I get it. We are in 2015 and I haven’t met one person without a smart phone. I now see children getting their own cell phones at a younger age than I’ve ever seen before. My generation certainly didn’t get their own phone at the age of ten! Many parents feel that is it a necessity once they start attending school all day, as if the school system that has been in place for a very long time is incapable of watching over the child. I laugh at the insanity of giving the responsibility of a cell phone to a child who needs help tying their shoes.
Then you have your average working person who relies on emailing and text messaging as a work tool on a daily basis. And there are those folks that are constantly reassured by repetitive finger swiping and button pushing all day long. At restaurants I always notice those people that are waiting on a buddy to show up and to pass time they feel the need to get out their iphone because God forbid they be caught looking around and taking in the scene! And hey what about you? Do you find that you are perpetually checking emails and Facebook all throughout the day? Maybe you even get excited when your phone buzzes, demanding your attention and constant connectivity…There has to be balance though, just like with anything in your life. So what does that line look like and where do you place yourself when it comes to cell phone addiction and attachment?
Ask yourself these 6 questions to determine if you are crossing the line and heading towards addiction:
- Does your cell phone prevent you from engaging face to face with the ones you love? I know alot of people that seem to prefer to busily bury their noses in their phones rather than to take the opportunity to visit with their spouses or friends, even when those friends and family are in the same room or sitting at the same table. At dinner last week I looked over to see a group of college aged girls all sitting together each with their faces lit up by their smart phones, seeking digital connection rather than sharing conversations with those they were with!
- Has it left you lonely by creating a false sense of reality through social media? It really doesn’t matter that you have 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook. Or that 400 people follow you on Twitter. Because when push comes to shove, how many of those people will actually offer that shoulder to cry on, that free ride to airport, words of encouragement when you’re in need? But if your ‘scene’ is online, and your conversations are held via texts and Facebook, maybe you should pay attention to this word addiction.
- Has it become the way you cope with negative or positive feelings? I wonder how then is that person who uses drugs and alcohol to cope so different from you? If you have a void in your life and are filling it with social media or spending your time rooting around your digital backyard for elusive bits of highly valued treasure to make yourself feel better, how is that so drastically different from the alcoholic who finds that booze helps with coping with the anxiety or depression? My hope is that your phone’s not an escape route but I ask because I’ve seen it happen.
- Are you able to control when you use it, how much or how long you use it, where you do it, and with whom you do it? Can you put the phone away in a drawer for even an hour and not worry about what you might be missing out on? Would that cause you too much anxiety? Or do you always know where your phone is and have it within reach?
- Can you fathom going to bed and waking up without looking at your cell phone first? Or maybe you are one that can exercise self control, moderation, and restraint…Like at dinner – do you compromise social etiquette by checking your phone constantly? I’d challenge you to put it away when it comes to outings with friends and family, dinner table time, and periodically throughout the day no matter what you are up to!
- Are you able to leave your phone turned off while driving? Because otherwise you are compromising your own health! And that sounds like what any therapist would say to an alcoholic – you aren’t being safe quite frankly, and even putting others in danger through your own actions.
Using your cell phone on a daily basis can lead to a slippery slope. I bet if you took a brain scan of someone who is constantly connected, you would see a surge of dopamine, a pleasure-seeking chemical that drives us towards addictive behaviors, each time they got a new notification. Compare that to sex addiction or a gambling addiction. It stimulates the same part of the brain that rewards your body.
You must be disciplined and mindful of your time when you are around others. It can steal opportunities to connect with friends and family that may never come back around. In some ways it is oppressive to think that we can be slaves to our phones. Being present takes work. Listening without thinking about a new text or email is difficult for those who find themselves constantly seeking to connect on some level. It leaves gaps in your current romantic life if you feel like your spouse finds the phone more important than being intimate with you, knowing fully that is not their intention but it is their action that speaks volumes. I could go on and on about the negative balance of cell phone use but I wont. I’m going to end by encouraging you to connect on a much deeper level with the one you love today and turn it off. See what happens.
Written by Kayla Proffitt, Life Development at Innovation360