Your smartphone may feel like an extension of your hand, but it can be causing you more grief than joy. It’s no surprise why the concept of “digital detoxes” has become so popular; people feel too connected to their technological objects.
If it’s not feasible to completely unplug there may be ways to mitigate the feeling of being overloaded. If you want to scale back your digital usage a mass app deletion may be just what you need.
There are numerous reasons why you may want to mass delete some apps. Dr. David Greenfield, an assistant professor of psychiatry and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, explains that people get a dopamine reward response basically every time they check their phone. “Our smartphones have basically conditioned us to respond to them on an as needed basis,” he says. Thus we’ve become proverbial slaves to our phones. Greenfield adds that while most people do not have a clinical internet addiction, “a vast majority of us are over-using [our smartphones].”
For Dr. Greenfield, the best way to solve this problem is to get rid of the phone altogether. That’s an extreme step for the most extreme cases. But scaling down how often people use their phone is one way to also help. Greenfield didn’t recommend specific apps that he thinks are markedly different from others, but he provides some overall examples of the types of apps that suck us in the most.
Read More: My Life Without A Smartphone
Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram cram our lives with notifications. Every time you get a push alert from your phone there’s a part of your brain that has an elevation of dopamine. And you get a second shot of that when you check it. This creates a feedback loop of rewarded digital behavior. Dr. Greenfield compares it to the rush people get when they use a slot machine. If you get rid of these social apps, however, you’ll greatly reduce your propensity to crave that kind of digital rush.
Games like Pokémon Go aren’t great for you either. Not only do they contribute to compulsive digital use, but they are also a huge battery drain. So any game that has you constantly checking your phone and idly keeping it on should probably be deleted.
More critical is the danger in checking on messaging apps while driving. Greenfield says that the number of people dying in their car while using their smartphone now exceeds those deaths associated with alcohol. To mitigate this issue, people should get rid of their messaging apps that may distract them to text and drive. This includes Facebook’s Messenger as well as WhatsApp.
Beyond the health reasons for getting rid of apps, some are also burning a hole in our pockets. If saving money is a goal this coming year, perhaps consider getting rid of some apps.
Shopping apps: Every company now has an app because it’s the trendy thing to do. And perhaps you’ve downloaded one or two of those apps–be it Amazon or specific stores like Home Depot. Deleting them will not only free up space on your phone but will also stop you from making frivolous late-night purchases.
Delivery Apps: The same goes for delivery apps like Seamless and Grubhub, as well as courier ones like Postmates. When it’s so easy to access them, you’re more likely spend money on them. If you’re hungry and it’s almost dinner time, not having a delivery food app will likely help push you toward making dinner, which is a much healthier option too.
Then, of course, there are the apps you downloaded with good intentions that you just aren’t using. There are hundreds of weight loss, personal training, and organizational apps; if you have one or two of them think to yourself, “do I really use this?” Despite the apps’ good intentions, it’s probably better to accomplish personal goals not on your phone, since then it won’t contribute to your technology overload.
Aside from apps you downloaded with good intentions but never use, consider decluttering your screen by deleting (or if you can’t delete moving to a folder) any of the apps the come with your phone like Stocks and Compass. Organizational pros advise clearing your workspace of everything but the most essential objects that you use everyday; you should approach your phone the same way.
For most, the best smartphone goal is to reach what’s called “conscious computing.” This means you are mindfully using your devices for only the things you need. What people need to remember is that without you even noticing, technology has the propensity to change how you behave. “Technology is not inherently evil but it is very psychoactive,” says Dr. Greenfield.
Deleting the above apps can help be more technologically mindful. You may also want to take some time out of your day to specifically not use your phone. If you’re in a waiting room, maybe just wait and not check your social feed. Sure it may be boring but according to Greenfield, “boredom is where creativity happens.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Dr. Greenfield is a professor of psychology; he is a professor of psychiatry. We regret the error.