Too much social media can hurt your health—this app can help you cut back

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It might sound counterintuitive, but an app could cure your cell phone addiction.

One Sec, a new app, requires you to pause before delving into your phone. It disrupts what tech reporter Shubham Agarwal explains as the brain’s innate reflex to open an app without intentionality. 

“Most of our smartphone habits have evolved to work on autopilot,” Agarwal, who tried the app, writes for Insider

When you click on an app, One Sec wants to ask you one question: why? 

How many of us are guilty of going down a rabbit hole on the internet or social media when we only intended to check our maps app for the restaurant location? And often, certain apps make us feel less energized and fulfilled after the mindless 30 minutes passes. 

So, “why do we keep going back for more?” Jennifer Kelman, a licensed social worker and mental health expert with JustAnswer, previously told Fortune. 

Social media companies have scored the jackpot of our attention. Notifications, likes, and comments give us a dopamine rush, which signals pleasure to the brain. It’s why we “instantly grab the phone,” says Kelman, which can keep us from enjoying the present moment.

“Our ‘always-on’ culture isn’t new, but it’s most certainly spreading,” says Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It. “We’re checking our smart watches while watching our kids play soccer, or checking a text while trying to read a book.”

So taking a moment to understand why we crave screen time can help break the cycle.

One Sec starts the conversation by asking you to breathe and decide if you want to spend time scrolling through an app or if the action is because of stress, boredom, or even a subconscious impulse. You can specifically program One Sec to target triggering apps that may be wasting your time without having to go cold turkey.

“Instead, it enables me to reflect and decide on my own whether I truly want to use the app,” Agarwal writes. “When I would try to mindlessly open Twitter, I felt as if One Sec’s breathing exercise was snapping me back into consciousness.”  

And this consciousness may be decreasing people’s screen time. One study from the University of Heidelberg found that people using One Sec for six weeks decreased their usage of targeted apps like social media by 57%. 

“Setting boundaries like this helps us reevaluate our present habits and potentially create better social-media habits that align more with our well-being,” Ian Anderson, a behavioral scientist at the University of Southern California, tells Insider. 

Excess screen time has worsened people’s quality of sleep and harmed their mental health. Feelings of low self-esteem and FOMO have also been associated with social media usage, and online work has not helped the cause. 

“After the 10-second pause, One Sec shows me how many times I’ve tried to open Twitter in the past 24 hours, and because I opted into the ‘intention picker’ tool, it forces me to specify why I want to open Twitter by choosing one of several intentions I preset like ‘Work’ and ‘Can’t sleep,’” says Agarwal. “The app can also send you a ‘Don’t get lost notification after you have spent a few minutes on an app.” 

The app to cure all app addictions may work for some. Others may consider setting personal limits on social media apps they deem depleting, while others may find it more helpful to prioritize in-person relationships and getting outdoors

Whatever you choose, being more intentional about how you spend your time is key and could have lasting impacts on your well-being.   

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