Let’s be honest – to say I have an addiction to smartphones would be a complete understatement. It is the first thing I check when I get up, the first thing I go to when I feel awkward, the first thing I go to when I’m bored and absolutely my go-to when normal human interaction just isn’t entertaining enough. In America, smartphones have become our significant others, friends and teachers. They have become so far advanced and full of information that they often serve as an escape from the present for us and this obsession is still growing.
The Ultimate Distraction
How many times have you noticed your boyfriend or girlfriend checking the latest vine, Facebook, Instagram, or #livinthehighlife post mid-conversation. I have even gone to interviews where the manager interviewing me started going on her phone (by the look on her face, it looked like it was social media-related). I am sure at least three out of four of you people who read this blog are viewing it on a mobile device and even more of you would likely have a conniption if you had to go back to your “primitive” flip phones.
Technology is always growing and in the mean time, people tend to desire more and more distance from each other due to their addiction to smartphones. Personal time is often has space intermittently between tweets and Facebook posts. I have learned the hard way to steer clear of those Buzzfeed posts at the bottom of the page. They are a black hole of slide shows that always manage to somehow grab my attention using some absolutely useless information that in the moment, I feel I have always wondered about (i.e. 50 Of The Creepiest Places In The U.S.).
We Are Craving New Information
CEO of smartphone app Delvv, Raefer Gabriel states “[We’re like] a rat gorging on sugary food well past satiety”. He believes our addiction to smartphones originates from a growing behavioral pattern that eventually takes on life of its own. We begin using our phones more and more to “feed that anticipation and desire for information, particularly unpredictable information”. Like with drugs, this induces a dopamine response and provokes us to keep engaging in this behavior.
Gabriel also notes the ongoing rise in social media use and how it’s “adaptive” and “personalized feeds” keep giving users more incentive to “over-consume”. This all tickles those dopamine receptors and keeps us craving more and more information on a regular basis, regardless of what’s going on around us. He likens this addiction to smartphones to that of sex and gambling addictions. Unlike with drugs and alcohol, there are no actual chemicals released into our bodies that produce a euphoric effect, but is simply determined by the release of dopamine we experience from taking in new information.
Loss and the Grieving Process
If you ever google addiction to smartphones, you’ll be amazed by how much material there is on the matter. There even appears to a condition listed as Nomophobia on Psychology Today. This is the condition characterized by the fear of being without your smartphone and it reportedly affects 40 percent of the population. I would personally venture to say this is a rough estimate and there could definitely be more. When you think you’ve lost your smartphone, you feel the world is crashing down.
Many U.S. citizens can relate to the symptoms of smartphone addiction:
- Checking constantly: You need to constantly check in with your phone to see if you got any new texts, emails, alerts, tweets, available upgrades or Clash of Clans battles. Many of us have fallen victim to the ghost ringer – when you feel a buzz in your pocket, even when you don’t have your phone on you. This alarms you so you have to check. Only there is no phone and you aren’t missing anything.
- Putting up a brick wall: Someone is talking to you and you actually do feel your phone buzz so you check it. At this point the rest of the conversation that’s taking place in the real world is now on mute.
- In a rush, but you must make time to grab it: You are in a crazy rush to work. You’ve already left and you realize you’ve left the one piece of your life that brings it all together… your smartphone, so you rush back to grab it.
- Feelings of anxiety and emptiness: You realize that your phone isn’t on you. Therefore, you feel lost.
- Texting while driving: Regardless of the heightened risk factors for getting into an accident, you just can’t wait.
If you can’t relate to these feelings, the odds are you may not own a smartphone yet or you are just lying to yourself.
We Are Living In a World of Technology Overload
The truth of the matter is that we’re now living in a generation of technology overload. We don’t see much more of the family time watching network television. We prefer to stream videos on our mobile tablets, all while checking in on our social media game. Many of us feel the constant need to take in new and buzzworthy information. While all of this can be very entertaining, it drives us farther and farther away from what’s real in our lives.
These assumptions I’ve stated before have actually been run through numerous studies, which show that more Americans are guilty of taking their cellphones everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE. A recent study found that 10 percent of the participants were guilty of using their smartphones even during sex. Amongst young adults (ages 18 to 34), this number rises to 20 percent. In what could possibly be the most intimate of moments shared with another person, many people still feel the need to feed their cravings for information.
Smartphone users perhaps feel as if their smartphones are like an extra limb. Media researcher Russell Clayton reported that students in the study demonstrated increases in blood pressure, heart rate and self-reported levels of anxiety. They also reported feelings of lessening when they did not have their smartphones. He says “they reported feeling a loss of identity”.
How to End an Addiction to Smartphones
This type of behavior is likely having a negative impact on productivity and interpersonal communication. It tends to take away the simple intimacy we tend to have with one another in our everyday lives and distracts us from our professional and personal obligations.
While your rapacious addiction to smartphones won’t necessarily take your house away from you like hitting the crack pipe, it can still keep you from enjoying the little things in life and prevent you from fulfilling your potential in other areas of your life. Just like with substance abuse, acknowledging you have a problem is the first step. If your chronic smartphone use does worry you and potentially bothers those close to you, then there are a few little tweaks you can make to make the rest of your life more fruitful and productive. Some of these include:
- Delete any and all useless apps: If you are someone who gets stuck playing Trivia Crack or Candy Crush at work or while spending time with family, then just get rid of it. Yes, these apps may be fun, but they’re not worth the time energy if they are going to keep you distant.
- Set aside a specific time for social media: This means set aside maybe an hour or less a day to check your social media pages. Social media is a way for users to share content and stay in touch. It shouldn’t completely replace human interaction.
- Don’t acknowledge texts during work hours: This means save the prolonged text battles for another time of the day, when you aren’t working towards making a living.
- Embrace some actual human interaction: Make time to spend with friends and brake out of the everyday monotony.
Treatment for Addictive Behaviors
Whether you struggle with addictive behaviors, such as an addiction to smartphones, or substance addiction, Morningside Recovery is here to help. Morningside understands that many of these addictions tie into underlying or co-occuring disorders. Therefore, we offer many mental health rehab services, including:
You may reach us anytime at 855-631-2135. Our treatment specialists will assist you and help you find the right treatment option for you.