In this digital age, where our lives are more often than not intertwined with technology, creating a balance between screen time and genuine human connections has become a paramount challenge.

Join us in this exclusive interview with Catherine Price, acclaimed science journalist and Smartphone Relationship Advisor, as she unveils the profound insights behind her journey into advocating for screen/life balance. Discover the catalyst that led her to pen the transformative "How to Break Up With Your Phone" and explore her latest venture with vivo India's Switch Off campaign.

Q. Could you please provide some insight into your background as a science journalist and share what sparked your interest in the subject of screen/life balance?

As a health and science journalist, I’ve always been interested in how our environments and behaviours affect our relationships and our mental and physical health. I started my career writing primarily about food and nutrition, but I became interested in the subject of what I call “screen/life balance” around 2016, when I noticed that my smartphone was interfering with my interactions with my daughter, who was then a baby.

I wanted to change, but I wasn’t able to find a book that provided a solution for how to take back control—so I decided to write one! The result was How to Break Up With Your Phone, which in turn led to my latest book, The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again. 

Q. In your role as Smartphone Relationship Advisor, why do you think it's crucial for people to have a healthy relationship with their smartphones?

We spend an enormous amount of time on our smartphones – some of the best statistics I was able to find suggested that we were spending an average of four hours per day on our phones, before the pandemic. That adds up to 60 full days a year, which is roughly a quarter of our time awake. What’s more, many of the apps on our phones are deliberately designed to suck us in and to encourage us to spend our time and attention on them, as opposed to on our personal relationships, or on other things that bring us meaning and joy. If we want to live healthy and fulfilling lives—and have meaningful relationships—then we simply must rethink our relationships with our phones.

If we want to live healthy and fulfilling lives-and have meaningful relationships-then we simply must rethink our relationships with our phones.

Q. How did the collaboration with vivo India for the Switch Off campaign come about, and what attracted you to this partnership?

When vivo India approached me about possibly serving as an advisor and advocate for their Switch Off campaign, I was excited—I love the fact that a global technology company is doing something proactive to help its  consumers create better boundaries with its own products and improve their in-person relationships. I hope that the message of the campaign resonates with people and inspires them to create more boundaries with their phones so that they can reconnect with the people whom they truly love.

Q. How can individuals strike a balance between staying connected through technology and being present in the moment with their loved ones?

My advice is to take a step back and ask yourself what your priorities are in life, and which relationships are important to you. I also recommend asking your loved ones – including your own children, if you have them – how they feel about the way you use your phone. How do they feel when they see you looking at their phone? Does it bother them? Do they wish you were more present? For parents in particular, this can be a powerful wakeup call and a reminder to keep your phone away when you’re interacting with the people you love.

For parents in particular, this can be a powerful wakeup call and a reminder to keep your phone away when you’re interacting with the people you love.

Q. Can you discuss any specific challenges people face in maintaining healthy relationships due to smartphone use?

Numerous applications that consume a significant portion of our time have been deliberately designed to mimic slot machines, which are widely considered to be some of the most addictive machines ever to have been invented. They hook us by triggering the release of dopamine, which is essential in an evolutionary sense – it helps us remember to eat, for example. 

But our dopamine systems are non-discriminatory: if something triggers the release of dopamine, you’re going to feel motivated to seek it out again, even if it’s not helpful or good for you. Our smartphones and apps are packed with dopamine triggers, making it extremely hard to put them down—even when a relationship is at stake.

Q. What actionable steps can people take today to cultivate a healthier relationship with their smartphones?

We outlined a number of practical steps on the campaign’s website.

For example, creating no phone zones in your home, where no matter what, you don’t use your phones. It can be your dining table, bedroom etc. Another advice which I’ve found really helpful for a lot of people is the practice of www - it is a simple habit of creating mindfulness around our smartphone usage, encouraging you to ask three simple questions, ‘What for’, ‘Why now’ & ‘What else’ whenever you pick up your device. I also have created a free phone breakup “starter” kit that people can sign up for at catherineprice.com/vivo , which will also give participants a code for 15% off of my SMS-based 30-day course about how to create healthier boundaries with your phone.

Another advice which I’ve found really helpful for a lot of people is the practice of www - it is a simple habit of creating mindfulness around our smartphone usage, encouraging you to ask three simple questions, ‘What for’, ‘Why now’ & ‘What else’ whenever you pick up your device.

Q. As you collaborate with vivo India, what are your expectations for the impact of the Switch Off campaign in promoting mindful smartphone usage?

My hope is that people will be inspired by the campaign and feel the need to “switch off” around their families and loved ones when they’re spending time with them. I also hope that the campaign will spark conversations about our relationships with technology and empower people – including children – to speak up when they feel hurt or abandoned as a result of one of their loved ones’ phone usage.

Q. What strategies do you personally employ to maintain a balanced use of technology in your own life?

I try to regularly ask myself what I like about your phone and would like to keep using it for (for example, for practical purposes, such as banking, or for staying in touch with friends and family via phone calls and SMS messages), and what I don’t like about my phone and would like to spend less time on. I also charge my phone in a closet at night, never have it with me at meals, and do my best to keep it away when I’m spending time with my husband and daughter.