Are you a smartphone addict?

“We are not meant to know everything, Mae. Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the mysteries of night and the clarity of day? Young people are creating ever-present daylight, and I think it will burn us all alive. There will be no time to reflect, to sleep, to cool.”

The Circle by Dave Eggers is a captivating and haunting read; the book highlights the themes of a pressured connectivity that’s overwhelming and damaging to us in ways we don’t realize. There have been plenty of articles on technology and how it’s changing the world; how it’s beneficial to us for its increased efficiency in application and communication. But there is also a dark side to this technology, and I’m talking on a smaller, more personal scale — your own day-to-day interactions.

A study was done to examine smartphone addiction characteristics in adolescents named ‘The Smartphone Addiction Scale: Development and Validation of a Short Version for Adolescents’ by Kwon, Kim, Cho Yang (2013). Below is a introduction to the study:

This new type of addiction has been caused by fast-developing media including internet and smartphones in advanced IT industries. It has caught the attention of countries all over the world. Owing to South Korea’s advanced IT development, quick access to the internet and fast distribution of smartphones resulted in a serious behavioral addiction, mostly noticeable in a vulnerable class of people including adolescents.

The researchers developed a Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS) to measure addiction in a group of 540 adolescents in Korea. They began with a long list of questions, and based on their methods, narrowed it down to 10 questions to most accurately prove smartphone addiction. Below is the SAS:

  1. Missed planned work due to smartphone use.
  2. Having a hard time concentrating in class, while doing assignments, or while working due to smartphone use.
  3. Feeling pain in the wrists or at the back of neck while using a smartphone.
  4. Won’t be able to stand not having a smartphone.
  5. Feeling impatient and fretful when I am not holding my smartphone.
  6. Having my smartphone on my mind even when I’m not using it.
  7. I will never give up using my smartphone even when my daily life is affected by it.
  8. Constantly checking my smartphone so as to not miss conversations between other people on Twitter and Facebook.
  9. Using my smartphone longer than I intended.
  10. The people around me tell me I use my smartphone too much.

There is no doubting that this is an issue considering a scale of addiction is being created for it. “Is phone overuse that harmful?” you may ask. I believe it is.

From personal experience, I have close friends who are glued to their phone when they are with me. They can’t get off of it. They are constantly taking pictures and obsessively scrolling through feeds — completely ignoring the fact that there is a real person in a room with them.

I used to be glued to my phone. My brother enlightened me one day and I never turned back. We were sitting outside and he was talking to me about something passionately — at the same time I glanced at my phone to see if I had a message. He called me out. I felt awful about not giving him 100% of my attention just because I felt the need to look externally for another person’s message.

If you have a smartphone urge, switch it up and be present. Just listen. Listen to people when they speak. Look them in the eye. Don’t think about who is trying to reach you. Listen to what the person is saying without thinking about what you’re going to say next. Below is more advice I can offer people who suffer from smartphone addiction:

Time to stop looking down:

  1. When you are with other people don’t just be physically there, be mentally there as well. Be in the present and yes, you don’t have to answer every message immediately.
  2. Put your phone out of sight, or leave it in a room. And don’t check it for a few hours. Seriously. There is no excuse unless you are involved in a medical emergency and are on alert.
  3. Realize it’s okay to not be reachable. This dependence has to lessen and people have to realize that just because someone doesn't answer you right away, nothing is wrong. They are simply living their lives.
  4. Get off your email. Yes its okay to check this every so often, but when it becomes a stressor or necessity that’s an issue. In business I understand it’s important to be connected, but not all the time, not at all. And if that’s how it is for you, consider a change.
  5. Go outside. Get comfortable with nature again. Go running. Sit on a park bench. And try your best to stay off your phone. When you are on your phone, you aren't completely there, again you are living life in a screen.
  6. Close your eyes. Listen to the sounds. Feel the breeze (if you’re outside). Bask in silence. Think about things you are grateful for.
  7. Realize you’re being rude. That’s right I said it. I find it extremely rude and actually hurt when people around me insist on being on their phones (unless I’m at work). Because whatever is on your screen is not more important than the time I’m trying to spend with you.
  8. Keep things private. Sharing is cool sometimes. I’m sharing right now. Back then, this could be in a magazine or newspaper and my feedback would be in the form phone calls or even snail mail. Now it all pops up on your screen instantaneously. Why do people post pictures of friends everywhere, to hundreds on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. My generation has almost been conditioned this way it seems.
  9. The first step is realizing you have a problem. People are sucked into this smartphone craze and many are in denial. Saying to me, “Becca, I’m answering a message right now.” Well frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. If you need to take a call, do it outside.
  10. Get a hobby. Do something that you enjoy. Read a book. Go for a walk. Learn something new. You’re not learning anything by posting a picture or scrolling through your Facebook news feed to see what your ‘friends’ are up to.

In summary, there is no substitute for real social interaction. A ‘like’ is a button click — it takes a second. Friendship is more than a second, it’s a shared real time moment where two people are completely present and not distracted with their screen. I think that this issue is taken lightly because it is the way of the world — not my world. It doesn’t have to be this way with zombies sucked into their phones. If you’re a zombie, realize that you’ve got one life, and if you look and interact with your phone more than REAL people, then you have a real addiction. I believe no matter what condition you are in, if you are sick or well, old or young, that smartphone use can be fine in moderation like most things. It’s that moderation part that I’m struggling to see with many of my peers.

Here is another Medium post about technology addiction.

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