Are You Addicted to Your Smart Phone?

Our last blog, “Is a Life Without Boredom Healthy?” talked about the distinct lack of boredom in this technology-filled society, and how that boredom may be beneficial to your mental health and clarity about your life. If you watched the Ted Talk mentioned, you know the speaker addressed the ubiquitousness of smart phones and their relation to the distinct lack of boredom in our lives.

Most people think of “addiction” as being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling. These substances or activities that get in the way of living a healthy life can be very obvious to others, even from afar. But what about an addiction to your smart phone? Wait, what? How can you be addicted to a phone? It’s just a tool that you use to connect with people, get directions, claim bragging rights in Clash of Clans. Or is it?

Smart phones have taken over the landscape of society, and of course they are extremely useful tools. But like all power tools, they can be dangerous if not used wisely. All apps are vying for your precious attention, doing whatever they can to keep you coming back more often and stay longer, and their success is evident in just about any public place. Former Google designer Tristan Harris said, “…I have literally a thousand engineers whose job is to get your attention from you…The CEO of Netflix recently said ‘our biggest competitors are Facebook, YouTube, and sleep.” Who hasn’t had trouble sleeping at night and reached for their phone to take a quick peek? How many of us have checked in to our social media only to realize an hour or more has gone by before we knew it? We look to our phones on bus and subway rides, waiting in doctor’s offices and at stop lights. We cram a few minutes in while drinking our coffee, and scroll through new posts while on vacation.

In the Ted Talk “How Boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas”, the speaker humorously notes, “The only people who refer to their customers as “users” are drug dealers and technologists.” Participants in her “phone free challenge” reported feeling shaky, itchy, feeling crazy, needing the phone like “a baby needs its mother,” and feeling frustrated without it. Some people even reported actual physical withdrawal-type feelings like headaches from the stress of being without something they had come to rely on and feel they needed. On average, users spend at least two hours a day on their phones. That’s essentially an entire month out of a year! No wonder some of us feel like we can’t live without it!

Are you addicted to your smart phone or some other technology? Can you go a morning, a day, or a week without checking in to your social media or playing your favorite game? What could you be missing out on while you’re reading the latest Tweets and Reddit threads? Does it benefit your mental health, your physical health, and your overall sense of wellbeing to check in on Facebook so often? We certainly aren’t telling anyone to give it all up and live in a cave, but to simply think about how technology is impacting your life, to see it as the tool that it is, and use it wisely. And maybe skip a game or two for some mindful exercise, relaxing with some music or friends, or just…enjoying boredom.