Phone Addiction: Spotting The Symptoms And Taking The Next Steps
Phone addiction is a difficult thing to quantify. We all have so many different reasons to use our phone – from monitoring work emails, to sending funny photos to the family group chat – that there is no easy way to define phone addiction through usage patterns. Therefore, we should instead look out for the symptoms.
A popular way of defining phone addiction is through likening it to substance addiction. For example, a 2020 study defined smartphone addiction as ‘several behaviours (that) produce short-term reward that may
engender persistent behaviour despite knowledge of adverse
Essentially, smartphone addicts use their phones even in situations where it doesn’t benefit them. A 2016 study even listed some of these ‘short-term reward’ behaviours, which include: ‘use in dangerous situations’ (for example, whilst driving), ‘harm or repeated interruptions to work, social or family life’ and ‘anxiety or negative feelings associated with inability to send or receive immediate responses’.
Do you check your phone at the family dinner table or when hanging out with friends? Do you feel stressed when you can’t check your emails or social media? Do you spend time on your phone mindlessly scrolling – when you know you’d rather be doing something else – just because you can?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you are exhibiting signs of phone addiction. But do not worry if you have self-diagnosed yourself because you are not alone; nearly half of the people asked in this American survey consider themselves addicted to their phone. And those are only the people being honest with themselves.
Being brutally honest with yourself is crucial. This is because phone addiction can look different in everyone, so you need to take control of your own habits. Once you have obtained an objective viewpoint from where you can critically evaluate your tech use, you can start identifying problem areas.
1. Motivate Yourself
First, you need to ask yourself why you want to beat your addiction?Breaking habits is hard. To stay motivated, you need to have a solid reason as to why you want to ditch your unhealthy digital reliance.
Is it because you want to spend more time with family and friends? Is it because you want to reinvest the time into developing new hobbies? Is it for your physical health? Whatever the reason, it will help you stay focussed towards achieving your personal goals.
2. Ditch Your Excuses
Sometimes our phone’s role in our daily routine blinds us to the unhealthy relationship we have formed with it. We rely on smartphones from the start to the end of our day, for example to sound alarms or keep track of important dates.
This gives us a reason – and often an excuse – to reach for our phone throughout the day. Therefore, remove your phone from the equation where possible: use an alarm clock and buy a paper diary or calendar. Prove to yourself that you are not so reliant on your phone as you may currently feel.
3. Find a Friend
If cutting down on device usage is something you may struggle with, team up with a friend. It is likely that many of your friends, family and colleagues are also suffering from phone addiction, or at least over-dependence, and could do with a helping hand to tackle it.
Not only will tackling addiction with a friend keep you motivated, having someone to hold you accountable will force you to be honest with your tech use and stick to your goals.
Furthermore, you and your friend can plan activities together to distract yourselves from your screens. Through busying yourselves, you will find that want to check your phones far less pressing and effortlessly cut down your phone time. By finding joy away from screens together, you will both find you establish a more healthy relationship with tech.