My husband always tells me that I’m addicted to my phone because whenever I’m free (which means about 30 mins during the day when my daughter naps or after 8.00/8.30 p.m) I tend to be a lot with my phone. However, I don’t have a Facebook nor a Twitter account and rarely write messages at this time. What I do mostly is read the world news on different websites.
During the day, whenever I get a message I tend to reply straightaway but when I go to bed my phone is always on silent mode, with ‘vibrate off’. It wouldn’t disturb me to switch my phone off completely either. I must however admit that I also find myself at times with my phone and just checking the weather, the time or just not sure why it’s in my hands.
Would you call that addiction? I thought ‘maybe’ … so I took up a few tests (for example the one from Huffington Post) about addiction to phones and fortunately it doesn’t seem like I’m an addict.
Well… NOT YET … And anyway, one may argue how far these tests are reliable. Wouldn’t you? Those on a more ‘advanced’ level could also take up tests on whether they are addicted to Whats App or any other social media.
It’s great to know that there are numerous apps out there ( Break free cell addiction, Usage Monitoring, Non Intrusive Notifications, Phone Management Tools, Usage Statistics) that can help you get out of this ‘addiction’. These apps help you monitor how often you are using your social media or even your phone and help you monitor your ‘free time’ which you could of course use to do something else (e.g. nurturing your relationships, etc.). And anyway there must surely be more important things to do than getting on social media day and night. You’d agree with that one, right?
The first step to overcoming an addiction problem or any problem, is first of all to realise you have one. If you don’t think you’ve got one or you are in complete denial then read no further. But if like me, you think ‘may be’, then try to take a few tests. Maybe it’s not addiction yet and you are simply overusing your phone!
In an interview, Dr. David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction says, “The analogy that I use is right before they go to bed, the last thing they do before they pass out is check their phone and the minute they open their eyes, they check their phone. Doesn’t that sound like a smoker? This is what we used to hear with smokers is that the last thing they would do before they go to bed is they’d have their last cigarette.”
Now, does that sound like you?
According to CNN’s Kelly Wallace here are 10 Signs you could look for to determine if you have a problem:
- When you check your phone to see the current temperature instead of opening a window, and/or when you check your phone to see the current time instead of looking at the watch that’s right on your wrist.
- When you have to consciously say to your spouse “Let’s put our phones away” while watching TV because it’s more common that they’re out than away
- If you are answering emails in a dimly lit reception area while waiting for your massage therapist to de-stress you, you may have a problem.
- When your kids have to text you their carry-out orders because you’ve lost the ability to retain information that is not received on your phone.
- When you hope you hit a bunch of red lights on the way home so you can comment on a Facebook post.
- When one of your daughter’s first drawings of you has a BlackBerry in your hand.
- When you wake up, you grab your phone and check it before you get up to pee.
- When you drop a phone on your face because you’re dozing off.
- When you choose your clothing based on the best pockets to hold your phone.
- When you are staring at photos you took on your phone while the actual moment is taking place right in front of you.
I’ve come through a very interesting article about ‘phone addiction’ by Susan Davis from WebMDFeature which I wanted to share. It’s a great read.
Why Smartphones Hook Us In, Plus Tips On Reclaiming Your Time And Concentration.
I’ll admit it: I check my smartphone compulsively. And the more I use it, the more often the urge to look at it hits me.
In the orthodontist’s office. Walking my kids to school. In meetings. Even while making breakfast. Sometimes it is in my hand before I even know what I’m searching for. Sometimes I tap the screen absent mindedly — looking at my email, a local blogger, my calendar, and Twitter.
I’m not the only one struggling with this very modern compulsion. According to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center, 46% of all American adults now own a smartphone — up a whopping 25% from 2011.
And smartphone use can get very heavy. In a study of 1,600 managers and professionals, Leslie Perlow, PhD, the Konosuke Matsushita professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School, found that:
- 70% said they check their smartphone within an hour of getting up.
- 56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
- 48% check over the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights.
- 51% check continuously during vacation.
- 44% said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.
“The amount of time that people are spending with the new technology, the apparent preoccupation, raises the question ‘why?’, says Peter DeLisi, Academic Dean of the Information Technology Leadership Program at Santa Clara University in California. “When you start seeing that people have to text when they’re driving, even though they clearly know that they’re endangering their lives and the lives of others, we really have to ask what is so compelling about this new medium?”
Hook or Habit?
Whether smartphones really “hook” users into dependency remains unclear.
But “we already know that the Internet and certain forms of computer use are addictive,” says David Greenfield, PhD, a West Hartford, Conn., psychologist and author of Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyber Freaks, and Those Who Love Them.
“And while we’re not seeing actual smartphone addictions now,” Greenfield says, “the potential is certainly there.”
A true addiction entails a growing tolerance to a substance (think drugs or alcohol) so you need more to get “high,” uncomfortable symptoms during withdrawal, and a harmful impact on your life, Greenfield says.
Computer technologies can be addictive, he says, because they’re “psychoactive.” That is, they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings.
Email, in particular, gives us satisfaction due to what psychologists call “variable ratio reinforcement.” That is, we never know when we’ll get a satisfying email, so we keep checking, over and over again. “It’s like slot machines,” Greenfield says. “We’re seeking that pleasurable hit.”
Smartphones, of course, allow us to seek rewards (including videos, Twitter feeds, and news updates, in addition to email) anytime and anywhere. Is such behavior unhealthy?
That really depends on whether it’s disrupting your work or family life, Greenfield says.
Such a disruption could be small — like ignoring your friend over lunch to post a Facebook status about how much you’re enjoying lunch with your friend.
Or it could be big — like tuning out a distressed spouse or colleagues in a meeting to check email, or feeling increasingly stressed by the fact that everyone else seems to be on call 24/7, so we perhaps we should be, too.
Other researchers are seeing clear signs of dysfunction, if not an “addiction.”
According to a 2011 study published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, people aren’t addicted to smartphones themselves as much as they are addicted to “checking habits” that develop with phone use — including repeatedly (and very quickly) checking for news updates, emails, or social media connections.
That study found that certain environmental triggers — like being bored or listening to a lecture — trigger the habits. And while the average user checks his or her smartphone 35 times a day — for about 30 seconds each time, when the information rewards are greater (e.g., having contact info linked to the contact’s whereabouts), users check even more often.
The Interrupted Life
Besides creating a compulsion, smartphones pose other dangers to our mental life, says Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
“The smartphone, through its small size, ease of use, proliferation of free or cheap apps, and constant connectivity, changes our relationship with computers in a way that goes well beyond what we experienced with laptops,” he says. That’s because people keep their smartphones near them “from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, and throughout that time the devices provide an almost continuous stream of messages and alerts as well as easy access to a myriad of compelling information sources.
“By design,” he says, “it’s an environment of almost constant interruptions and distractions. The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts.”
Carr, who writes extensively in The Shallows about the way that computer technology in general may be diminishing our ability to concentrate and think deeply, does not have a smartphone.
“One thing my research made clear is that human beings have a deep, primitive desire to know everything that’s going on around them,” he says.
“That instinct probably helped us survive when we were cavemen and cavewomen. I’m sure one of the main reasons people tend to be so compulsive in their use of smartphones is that they can’t stand the idea that there may be a new bit of information out there that they haven’t seen. I know that I’m not strong enough to resist that temptation, so I’ve decided to shun the device altogether.”
Managing Your Smartphone Use
Can’t give up your phone altogether? Experts suggest these steps to control your usage:
- Be conscious of the situations and emotions that make you want to check your phone. Is it boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Maybe something else would soothe you.
- Be strong when your phone beeps or rings. You don’t always have to answer it. In fact, you can avoid temptation by turning off the alert signals.
- Be disciplined about not using your device in certain situations (such as when you’re with children, driving, or in a meeting) or at certain hours ( for instance, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.). “You’ll be surprised and pleased to rediscover the pleasures of being in control of your attention,” Carr says.
One group of business people at The Boston Group, a consulting firm, discovered just that when they participated in an experiment run by Perlow.
As described in her book, Sleeping with Your Smartphone, the group found that taking regular “predictable time off” (PTO) from their PDAs resulted in increased efficiency and collaboration, heightened job satisfaction, and better work-life balance.
Four years after her initial experiment, Perlow reports, 86% of the consulting staff in the firm’s Northeast offices — including Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. — were on teams engaged in similar PTO experiments.
To manage my own smartphone well, more smartly, I weaned myself away from it.
I started by not checking it for 15 minutes at a time, then 30, then 60 (unless I was dealing with an urgent situation).
I decided to avoid using the web browser on the smartphone unless I truly needed information (such as an address or phone number).
And I swore off using social media on it entirely. I also made a firm commitment to not text, email, or surf the web on my smartphone while driving.
The result? The author of the article claims that after a few days of self-discipline, she found she was concentrating better, was more aware of her surroundings and was more relaxed. As I said earlier, I’m not addicted to my phone but I could well be on the way to it if I’m not careful. The most active app on my phone is Whats App. I have decided to switch off my ‘alerts’ for whats app messages and will try to check my phone less often.
Like Susan Davis, would you be able to manage your smartphone use? I am definitely going to try.