“Who are you emailing now?” my wife asked as we sat down for dinner.
“Just keeping up with work,” I replied, guilt smeared across my face.
“Do you ever put that thing down?”
“Hi. My name is Brian. I’m a cellphone addict.” I was joking, but after I reflected more seriously, I realized I am addicted to my cellphone.
According to a recent study, the typical cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times every day. And that’s just the average user. Extreme cellphone users (meaning the top 10%) touch their phones over 5,400 times daily.
Apple also recently confirmed device-users unlock their phones 80 times every day. That’s 6 to 7 times every waking hour.
The takeaway from these studies is that while smartphones are an important part of our lives, if we don’t set healthy boundaries, their effects can be detrimental. Anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, sleep disorders, inability to focus, and reduced peace of mind are just some of the negative side effects smartphone addiction and obsessive social media activity can cause.
Here’s a list of behaviors that point to an imbalance of cellphone and social media use:
· An incessant need to tap and touch our phone.
· Envy generated by the social media posts of other people.
· A need to post constant social media updates about ourselves.
· Withdrawal symptoms when our phone is lost or isn’t around.
· Anxiety due to a sense of loss of control when our phone isn’t working.
· Obsessively reaching out for our phones to look for new notifications and messages.
· Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) if we don’t keep current with recent updates and posts.
· Counting the number of likes we get on our social media posts as a measure of our self-worth.
· Excessive use of online games and apps to distract us from important tasks and social interaction.
The overuse of technology has become so invasive that researchers have developed several cellphone addiction tests to evaluate whether our use is out of control. There are also downloadable apps, like Moment, that assess how much time we spend staring at our little screens.
Technology is neutral by nature. It’s how we use it that makes the difference. If we overuse it or distract ourselves with it, negative consequences can result. If we use it in moderation to empower our lives and keep us connected with others, it enhances life.
For those of us with cellphone and social media obsession, there are several practical ways we can get our technology use back in balance. Here’s a few worth considering to increase well-being and reduce anxiety:
- Don’t check your phone during the first two hours after waking up. Instead, spend the first moments of your day meditating, taking a walk, or making a gratitude list. Do something that’s more life-giving than staring at an electronic screen.
- Instead of distracting yourself with mindless game apps, pick up a good book. Read something that inspires you, deepens your wisdom, and leads to inner growth.
- Switch all devices off 60 minutes before sleeping to have better quality sleep.
- Set designated times to check your notifications and messages during the day, such as once every couple of hours.Do a technology detox periodically by fasting from your phone for a day or two.
- Have cellphone-free hours during the day so you won’t be anxious when your phone isn’t around.
Honestly asking ourselves if we’re addicted to our cellphones can lead us to drop negative behaviors and develop healthier, more balanced use. It returns to us control over technology, so we avoid becoming cellphone addicts.
Be honest. Are you addicted to your cellphone?
—brian j plachta