Student Maeve Kingston found a novel new way to help her – and any other teenagers – cut down on their screen time. It involved using an app that tapped into her love of nature
Phones, yeah, I know. No matter what’s up, it seems, parents blame it on ‘that stupid phone’. But, in fairness, lately I’ve actually started to think more about the negative impacts of these pocket friends.
So I decided to try just one day off social media, how bad can it be, right? Boy, it was bad.
Four hours, four hours, I lasted, without my phone.
Oh shame. But I had to know what was going on in the world, I didn’t want to be out of the loop. You feel naked without it.
So, a full day without your phone is unrealistic, right? After all, they’re an actual necessity nowadays, with school online and online payments etc. So, how about reducing your phone footprint instead?
Hey ... don’t stop reading and go back to scrolling on Instagram, hear me out! So, my quest to attain zero phone usage failed, so I went again, and on a whim I decided to let my phone stop me instead. I downloaded an app called Saplingy.
I love nature, so this was it, an app that plants a tree if you don’t go on your phone! I was hooked. I started at small 30-min slots, watching my tree growing from a sapling to a small cherry blossom to a huge oak .
I realised I could do more, moving to 40-min slots, and every time I went to reach for my phone (constantly), I saw that my tree wasn’t fully grown, and I just could not see it die!
A small thing, but it helped with my usage for sure.
At first, I didn’t see the benefits of not being on my phone so much, I guess that’s why a lot of us give up, like fitness journeys, not seeing results straight away, give up, and you’re back to square one. But I stuck it out and you’d never guess what happened.
1. I stressed way less, I found that I had so much more time to do everything I wanted to.
2. I started dreaming again, I’m no scientist, but I always had my phone at night in bed. I’d switch it off and go to sleep, my quality of sleep was awful, waking intermittently etc, but I replaced my phone at night with reading, and suddenly I started having way more REM sleep and dreaming again … weird.
3. I just in general felt more motivated for my life and had way more mental capacity for my friends and family.
I went from my screentime being five hours a day to roughly two-and-a-half, and honestly, I thought I’d miss out on socialising with friends or not be in the loop with social media … but no!
There’s actually a point that you reach on your phone that you’re just filling a void with your scrolling. People in West Cork are so weirdly intent on staring into their phones when there’s so much beauty around them that they’re missing.
After all, West Cork has to be one of the most scenic places in Ireland. And yet people have chronic neck pain from Facebook, c’mon! I’m not saying you should feel bad, that you’re the worst person in the world for going on your phone – hey, we’re all human, social media and phone usage is just part of our daily lives – but that’s not to say that you can’t reduce your phone usage and replace it with more fulfilling activities.
At the end of the day, it’s all about reducing screen time, but I know we will probably never get back to zero.
However, the amount of time I’ve spent addicted to my phone in quarantine, constantly stimulated, and consuming, and yet never learning or gaining anything from it, terrifies me.
Being present can often feel threatening. But I want to remember that I have a physical body that exists in physical spaces. I can still use a phone to catch up with a loved one or check in on the world, it’s a blessing.
But if you’ve found yourself reaching for it without thinking, as a distraction from your life, try some time off.
8 OF MAEVE’S FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO WITHOUT HER PHONE
1. Go to a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Don’t chug a black espresso, savour the coffee and take time for yourself.
2. Charity-shopping for clothes. I never have enough clothes but this mindset is extremely expensive and unethical … solution? Charity shopping. Fact: I once bought 20 items of amazing clothing from a charity shop for €4, are you serious? If clothes aren’t your thing, most charity shops have trinkets, books and movies, too.
3. Go sea swimming. Ok, I sound like a broken record, but trust me, it will change your mindset, or else make you so cold you forget to go on your phone!
4. Read, but choose a book that you will really like. You don’t even have to invest in a book you mightn’t enjoy, libraries are your best friend, and West Cork has loads. And you physically can’t read and go on the phone at the same time. But life’s too short to read a book you don’t enjoy, so make it a good one. Get a recommendation from a friend.
5. Check out a seaweed bath. West Cork being West Cork, of course we have seaweed baths! You’ll feel amazing, if a bit weird. If you won’t want to splash out, gather a bag of seaweed and bung in a bath full of hot water with some nice smelling oils. Just a tip – rinse the seaweed thoroughly in a bucket outside first. You don’t want to be bringing any unwanted visitors into the bathroom! You will also have a bit of cleaning of the tub after, but it’s worth the effort. Seaweed bathing lowers body stress and relieves skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, acne etc). It’s also beneficial in the treatment of muscle aches, joint stiffness, and circulatory problems.
6. Visit a church – you don’t even have to be particularly religious. West Cork has some beautiful churches that you can visit. Just enjoy the quiet, or light a candle. My favourite is Kilcoe church. But there are plenty to choose from.
7. Visit a farmer’s market. We’re spoiled for choice, so many here. It’s so nice to look at all the stalls, even if you’re not buying. Check out the list of times and places on westcorkmarkets.com.
8. Go on a ‘spin’. Shut off your phone but take it with you in case you get lost (ok, phones are good for emergencies – I’ll give you that) and take a mystery tour. Hop on a bus and go somewhere by the sea, or just drive or cycle along the coast. Even just watching the sea has known mental health benefits.