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Life With Smart Phone Addiction

Everyone is on their phones

Do you ever think about our lives before smart phones? Before social media? Before almost every one of us began walking around with a tiny computer in our pocket or purse? We talked to each other. When is the last time you talked to a complete stranger in the grocery line? Or while waiting at the doctor’s office? Or while you’re pumping gas? Can you imagine how awkward it must have been to be around people without having that crutch to allow us to avoid communication? Or, maybe it would have been nice to make eye contact with people, make small talk, meet someone new and learn about something we may not have been able to learn about otherwise.

Do you automatically pull out your phone when there’s a lull in your activity? When there’s a commercial on tv? Or even when you’re doing something that requires your attention or when you’re with another person? I’m guilty of a few of these things. Pull up to a stoplight… check my phone. Take a quick break from what every I’m doing… look at Facebook. I will say that I’ve made an effort to be less attached to my phone when I’m in the company of others. I have a friend that I don’t see very often. We grew up together. We’ll be sitting at my dining table catching up over a drink, and she’ll suddenly pull out her phone and get on Facebook. Literally while we’re in the middle of a conversation. It drives me crazy and hurts my feelings all at once.

How it feels to eat with someone who is always on their phone

Anti-Social Media

Although it’s called “social” media, it’s made us less social. In 2017, former U.S. president Barack Obama spoke to Britain’s Prince Harry in an interview for BBC radio. Mr. Obama said “Social media is a really powerful tool for people of common interests to convene and get to know each other and connect. But then it’s important for them to get offline, meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighborhood and get to know each other”. His statements are absolutely true, and highlight the potential fall of social relations if we rely too much on “social” media. In fact, research shows that social media can help to build and maintain social relationships, supplement and support face-to-face interaction, and reflect existing socializing styles rather than eroding social skills. However, social media's impact tends to displace human interaction rather than supplement it.

People check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications.

Do you have a Phone Addiction?

Smart phones are changing our social interactions in many ways. Did you know there was such a thing as “phone addiction”? I see it every single day. Working at a university, I’m surrounded by 20-somethings. When I walk over to the Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up, I’m saddened to see students on their phones as they walk around campus, and even more disheartened to see them lined up, all looking down at their phones. It’s like some sort of futuristic robot-in-the-coffee-line scene from a movie. I also see it at home, and I’m afraid my toddler is noticing it too. A recent article in Psychology Today says that new research shows negative impacts of smart phone use in front of children. Are you surprised? When we’re staring at our phones, we’re distracted, tuned out, and I know that our kids are seeing that.

Studies have shown that spending too much time on your phone is bad for your focus and mental health. I believe it. Psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind Larry Rosen told CNBC that most people check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications. He offers some practical tips to help us spend less time on our phones and break the addiction.

  • Keep yourself on a schedule – Set an alarm specifying how often you can check your phone.
  • Turn off as many push notifications as possible – This is a simple way to cut down on distractions.
  • Take distracting apps off your home screen – Better yet, delete them. A lot of our phone usage is unconscious behavior.
  • Kick your devise out of bed – Don’t let your phone be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you check in the morning. Use a regular alarm clock and keep your phone out of reach.
  • If you have a smart speaker, put it to use – Using smart speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home can help you live more screen-free.
  • Try turning on your phone’s grayscale – This makes your screen less desirable to look at.
  • Stay accountable – Consider installing an app that tracks your smart phone habits.
Teenage Kids with Cellphone Addiction and Life before Cellphones

Rediscovering Human Connections

So, what do we do now that we’re not constantly glued to our phone and/or social media, and can enjoy all of the things we have been missing out on? Get out there and be more social! Join a book club. Take a cooking class. Find out what events are going on in your community that will allow you to be around real, live people. Look for a local “game night”. Go to a bar or coffee shop and make conversation with strangers. Find a hobby that’s social. When you’re interacting with the world around you, rather than tied to the tiny computer in your hand, you’re going to experience much more fulfilling relationships, allow yourself an opportunity to learn more and experience more, have more meaningful social interactions, and I think you’ll probably be an all-around more fulfilled person. After all, you can’t enjoy the world around you if you can’t see it.

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