Smartphone Addiction

Today was a big day. I inadvertently allowed my cell phone to go for a swim! Quite literally, as I dropped it right into the kiddie pool in the backyard. It was an incredibly brief plunge, into very shallow waters, protected by an Otterbox case. However, to be on the safe side, I left it in a container of rice for 8 hours. Quite possibly the longest 8 hours of my life. Ashamed as I am to admit it, I’m still reeling from the separation anxiety I felt all day. Perhaps if I sleep in a box of rice I’ll feel better by morning, too.

My side of the story is surely different from the one the phone would tell. I imagine that the day was much like the human equivalent of a vacation. A well deserved period of relaxation and recuperation from dealing with my constant demands. A chance to power down, cool off, and rest. I imagine it was a dream come true for my phone.

For me, however, the day was far from relaxing. Sadly, it felt as if I was missing something. Every minute of every hour. Don’t get me wrong, my days are spent chasing after small children so I cannot and am not glued to my phone all day. But the knowledge that I had no access to it drove me absolutely out of my mind. There were times when I was positive I had heard a notification sound…okay maybe a couple dozen times. I’d catch myself every time, remembering that I had removed the battery and it was not possible to have heard it. I heard phantom cell phone sounds. If that doesn’t scare you, it should. The device was not on and was not trying to communicate anything to me, but I heard it anyway! All day long.

The part that I’m still struggling with is that after I found out that it had survived the swim, I swore to myself that I could and would break this addiction. I (mostly) jokingly said to my husband that I felt as if I was close to developing a nervous tick, all because I couldn’t check the stupid (I mean smart) phone! Nothing is that important, so why did it make me feel so powerless and isolated? And what did I need to change to break this habit? Because if I’m being honest, I didn’t learn a thing. I might check it a bit less often now, but I should be able to ignore it entirely until I truly need it for something. But at this point, I still find myself Googling stuff, checking social media, or playing a silly game whenever I can. What is this power that such a tiny device seems to hold over me? Am I the only one?

So what is someone like me, faced with these questions, to do? Use my smartphone to research it on the internet, of course! What I found was truly eye opening. The sheer volume of information on the topic showed me that I am not alone. While that was initially a slight comfort, I quickly realized that I needed to figure out why we are all so attached to our cell phones and how to break this habit.

First of all, a true “addiction” entails growing a tolerance to a substance that you need more of to get a high. So as much as I hate how frequently I feel the need to check my phone, apparently addiction isn’t the right word. But the way we are all glued to our smartphones is a clear “dysfunction.” Just observe those around you on a given day. It’s astonishing to stroll down the street on a nice day and take note of how many people have phone in hand while they walk, shop, eat, and even converse with real live people. Our smartphones give us the ability to connect on so many levels, but sometimes at the cost of connecting with the real live world in front of us.

The bottom line is that our smartphones are multi-functional tools that are unlike anything else we have ever had in the palm of our hands. So while initially a mobile phone was simply a device to make and receive phone calls while out and about, it’s evolved into so much more. Many of us send and receive texts and emails, do research online, browse social media, shop and make purchases, and even play mindless games to pass the time…a world of possibilities in one tiny device. It’s no wonder our brains are so enthralled with the capabilities our “phones” have. Realizing that it is a problem and understanding why are the easy parts. Recognizing how to change my behaviors and following through will be the real challenges.

Smartphones are excellent tools and I respect the necessity in our busy society to have them. But I’ve been forced to ask myself if I overuse this tool (YES!) and make a conscious effort to make real changes. Several months ago my husband suggested installing an app on my phone that would track how and when I use my phone. At the time, I shot down the idea because we have unlimited data, so why should I even be concerned with that? But I realize now that I really do need to monitor what I am doing and ask myself why I’m doing it. It is definitely time to step away from the smartphone.