 70 titles, many of which were custom-designed for the service. This wide selection of titles, which subscribers have unlimited access to for the duration of their subscription, ensures that gamers can find titles that match their specific interests as well as explore other genres of gaming without investing money in titles they’re not sure if they’d like. Apple has leveraged the service to fund the development of indie titles that otherwise would not have been realized, as their designs aren’t conducive to the free-to-play model that currently dominates the industry. As an example, Card of Darkness, a game which combines dungeon-crawling mechanics with a virtual card game, was developed by a ten-person studio paid directly by Apple to be featured exclusively on the Apple Arcade service.

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Card of Darkness has already received rave reviews, as media outlets praised its dynamic and addictive gameplay unencumbered by ads or in-app purchases. The success of this title, in addition to the others on the platform, bodes well for the future of the service, whose innovative approach to game development is likely to produce titles of similar and even greater acclaim as time goes on. Because the funding of titles is handled up-front by Apple on a per-app basis, developers don’t have to worry about generating a return on their investment, freeing them to explore risky but unique game design options and package them into a visually appealing and polished product. 

Developers creating experiences for the Apple Arcade platform have to contend with a number of rules and restrictions that Apple places on developers, though. Game creators are required to ensure that their titles function well on a variety of devices Apple offers, many with radically different form factors, and must localize their games for 14 different languages to ensure that all markets have access to the same selection of titles. For many developers, however, the trade-off is worth it, as the service makes possible titles that wouldn’t be financially viable under the standard App Store model. Where Cards Fall, for instance, has been in development for long before the announcement of Apple Arcade, but seeing as the game offers 20 hours of narrative-driven content, the developers would have charged roughly $20 for the title, which is a substantially greater cost than the vast majority of App Store titles. Apple Arcade ensured that the title, which otherwise may never have seen the light of day, would be financially viable.

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For Android users, Google offers a competing service called Google Play Pass, which for an introductory price of $1.99 per month grants access to a collection not only of games, but of other apps, like weather and photography programs. While the competing service is superficially similar to Apple Arcade in its structure, the selection of games available on Google Play Pass is not as strong. Android is a more difficult operating system to develop games for, as a staggering variety of hardware combinations need to be taken into account as different manufacturers support different features. Additionally, Google Play Pass pays developers based on users’ engagement with their apps, meaning developers who create titles that users play for long periods of time make substantially more money than developers who create short titles. As not every game has to be long-lasting to be fun, this practice discourages developers interested in creating shorter experiences. It’s unclear exactly how Apple decides how much to pay developers for titles on their service, but developers have expressed satisfaction with the deals they’ve made with the software giant.

With the advent of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, the once-bleak market for smartphone games seems to be making a resurgence. As consumers shift towards preferring a Netflix-style of content delivery generally, wherein they pay a monthly fee for unlimited access rather than paying for titles individually, services like these take advantage of this change in customers’ mindset. Given the surprising early success of Apple Arcade, and the introduction of similar services from Nintendo and Sony for their respective platforms, the subscription model of video gaming seems poised to reshape the industry as a whole.