Admit it, if you’re reading this, you’re probably addicted to your phone. Between checking your phone first thing in the morning, obsessing over every notification and scrolling through TikTok all night, many of us are on our phones from the moment we wake up to being the last thing we see before sleep.
While it has its benefits, smartphone use or rather, abuse, has consequences, ranging from mild to problematic. Like most things, the time we spend on our mobile phones can lead to over dependency.
Do you spend a lot of time on your phone? Can’t be separated from it for too long? Find yourself checking notifications every few seconds? Those are early signs of mobile phone addiction.
Is smartphone addiction real?
Mobile phones are now a necessity rather than a luxury. We use them for everyday activities from playing video games, messaging our friends, and browsing the Internet on the go. It’s hard to live life without one.
The introduction of social media platforms only added to our screen time through the years. This constant need to be connected and in the loop, whether with loved ones, influencers and celebrities or with real world news, has us tethered to our screens like never before.
Research shows that half of Australian kids from ages 6 to 13 are given phones by their parents as gifts. The parents themselves admitted to spending an hour and a half scrolling through their phones in front of their kids, normalising the habit for them.
Smartphone addiction isn’t measured by overuse alone. The way your phone habits dictate your everyday life should be considered if you’re thinking about a digital detox..
Like with other addictions, phone use leads to short-term gratification, but doesn’t actually give any lasting satisfaction.
This short-term gratification leads to the brain’s release of dopamine, an organic chemical commonly associated with happiness. Over time, cell phone use morphs from occasional enjoyment to dependency.
The amount of time we spend on our phones isn’t the only indication of smartphone addiction. It’s also seen in the inability to refrain from checking notifications, whether it’s from habit or fear of being out of the loop.
Obsessive phone usage not only results in adverse physical consequences like eye problems, but can also affect our mental health.
Notable side effects of smartphone overuse
Eye strain and tech neck may become issues with prolonged cell phone use, but it isn’t the only cause for concern. Smartphone dependency not only affects our physical health but our overall wellness.
Mental health is one area that suffers because of cell phone addiction. Aside from the itch to be updated with social media, smartphone users are also bombarded with current events which disturbs their peace of mind.
Take for instance “doomscrolling”, the phenomenon where phone users consume an extreme amount of negative news online and are unable to cope or relate with reality as a result. Prolonged exposure to such news are known to overwhelm people and cause anxiety.
Doomscrolling isn’t the only way phone addiction affects our sleep. Too much screen time means lesser sleep. The reason why you’re drowsy and grumpy in the morning might be because you’re on your phone too much.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you might have a hard time concentrating on tasks and paying attention, affecting your work performance and blocking your creativity and ability to think on your toes.
Excessive smartphone use also affects our relationship with friends and loved ones. Constantly being on our phones steals quality time that we could be spending with the people we love.
This affects children the most, as being exposed to gadgets at an early age can stunt their development and mental growth.
Common symptoms of cell phone addiction
Obsessive phone usage is actually an observable problem and early detection is one of the keys to addressing this problem.
One indicator of phone addiction is an incessant need to check push notifications, regardless of what you’re doing or what time of day it is. This desire to constantly check your screen can be due to apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.
Speaking of social media, these platforms have connected us like never before. They allow us to reconnect with old acquaintances and to show friends what we’re up to in real-time.
Privacy concerns aside, over indulgence on social media can lead to some serious FOMO (fear of missing out). Even by being off social media for a couple of hours, you can feel like you’ve missed something important.
Another sign that you’re suffering from mobile phone addiction is if you can’t leave the house without it. Simple errands like a quick dash to the shops feel impossible without bringing your phone, when in reality do you really need it?
This extends to feeling anxious whenever you can’t feel your phone in your handbag or pockets, which can be a stressful and anxious feeling.
You might also be experiencing phantom vibrations, which is when you think your phone is vibrating or ringing when it actually isn’t.
Addressing your addiction
Does all of this hit a little too close to home? If you think you’re suffering from mobile phone addiction, here are some ways to detox from your device. If you find that your phone use is severely affecting your day-to-day life, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
Acknowledging that you can’t stay away from your phone is a good way to start.
Most phones allow you to set limits for your screen time in the settings. You can use this feature for individual apps or for the whole device to actively limit the time you spend glued to your phone. You can also track your screen time to check whether you’re making any improvements.
Make the effort to reconnect with friends and family around you. Physical communication is better than phone calls and text messages as it allows for body language, bond strengthening, and intimacy.
If you’re with friends or family, turning off your phone or putting it on do not disturb mode means you’ll be less distracted and more present in the moment.
Is your phone a shield against reality? Some people use their phones as means to cope with reality and as a substitute to personal interaction.
Smartphone abuse also adversely affects our sleep. It steals time that you should be spending resting and rejuvenating both body and mind, often leaving you drowsy and grumpy in the morning.
Whenever you’re about to go to bed, refrain from using your phone or other gadgets that emit blue light, as these can affect sleep quality. Putting them off or on airplane mode can also lessen the temptation to check them.
These are small steps, sure, but journeys usually begin with baby steps. What matters most is acknowledging that there’s a problem and actually wanting to make the changes in your life.
Our phones allow us to have meaningful conversations with people around the globe, and make daily life easier. Just try not to become obsessed.