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How to Make Your Smartphone a Tool—and Not a Temptation

April 5, 2019, 7:21 PM UTC

Be wary of the disruptive downside to smartphones. Science journalist Catherine Price learned that lesson from her newborn.

The author of How to Break Up With Your Phone was inspired to write the book after a stark moment of realization while she held her baby and stared at her phone, browsing eBay for antique doorknobs. Price was startled into reality: She was giving her infant “still face”—the subject of a famous experiment in child development—while the baby was trying to bond.

Speaking Wednesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, Price said people have to be mindful in defining their relationship with their phones. The devices should be “tools, not temptations,” she said.

While the duration and intensity of each person’s phone use is different, she recommends wearing a watch or setting an alarm to guard against getting sucked into an “Instagram spiral” or other unfulfilling phone use. “Willpower will get you nowhere when it comes to habit change,” Price said.

Diesel Peltz, meanwhile, founded Twenty, an app that is being used—largely on college campuses—to facilitate in-person meetups. He started the company to get young people off their devices, after noticing that people of his generation were seeing friends in real life far less often than in the past. His platform focuses only on present and future meetups—there’s no posting about last night’s party (to which you weren’t invited). It’s an effort, he said, to reduce the negative feelings arising from social comparisons.

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