Are you addicted to your cell phone? by Amreen Sekhon

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Do you check your phone first thing in the morning? Do you constantly feel the need to check your phone? If your answer is yes, then you might be suffering from a phenomenon known as cell phone addiction. In case you are still unsure then there is a test which is available online to determine smartphone addiction. It is known as the Smartphone Compulsion Test devised by David Greenfield, PhD, of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. A “yes” answer to more than 5 out of 15 questions indicates that a person likely has a problematic relationship with their cellphone. So try it out and check your score!

Symptoms

Changes in the sleep pattern

Using cellphone at night leads to disturbance of sleeping patterns as the artificial light from the phone damages our melatonin signals and we are unable to sleep on time. Using a cell phone for entertainment such as checking Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc makes us want to stay awake for longer and a constant repetition of this schedule disrupts our natural sleeping patterns.

Feeling anxious when your cell phone is out of sight

A study has shown that 68% of adults feel uncomfortable and anxious whenever their phone is separated from them. They feel the need to reach out to their cellphone. This is also known as a withdrawal symptom.

Reaching out to your phone the first thing after you wake up

If the first thing you do when you open your eyes is reach out to your cell phone and check social media updates, messages or emails this means you are certainly addicted to your cell phone.

Concealing your smartphone use

When you try to find a quiet spot at a party to use your cell phone or if you get irritated if your online time is interrupted then it may be a warning sign.

Fear of missing out

There is always a need to be in the loop and be updated with all important news and information by constantly checking one’s phone. Sometimes individuals wake up the middle of the night to check their phone. There is a fear of missing out and this anxiety leads people to be constantly hooked to their phone.

Phantom vibrations

It is a perception that one’s phone is vibrating or ringing when it is actually not. Researcher Michelle Drouin found out that 9 out of 10 undergraduates at her college experienced phantom vibrations.

A research done by a media analytics company comScore in 2017 revealed that on an average an American adult spends 2 hours 51 minutes on their smartphone. This also means that over a lifetime, 5 years 4 months are spent on social media.

Effects

Impact on Social Relationships

Excessive cell phone usage leads to fights, arguments and even loss of relationships. Nowadays people are practically married to their cell phones as they are constantly hooked on to it. A study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2012 found that even the presence of a cell phone during a conversation- even if no one was using it was enough to make people feel less connected to one another.

Another paper published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior in 2016 found that texting while you are having a conversation with someone else made the talk less satisfying for the people having it, as compared to people who interacted without phones.

Ironically, a cell phone was devised to bring people closer and is driving individuals further apart.

Diminished ability to concentrate and think

The constant ping and buzz of one’s smartphone distract people from their important tasks which lead to slower work. It also interrupts the quiet moments which are essential for creativity and problem-solving. Instead of being alone with your thoughts you are always online and connected.

Distracted driving

Texting while driving or talking on the phone while on the road can be extremely dangerous. On an average 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured every day because of distraction while driving. The overwhelming number of deaths and injuries due to distracted driving can be contributed at least partially to mobile phone overuse. At any given daylight moment across America, around 6,60,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. Currently, there is no national ban on texting while driving, but many states have implemented laws to try to prevent such accidents.

Stress, Anxiety and Depression

When you spend too much time on your phone, other aspects of your life get neglected as your life becomes out of balance. Staring at the screen for alone time leads to stress and anxiousness. A study done by Northwestern University concluded that the more time you spend on your phone, the more likely you will feel depressed.

Using a smartphone for work even at home affects one’s personal life. There is a constant pressure to always be in touch from work. This constant need to continually check and respond to email contributes to higher stress levels and even burnout.

Encouraging self-absorption

A study done in the United Kingdom found that people who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to display negative personality traits such as narcissism. Constantly posting pictures on social media, posting all thoughts and details about one’s life can create an unhealthy self-centeredness, distancing from real-life relationships and making it harder to cope with stress.

Health

According to numerous studies, about 45% of people from the age range 16 to 24 years suffer from back pain due to heavy usage of their smartphones. Besides that, the constant texting can make your fingers stiff and in a bad shape.

Cell phone usage reduces physical activity as the more time you spend using your smartphone, the less you will have to exercise or even walk around.

Treatment

Prohibit cell phone usage

Restrict your cell phone usage for only important calls and emails. Do not use a phone while in a social setting or during meals. Abstain yourself from reaching out to your phone first thing in the morning and bedtime.

If you have children, prohibit the use of phones at meal times and other important occasions. Set a good example for your children by applying the same rules to yourself.

Schedule time

It is necessary to schedule a time to reply messages and emails and not everyone can achieve this because there is a powerful temptation to check the messages and emails. But, if you are serious about being more productive and improving your habits then you must disciple yourself to do this. You don’t have to reply to every message that comes in instantly. Schedule your time to reply those messages and emails in batches.

Delete all unnecessary applications

If your lot of time is spent playing games or watching unnecessary videos on your phone, then the perfect solution is to get rid of all the applications that are consuming a major chunk of your time. Once you delete those applications, you can’t spend time this time on more productive things in your life.

Set custom notifications

We tend to check our phone when we receive a notification, no matter what it may be. So in order to reduce cell phone usage set custom notifications. Set notifications for only those applications that are important so that you are not constantly distracted by the repeated ping or buzz while you are at work or a meeting.

Assign a special dock

Most of us use our cellphone as our alarm clock which is why our phone is always in our room at night. However, you must not keep your cell phone at your bedside, assign a special location for your phone which is away from your bed. This makes sure that your cell phone is not in close proximity to you when you sleep.  Experts have shown that if your phone is nearby at night, you can experience nightmares, inability to sleep, sleep disturbance and waking up several times.

Develop a productive habit

Cell phone addiction is a habitual behaviour and in order to get rid of it, you must replace it with something else. Whenever you are not using your phone, you must choose to do something else i.e. it is necessary to identify a few things you can do when not using your phone e.g. read a book, meditate, exercise etc.
Amreen Sekhon