Apps to tame digital addiction

Isn’t it ironic that there are apps designed to help minimize our digital addiction? Fight fire with fire, I guess.

The digital world can be all-consuming, and there’s a good reason for that: attention = profit. The more Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are able to harvest our attention, the more money they make from digital advertisers vying for our attention to consume their products, services, or information.

That constant itch to glance at your phone incessantly? It’s a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to capture your attention. The better big tech learns about the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our psychology, the easier it can keep us glued to our devices.

Left to my impulses, I can spend all day on my screens. I would have zero space in my life, mentally or otherwise, to do the things I find worthwhile and want to do. It’s easier to be idle and scroll through Instagram for a quick hit of dopamine than to get up and do things that require effort, no matter how beneficial they may be.

The solution to minimizing my digital addiction has been using external control, namely apps and such, to support my journey towards (re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world.

Three apps I use to tame my digital addiction

Note: Since I use Apple products, the two apps mentioned are specifically for iOS devices but there are alternatives for Android devices that can be discovered with a quick Google search.

Before there were more days spent offline and outdoors, there were the apps that helped me tame my digital addiction: SelfControl, DF Tube, and iOS Restrictions— Okay, DF Tube and iOS Restrictions are not apps but they work!

Anyway, these “apps” have been monumental in radically transforming my relationship to technology.

1. SelfControl

Where to start?

I want to dedicate love songs and write love poems to SelfControl. I have a deep appreciation for the app. It really is the holy grail of all the digital wellness apps available, in my opinion at least.

What I really like about SelfControl is its no-nonsense method: Once the timer is set, and the websites are blocked, there is no getting around it until the time is up. You only need to summon enough willpower to click Start then pray for something else to do until the time is up. What more can one ask for?

From their website: SelfControl is a free and open-source application for macOS that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites—even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

If you use a Macbook or whatever-Apple’s-big-computer-is and you don’t have SelfControl installed, oh no baby, what is you doin’?

2. DF Tube (Distraction Free YouTube)

Once upon a time, it occurred to me I’ve stopped actually watching YouTube videos. Instead, I’d read the comment sections of YouTube, form an opinion, and click on to another video to do the same. It was ridiculous!

At first, I used Hide YouTube Comments, a Chrome extension that disables, well, the comment section of YouTube. It worked well by reminding me to watch the video playing instead of immediately scrolling down for the comments.

DF Tube takes it to the next level by allowing you to disable your Homepage, Recommendations, sidebar, and the comment section on YouTube.

You know when what started out as looking for how-to-put-together-an-Ikea-furniture video turns into two hours deep in YouTube hell watching soap scrapping sounds? What is all that about anyway!? DF Tube means no more going down the YouTube rabbit hole.

Thanks to DF Tube, I mostly watch videos from my subscriptions, curated with all the things I find interesting and entertaining. I’m rarely sidetracked or distracted by recommendations and trending videos.

The only con is that you can easily turn DF Tube off from your Chrome tab so, unlike SelfControl, may the self-control gods be with you.

3. iOS Restrictions

Dear Apple, I know you were thinking about the children and parental control when you released Screen Time, but this grown-ass woman thanks you from the depth of her being. Thank you.

Read how I turned my iPhone into a dumb phone by blocking access to browsing and downloading apps. This has been one of my better decisions. When the addictive sites and apps are blocked and inaccessible, I magically find more rewarding and satisfying things to do; the little things, like doing the dishes right away, or the big things, like writing more.

Oh, and thank you to the hubby for putting a passcode to lock his grown-ass wife from accessing Google on her phone. Chivalry is not dead.

Until next time…

Sign up for my curated weekly newsletter on life-tech balance and digital well-being. Five ideas delivered right to your inbox. Every Tuesday.