Arianna Huffington Wants Everyone to Put Their Phones Away — Here’s How to Do It
We love technology (read: our phones) — we really, truly do. From helping us with our side hustles to bridging distances in our relationships, technology enhances our lives in incredibly valuable ways. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to escape the very real social media stresses sometimes. There’s a fine line between constructive and destructive when it comes to how we use tech, and we’re constantly deciding where to realistically and healthily draw that line. Thankfully, it looks like we’re in good company. Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global Founder and CEO (she also founded the digital news site Huffington Post, maybe you’ve heard of it?), just launched the THRIVE app in partnership with Samsung in an effort to combat our increasing technology burnout.
The THRIVE app gives you “the tools to set boundaries with technology so you can connect more deeply with yourself and others… it allows users to improve, not limit, their relationship with technology through the activation of several modes that tailor how you take a break and monitor your mobile use.” You can block apps, notifications, texts, and calls, set an auto-reply letting others know you’re taking time away from your phone, set goals for how much you use specific apps, and set time boundaries for apps, all customizable and flexible to fit your personal tech goals.
We chatted with Huffington to find out her favorite features of the app, where she sees our relationship with technology heading, and her personal journey with getting to a healthier place with technology.
Brit + Co: What spurred you to create the THRIVE app? Why do you think it’s important we set tech boundaries for ourselves now?
Arianna Huffington: There’s been a mountain of science in recent years about the ever-widening array of negative consequences from our addiction to our phones. I’m most concerned about the connections between heavy phone use and depression, anxiety, and a heightened risk of suicide, especially among young people.
There’s also the opportunity cost of all this time spent on our phones — that’s time we’re not connecting with other people, with our children, or just with ourselves, or able to do focused and uninterrupted work. As Thích Nhất Hạnh, the renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, put it, “It has never been easier to run away from ourselves.” In one recent study, nearly 40 percent reported missing out on experiencing a life moment because they were distracted with their phones. Another study found that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone — either between them or even in the periphery of their vision — changes the conversation to one that’s lighter and less intimate. And this is when neither of the people even touch the phone.
We’re at an inflection point in our relationship with technology. 2017 was the year we woke up and began to see what the technology we’ve been swimming in has been doing to us. But 2018 must be the year we take back control, setting proper boundaries and ultimately creating a healthier, more mature relationship with technology. It’s only going to get harder the longer we wait, and the technology designed to mine our attention will only get more sophisticated.
B+C: On a personal level, what does technology burnout mean to you? And when you look around, what do you see as the most common side effects of this?
AH: What burnout meant in my own life was several stitches and a broken cheekbone, which happened when I collapsed from burnout and exhaustion in 2007. But there are all kinds of side effects, and, given that we’re in a global epidemic of burnout, most of them are incredibly common: feeling exhausted all the time, stressed, like there’s never enough time in the day, like you don’t have enough time to spend with people that are important to you, like you don’t have time to unplug and recharge. People feel like they’re in perpetual fight-or-flight mode, or just getting through each day. That’s just surviving, not thriving.
B+C: So how does Thrive help eliminate these dangers? What do you hope Thrive can offer people who are looking to positively change their relationship to tech?
AH: Thrive helps you take control of your technology — and your life — by giving you tools that make it easy to take a break from your phone. We believe that being able to control your time more effectively will allow you to connect more deeply with yourself, your family and friends, and the world around you.
B+C: What are your favorite features of the app? Are there certain features you get a lot of use out of?
AH: I love all the features, but to me, the bi-directionality of Thrive Mode is particularly important. It allows you to go into Thrive Mode and know that anyone who tries to reach you is notified when you’ll be available again. And, of course, everybody you choose to be on your VIP list always gets through. This allows you to more fully unplug, without the anxiety that you’re missing something important or creating downstream problems for yourself when you come back online. This is incredibly important for creating new expectations, so we can change the cultural norms that we all have to be always on and respond to text messages within five minutes.
I also love the App Control dashboard, which allows you to set goals for how much time you want to spend using certain apps — it’s a lot easier to do this in a considered way before you’re two hours deep in an Instagram hole — and it gives you a detailed analysis of how you’re spending your phone time. When you see how you’re using your time, it can be shocking — and it’s easier to then set goals to use it in a healthier way.
B+C: You’re obviously a fan of technology — Thrive isn’t meant to cut a person off from technology completely or act as a way to show the evils of tech — so how do you find balance in your own life when it comes to your relationship with your phone and technology?
AH: I’m definitely not anti-technology. And you certainly don’t have to be to acknowledge that our relationship with technology is unhealthy. At this point, most of the leaders of the major tech companies have even joined the conversation. And in my own life, I have the same challenges as everybody. One thing I’m deliberate about is making sure I don’t begin and end my day with my phone. At night, I charge my phone outside of my bedroom. Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our inboxes, our anxieties. And in the morning, instead of reaching for my phone right when I wake up, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day.
B+C: Why do you think it’s so hard for us to put our phones away? Basically — why is the THRIVE app so necessary to achieve a more balanced life?
AH: Setting these boundaries isn’t easy, which is why we created the THRIVE App. Our addiction to our devices is no accident — it’s by design, the work of a lot of behavioral scientists, neuroscientists, and computer scientists on the other side of those icons using incredibly sophisticated technology. So with the THRIVE App, we’re using technology to help rebuild those walls and allow people to take control of their time and the technology in their lives.
B+C: In addition to using the THRIVE app, do you have personal boundaries you set to limit your own tech time?
AH: In addition to not sleeping with your phone in your bedroom and not reaching for it first thing in the morning, you can try things like going to lunch without your phone, doing family dinners with no screens, and having device-free meetings. As you notice the benefits — both to your productivity and your relationships — it becomes easier to add more time into your life to unplug and recharge.
B+C:Do you have any advice for people who would like to not only limit their own phone time but ask their loved ones to do the same? It never feels good when a friend is scrolling Instagram while you’re trying to have a conversation!
AH: Yes, that’s called “phubbing,” snubbing someone with your phone. And that brings up a good point, which is that we really need to change cultural norms, which is a big part of Thrive Global and the THRIVE App in particular. Nobody should feel bad or like a stickler for demanding to be treated respectfully. We need to rebuild those norms, and the only way to do it is to do it collectively.
B+C: Do you have any favorite mindfulness apps (or habits in general) you can share that pair well with the THRIVE app to really enhance how you use tech in a constructive, positive way?
AH: I love Headspace, the meditation app. Though if you’re using it at night, just don’t leave your phone by your bed overnight!
What’s your favorite method of disconnecting? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us how you make time to put your phone down!
(Photo via Kimberly White/Getty)
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