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Smartphone Addiction and Its Impact

Smartphones are powerful tools. They allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family 24/7, play games, listen to podcasts, and access an amount of information that people even 20+ years ago would have found unrealistic, but how do these devices affect us?

Introduction

 

We have access to information regarding essentially any topic one can think of. Interested in knitting? There are thousands of youtube videos covering how to knit. Want to learn how to start an ecommerce business? You’ve got access to articles about it. The biggest driver of smartphone use however, is social media. 

I’ll start this off by saying that social media is addictive. Well maybe not addictive, but it’s certainly habit-forming. Think about the following scenario:

  1. You’re sitting on your couch watching tv.
  2. Your phone vibrates/ dings
  3. You’ve got a text from a friend. You check it.
  4. Out of habit you close the message thread and open a social media app of your choice.
  5. Scroll for a few minutes 
  6. *DING* your friend has responded
  7. You open the text from your friend.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 for all of eternity and wonder where your life has gone. 

 

In all seriousness, this is a habit loop that I often find myself in, and I’m sure you’ve found yourself in something similar. Easily burning 20-30 minutes of your time. Sometimes killing time is good. Other times it’s detrimental to your productivity and can be a waste of your day. 

A New Drug

Believe it or not, social media doesn’t just happen to be addictive, it’s designed to be addictive.  Every time you open Instagram or Facebook, and you have a little red notification your brain releases dopamine. It feels good to be validated through the number of likes a post receives, or the number of messages one has. Validation feeds into our brain’s reward system. Another way our reward system is hijacked by social media is by the constant introduction of a new stimulus. 

 

Whenever you refresh your feed or continue to scroll you’re faced with new content. A new stimulus. The bright colors, new places, funny memes, attractive people, etc. are all ways that social media keeps us hooked and wanting more. 

 

Staggering Statistics

 

There’s no doubt that smartphone use among Americans is running rampant. Walk into any restaurant, grocery store, gym, or coffee shop and one thing is guaranteed; people will be staring at their phone. At any point throughout the day where there seems to be ‘empty space’, we fill it with smartphone use. Mindlessly scrolling Instagram or Facebook. In fact, I often feel like other people might think I’m weird if I’m just spacing off while waiting in line at a store rather than being on my phone. 

 

Recently I’ve been wondering how much time people spend on their phones and the results are pretty intense. 

 

In a poll done in February 2021, about half of the participants claimed that, excluding smartphone use for work, they spent an average of five to six hours each day on their phones. 

 

Yes, you read that right. Five to six hours! 

 

Another 22% of respondents claimed to use their phone on a daily average of three to four hours. Only 5% of the users who responded to the poll claimed they used their smartphone for less than an hour every day. 18% of respondents said they have no restrictions on their use of mobile apps or services as of the end of 2020.

 

These results also vary by age range and as you could guess, the younger generations use their smartphones more. 

 

In fact, one study shows that the average person born after 1996 watches over 7.2 hours of video each day. 

Am I Addicted to My Phone?

 

You may be reading this blog post thinking “I spend a lot of time on my phone, but am I addicted?”

Unless your smartphone habits are having serious negative effects on your daily life, I would say no. However, you don’t have to be an addict to be conscious of your use.

If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it may be worth reconsidering your current levels of use:

  • Neck, back, or wrist pain from staring at/ scrolling on your phone.
  • Decreased relationship satisfaction due to never being present
  • Work interferences such as not meeting deadlines due to smartphone usage
  • Eye Strain
  • Mental Fatigue (AKA Smartphone Fatigue)
  • Decreased attention span or ability to focus
  • Increased Anxiety for seemingly no reason.

Tips for Decreasing Phone Use

 

If you’re noticing that your phone use is having a negative impact on your life, then it may be time to cut back. Any time you have a bad habit, it’s difficult to know how to address it, but here are some simple things you can do to cut down on your smartphone use:

•  Set limits – By setting limits on different social media apps through your settings, you can decrease the amount of time spent on these apps. For instance, I have my instagram set up to where I can only use it for one hour each day before I’ll get a pop up reminder that I’m over my limit. This helps me with sticking with my goals.

  • Place a rubber band around your phone – This one might seem silly, but it’s useful. Everytime you subconsciously go to reach for your phone, having to remove the rubber band first will remind you to ask yourself why you’re reaching for it in the first place. 
  • Replace it with another habit – Instead of reaching for your phone every time you have time to kill, try reaching for a book instead. 
  • Take note of how you feel – Next time you find yourself doomscrolling, take a moment to recognize how it makes you feel. Do you feel relaxed and mindful? Or do you feel anxious and unfulfilled? My guess would be the latter. 
  • Fill your time with more meaningful activities –  Plan something fun and leave your phone away from you. A night out with friends, a romantic date with your partner, an evening of board games with the family, etc. These are all great examples of activities you can partake in to be present. Once you’re going on an activity like this, odds are you’ll forget all about your phone. 
  • Don’t label it as addiction – When you label your phone use as an addiction, you give it power. By simply considering it a bad habit, the odds of you being able to change are much higher.
  • Moderation is key – Nothing in life truly exists in black and white (regardless of how much our minds want us to think that. You don’t have to be a complete Luddite to take control of your phone use. Be mindful and not extreme. 

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