Stopping Your Smartphone Addiction
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I used to be one of those people with my head in the sand. I didn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, and I didn’t even own a smartphone. I was that friend, who made people text me (and I remember a time when I didn’t even do that). I was always behind in the craze for connectivity, and that was fine with me, until my non-smartphone broke. The salesman laughed at me when I asked for one just like it. “Ma’am, they don’t make phones that like anymore.” Ma’am? In my moment of confusion and disappointment, I had been lured into buying an iPhone, with a neat pink and gray case.
I’ll admit, after leaving the store, I felt kind of giddy. While it took me some time to get used to it, I started to wonder how I ever got along without it. At any moment, I could look up all my curiosities. In time, I’ve advanced from using it for texting and e-mail to a host of activities, including Facebook. Now, anytime I hear a buzz, in hope that I’ve finally received that e-mail I’ve been waiting for, I jump to check it. Sometimes, I start to look at it with no purpose at all. Does this sound familiar?
In the evolution of my phone use, I’ve noticed a sort of de-evolution in other activities. Not that I had much time for myself as a mother of two children under three, but every moment of my “free” time was stolen by my phone. And to make matters worse, I started to become one of those parents, sitting by my children, not completely focused on them, because I kept checking my phone. What exactly couldn’t wait, I’m not sure, but something had to change.
The "Not-So-Smart" Part of Smartphones
Addiction is a strong word. While the scientific community hasn’t categorized the symptoms related to smartphone overuse as addiction, you be the judge. An addiction is a dependence, in which an individual feels a psychological or physical desire to use a specific substance and which they feel uncomfortable without it. Whether or not you personally feel the effects of cell phone addiction, the consequences of smartphone dependence are real. The names of the symptoms below may seem silly, but they are real terms, used by real professional. Go ahead, look them up.
· Computer vision syndrome
· Text Neck
· Text Claw (finger cramping)
· Cell phone elbow
· Nomobphobia, a.k.a. no-mobile phone phobia
· Phantom vibration syndrome
· Variable ratio reinforcement (constant e-mail checking in hopes of getting good news)
· Dangerous behavior (texting while driving, using phones while crossing intersections)
The Effects of Smartphone Dependence
Whether you find yourself responding to every little buzz, losing sleep, or cringing in anxiety while waiting for the words behind the little … of a pending text message, you may have a problem. You may not think that this behavior is hurting you, but it is stunting your individual wellness. Subconsciously, the 24-7 access a smartphone provides creates an environment of instant gratification, and with that comes the notion that you and everyone else have to be available 24-7.
Expecting an object to fulfill your needs or to make you happy is naïve. While you are staring into your smartphone, you are missing an entire world around you. By nature, our brains want to learn, and what better way than through a device that lets you learn everything? But you’re limiting yourself to the actual product when you view art through your smartphone, instead of in a museum. You deprive yourself of seeing laughter and pain in a loved one’s face when you converse through texts. You miss out on the beauty of nature or the joy of watching your child’s first steps instead of recording them. You miss, you miss, and you miss. Bottom line: Your smartphone is stunting your personal growth.
Cut the Wireless Cord
In an effort to feed your other senses (until Apple invents a way to taste, smell, and feel texture through wireless devices), make a plan to survive without your smartphone. If not for your individual development, but for the sake of your personal relationships, put the phone down. Have meaningful conversations with your partner. Watch the joy in your children’s curiosity. Get lost in the mood and melody at a concert. Take time to quiet your mind, and instead of constantly searching for information, search for peace within.
Step 1: Start small. Delete some apps. Do you really need Facebook or Twitter, all the time? It may also be wise to schedule times to check your e-mail, instead of every time your phone buzzes.
Step 2: Try to call people more often. I know, this may lead to cell phone elbow, but it may be easier than simply going cold turkey. Better yet, schedule a coffee date for some real face time.
Step 3: Begin to understand why you check your phone so much. Whether you are lonely, anxious, or bored, you can probably find a healthier way to occupy your time and alleviate emotions that are complicating your life.
Step 4: Cut it out in certain situations. Make a commitment to not use your phone while driving, eating, sleeping (yes, some people are very good at sleep-checking), and other important activities. Be mindful of its impact on your well-being.
Step 5: Once you’ve slowly removed the smartphone from your clutches, begin to put it away for longer periods of time. Keep the phone in your coat pocket, purse, or on a shelf until a designated phone time. In fact, see if you can avoid letting it lull you all together. Why check your phone at all unless you have a call to make or a piece of information to obtain. Don’t let your phone rule your life. It is a gadget, and you have power over it.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Bennett, J. (2014, August 30). Bubbles Carry a Lot of Weight. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/fashion/texting-anxiety-caused-by-little-bubbles.html?_r=0
Cashman, J. (n.d.). 14 Things You Miss When Constantly Staring At Your Smartphone. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/15-things-you-miss-when-constantly-staring-your-smartphone.html?mid=20150225&ref=mail&uid=388701&feq=daily
Davis, S. (2012, June 21). Smartphone Addiction: Managing Your Phone Usage Time. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/addicted-your-smartphone-what-to-do
Hawkins, A. (2015, January 1). 5 Seriously Bad Side Effects of Your Smartphone Addiction. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/womens-health/smartphone-syndromes