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“Why you should create a phone-free zone” With Hold CEO Maths Mathisen

Create phone-free zones. If you find time-focused targets too hard to stick to, create phone-free spaces. For example, set your kitchen table and your bedside-cabinet as phone-free zones. This will help you enjoy your meals more, as well as improve your sleep. I had the pleasure of interviewing Maths Mathisen, CEO and Co-Founder of Hold , the […]


Create phone-free zones. If you find time-focused targets too hard to stick to, create phone-free spaces. For example, set your kitchen table and your bedside-cabinet as phone-free zones. This will help you enjoy your meals more, as well as improve your sleep.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Maths Mathisen, CEO and Co-Founder of Hold , the app that rewards students for not using their mobile phones while they study.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Hold (https://www.hold.app), the app that rewards students for not using their mobile phones while they study. We came up with the idea for Hold while studying at university — we found that we were constantly distracted from studying by notifications from our mobile phones. We decided to compete with each other, not checking our mobile phones for as long as possible. The person who checked theirs first would buy the group coffee, and this is how the main principles behind Hold were created. We trialed and tested the idea amongst ourselves, launching the app while we were still students.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting thing to me has been the huge demand we’ve seen for an app like this. The day before we launched we agreed on an estimate for the number of Hold users by the end of the first term. We were hoping for 1,000 users within three months. We surpassed this goal in just one hour, and suddenly we were at the top of the Norwegian App Store! That same day we appeared on television, talking about phone addiction — an issue we all feel very passionate about. We could see user figures climbing steadily, and as the numbers grew, so did the interest from our partners. We in fact managed to secure 40% of Norway’s higher education students within that three month period.

However, an especially pleasant moment was when we, as students, were going into the final exams and could hear people we didn’t even know talking about Hold on their way in. The knowledge that something we created was not only useful, but wanted and needed, was one of the best parts of launching our own company.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Our aim with Hold is to provide everyone with a solution to phone addiction, not just students but workplaces and families as well. We want to realign tech use with personal interest. At the moment, we are especially interested in developing a Hold solution that families can use together, thus increasing the amount of quality time they spend with one another.

Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?

It affects our overall well-being in a number of ways. For example, a 2017 study by the University of Texas found that smartphones affect intelligence and attention span. just by being on the participant’s desk.

Similarly, the University of California Irvine found that if we get distracted from a task by a mobile phone notification, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully regain our focus. All of which suggests that smartphones, while fundamental to day-to-day life, are detrimental when it comes to being productive. Technology can also impact memory, with scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden finding that browsing social media makes the brain overwhelmed with information, making it more difficult to memorise important information.

Lastly, increased phone time can disrupt sleep, increase our risks of becoming obese, and even damages personal relationships. Smartphones are great for staying in touch when your friends and family are far away, but they can actually make us less attentive and more isolated to those who are in our physical presence. Research by the University of Maryland suggests that excessive phone use can make us more selfish, while the University of Essex found that the presence of a phone during an emotional conversation made the speaker feel like the listener wasn’t being empathetic or attentive.

Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?

Identify your goal

The first thing to do is to identify a clear goal. The problem with saying ‘I want to use my phone less’ is that the message is too vague. Perhaps you might want to be more present when around friends and family, or you might want to use social media less. Identify the one element you want to address first, and then start working towards the goal.

Own your free time

When you are not constantly scrolling through social media and browsing the internet, you will have a lot more free time. Figure out what you want to do with this time to make the feelings of anxiety that come with being phone-free slightly less. The phone-free ride in an elevator can be a good time for a quick mindfulness exercise, or alternatively, the gaps between meetings can be filled with personal projects.

Detox from social

Social media has a huge role to play when it comes to our mental wellbeing. It can make us feeling left out, insecure and anxious. To stop yourself from comparing your life to that of some Instagram influencer, set yourself a couple of hours and eventually days, to be free from all social media.

Create phone-free zones

If you find time-focused targets too hard to stick to, create phone-free spaces. For example, set your kitchen table and your bedside-cabinet as phone-free zones. This will help you enjoy your meals more, as well as improve your sleep.

Use apps to fight apps

The best way to conquer your phone addiction and make your relationship healthier is to download an app that will limit (and reward, in the case of Hold!) your phone use.

51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?

The best way to do this is to put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. This way, you can control who is able to reach you, so you don’t miss anything important, but also won’t be distracted with aimless calls. Lastly, when you share your contact information online, make sure that it isn’t shared with third parties, which can help reduce the number of robocalls in the future.

Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?

As mentioned above, using apps to reduce the amount of distractions you get from social media notifications is especially helpful. However, you can also remove push notifications and check the apps manually, or alternatively, limit how often your apps refresh (this will also save your data!)

80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?

Reaching for your phone first thing in the morning might seem natural, as it is the way that we keep up with our friends, family, news and events. However, it can contribute to feelings of anxiety, as within minutes of starting your day, you are reacting to things, as opposed to taking your own actions. Similarly, scrolling through social media first thing in the morning can be like viewing a list of all the things you’ve missed out on the night before. Instead, try to stretch out, do some yoga, or simply hop in the shower before you pick up your phone. Giving even ten minutes to yourself in the morning can do a lot to improve your mental wellbeing.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?

Use your phone like a hammer only pick it up when you need it. — Kanye West

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

For me personally, a really worthwhile movement would be solving the issue of technology addiction, as it would have a significant and positive impact on the world. As mentioned above, we see clear effects of addiction on both mental and physical wellbeing. According to a UK study by YMCA 60% of teenagers feel pressure to look ‘perfect’ on social media, while we are yet to see the effect iPads and the internet will have on children who are growing up with technology as constant entertainment.

I want to start a movement to change the way we interact with technology. I want us to have a healthy relationship with our smartphones, tablets and laptops, using them only when necessary and to add value whenever they are used. Research by Deloitte shows that 47% of people already know that they use their smartphones in excess and have tried to limit their usage. Similarly, executives from major tech companies, such as Google’s Tristan Harris who started the Time Well Spent movement, and Tony Fadell of Apple, have all spoken out about smartphone addiction. It is great to see that tech giants such as Facebook are working on tools to help and combat smartphone addiction, however, I believe that there is still a long way to go. I would like to work towards a world where the emphasis is on human interactions, as opposed to virtual ones, where people spend less time with their phone and more quality time with their loved ones.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

We are on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/holdappp

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