Are you digitally dependent? We all say we can live without our devices. Some of us may even remember using public pay phones or pagers, and we survived. Before answering, here’s a simple test: put away all devices and see how long you can last without wanting to pick it up, wondering whether you’ve had a text or whether someone has posted something on social media and you missed it. Chances are you won’t make it past the hour.
The smartphone has really come into its own over the past decade and become part of daily life. Communication may be the main function of a phone, but the evolution of technology has been astounding. We work on our devices, send emails, do research, access maps, read the news, play games, get advice on everything from medical symptoms to fixing your car. The information is endless and instant, which brings us instant gratification.
Addiction of any sort begins with pleasure. The brain releases dopamine (a chemical messenger that control the brain’s reward and pleasure points) when you check your social media account or have a frantic WhatsApp chat. The feeling is addictive and excessive screen time exacerbates the situation.
Here are definitive signs you’re addicted or well on your way to becoming addicted to your phone. The same signs can be used for any other device, but as the phone is the most portable, use this as the standard device.
- Do you carry your phone everywhere including the bathroom?
- Do you look at your phone before you go to sleep and the first thing when you wake up?
- Do you panic when you think you’ve misplaced your phone or left it at home?
- Are you on your phone when socialising / in a meeting / driving?
- Do you obsessively check for missed calls / texts / new posts on social media?
- When you’re on holiday, are you still on your phone as much as during a normal day?
- Are you digitally multi-tasking, i.e. watching TV and looking at Instagram or Facebook?
- Do you feel like something important is missing when you don’t look at your phone for five minutes?
- Does your battery barely last the day? And when it runs out, do you desperately look to recharge it?
The first thing to establish is that there could be a problem. Alcoholics attend AA meetings when they realise there’s a major problem and they need help (or they’re forced to by law). Once you admit that you’re digitally dependent, try these solutions to wean yourself off. We’re not saying to give it up for Lent, but gain control over your usage.
Choose an appropriate time, preferably a weekend, and put the phone away from Friday to Sunday. This is the most drastic solution but it’s also the best way to make you realise how reliant you’ve become. Make plans ahead and just chill out.
Keep it away from the bedroom (and bathroom!):
Before going to sleep, place the phone out of reach like in the living room. Get an alarm clock so you don’t use that as an excuse. And seriously, do you need to be on the phone while on the toilet?
Socialise without it:
If you’re at a dinner / party / date, keep the phone in your bag / pocket and enforce the rule that during the social occasion, you will not look at it. Who cares what your friends are posting – you should be having a good time and indulging in human interaction.
Silence is golden:
Put the phone on silent and turn off notifications. If you don’t hear it constantly beeping and ringing, you won’t be tempted to look at it.
Work emails, be gone:
Control the urge to check work emails on the weekend, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. It can wait. Unless it’s incredibly urgent, don’t stress yourself out.
All bad habits take time, determination and discipline to wean yourself off the device. It will be a challenge but if you think that the average phone user touches their phone over 2,500 times a day, then there really is a problem. Go to the cinema, play with your kids, go for a run – anything’s better than constantly fiddling with the phone!