Technology companies have been embroiled in controversy after controversy after controversy throughout 2017, and their misdemeanours are causing regular consumers to reassess their relationship with their products and services.
The arrival of 2018 is the perfect opportunity to change some of the habits that gadgets and apps have helped foster over recent years.
Here’s what you can try to do this year, to help make yourself happier.
Monitor your phone use
Spending less time in front of a screen will likely be an aim for many a smartphone user this year, but in order to actually make such a change, you need to first find out how much you currently use your phone and what you do on it on a typical day.
Apps like QualityTime and Space can tell you the brutal truth about your smartphone usage habits, showing you information such as how long you spend on your smartphone, when and how frequently you open apps and how long you keep them open for, and how many times you unlock your phone on a daily and weekly basis.
It can be grim viewing, but it’s necessary if you genuinely want to change your habits.
Delete apps you don’t need
Without any apps, your phone would be pretty useless, but having too many of them can also be problematic. You can declutter your phone by scouring your app drawer and removing anything you either rarely use or had completely forgotten about – you clearly don’t need them.
As well as freeing up space on your phone, doing so can help improve your handset’s battery life and enable you to get a tighter grip on your personal data.
Use social media less
A much bigger step to take is moving away from the apps and services you know you use a lot. It can be tough to break free from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in particular because they’re designed to be as addictive as possible, but there are basic steps you can take to help you use them less if you don’t quite feel up to getting rid of them altogether yet.
Deleting the apps from your phone and instead using the social networks exclusively through a web browser increases the number of steps you need to take to actually access them. This may initially be frustrating, but in the long-term it should result in you gradually spending less and less time on them.
Switch off notifications
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can completely switch off push notifications from all of your apps. Doing so will help you discover which alerts you can and cannot cope without, and you can then switch the ones you’re missing back on one-by-one.
On Android, you can turn off push notifications by heading into Settings and Apps. On iOS, go to Settings and Notifications.
Don’t use your phone in bed
Electronic devices such as phones and laptops emit blue light, which can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, making it tougher to fall asleep. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all added blue light filters to their operating systems, to lessen the impact they can have on sleep, but the best thing you can do to protect yourself is stop using your phone and laptop in bed at night.
At the very least, you should stop sleeping within arm’s length of them, but keeping them out of your bedroom altogether should remove all temptation to check them late in the evening. A dedicated alarm clock could be a useful investment.
Use Airplane mode more
One of the worst things about smartphones is their knack of distracting you from things that are going on in the real-world. When you feel your mobile buzz in your pocket, you’re always going to be tempted to check it, even if you’re mid-conversation or working on something important.
More often than not, those notifications can wait. It’s therefore worth making better use of Airplane mode, which can prevent your phone from interrupting every single thing you do.
Forget your payment details
A handy feature of some internet browsers is their ability to save your payment information, to make it easier to make purchases online. Though this can save you a few seconds every now and then, the fact you don’t need to take the time to manually enter any details can also encourage you to shop online more frequently, and make purchases without a second thought.
Wiping this information from your browser will make your online shopping experience less slick than it could be, but it could also help you cut down on impulse buys and save money.
Cybercrime is an enormous issue, and recent reports have shown that huge number of people are still not taking online security seriously, leaving them vulnerable to hackers.
The easiest thing you can do to protect yourself is use different passwords for the different sites and services you use. This way, if a criminal was to break into one of your accounts, they wouldn’t be able to use the same details to breach any others.
A password manager is designed to take the stress out of juggling multiple passwords, by remembering which login details you’re using for which sites, so you don’t have to.
Be aware of what’s tracking you
Google recently had to break one of its own products because it had been secretly recording everything its owner had been doing and saying around it. There was also uproar when the company locked people out of their Docs files in November, as the incident made many people realise that Google scans and analyses lots of things you do through its services, including your Gmail messages, G+ profile, photos, videos, browsing history and map searches.
Facebook is constantly learning new and highly personal things about you too, which you can see by visiting the Adverts page in Settings.
One of the most daunting but sensible things you can do moving forward is learn about what’s tracking you, and whether or not you can be more selective about how much data you share with companies.
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