Is Technology An Addiction?

Cell phone dinner shutterstock_785406007_customHave you ever felt your cell phone buzzing in your pocket, only to realize that you didn’t actually receive a notification? This phenomenon is known as Phantom Vibration Syndrome and it affects 89% of college undergraduates. [1]

Habitually carrying cell phones around in our pockets, they have essentially become an extension of our body. So much so that we often forget they are there until they vibrate. Accustomed to this sensation, a simple muscle spasm is now perceived to be an incoming alert. Anxiously, we check our phones, only to be disappointed that the screen is blank.

Perhaps this is a sign that we are overusing technology. Has it gotten to the point, however, of being an addiction?

If you’ve ever spent time on Facebook, BuzzFeed or other websites, then you may have ventured down the rabbit hole of online quizzes. Take this short Smartphone Compulsion Test to see if you’re a smartphone addict. If you answered “yes” to more than 5 out the 15 questions, then you may have a problematic relationship with your smartphone.

At first designed to make life easier, simplify tasks and provide connectivity, technology has become so much more. Now we walk around with devices pasted to our palms or strapped to our wrists that can do it all with the touch of a button, or in some cases voice activation. We have the ability to connect with friends on Facebook, see the latest weather forecast before heading to the beach, text a partner to pick up milk after work, watch viral cat videos on YouTube or binge the newest, most talked about Netflix original series.

Nowadays people seem to take their phones with them everywhere, and yes that includes the bathroom. The degree to which we rely on phones, and the anxiety that we experience when we don’t have our phone, has given way to the new term “nomophobia” (an abbreviation of no mobile phone phobia). [2] This fear that being away from our phone disconnects us from the world is ironic given that being glued to our phones often detracts us from enjoying real life experiences in the moment.

Ever been to a restaurant and looked around the room? Try it – I can bet that you will see many of the guests looking at their phones. Perhaps they have turned to their phone as a social crutch; however, even those engaged in social banter with others are very likely to glance at their phone from time to time. The average person checks their phone 110 times a day, while the highly addicted check upwards of 900 times a day. [3]

Is it possible that they are awaiting an important business email or a text from the babysitter? Yes, but it is way more likely that they are refreshing their social media news feed or scrolling through memes. We often have the tendency to check our phone without any reason, either out of boredom or habit, despite having done so 2 seconds ago.

Have we truly forgotten how to have a meaningful social existence without viewing the world through our phones?

Technology executives seem to agree, by seldom letting their own children interact with the very technology they helped create. Both Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, and Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, limited how much technology usage their children had at home. For instance, Gates implemented a cap on screen time for his children and also didn’t allow them to have cell phones until they turned 14. Similarly, Jobs did not let his children use the iPad. Do these tech giants know something that the rest of us don’t?

A smartphone addiction can lead to a number of health related issues affecting one’s ability to socially interact, form meaningful connections with others, as well as one’s ability to cope with depression, anxiety and productiveness. Distracted driving can also pose fatal safety risks.  1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting while driving, resulting in nearly 390,000 injuries each year. [4]

People often say the first step on the road to recovery from addiction is acknowledging that there’s a problem. So, if you’re a smartphone addict like myself here are a few suggestions we can use to reverse course:

  • Consider making rules for yourself limiting phone usage, such as not going on your phone before bed or during activities like driving
  • Download an app to track your phone and app usage, such as SPACE, to monitor your smartphone addiction
  • Disable your phone’s notifications for certain apps to prevent excessive distractions

Lastly, remember the restaurant scene we pictured earlier of people being preoccupied with their phones? Don’t be that group! Instead, play the “Phone Stack” game. When you’re out to dinner with others, for example, stack everyone’s phone face down on the table. The rules are simple – despite all the buzzing, no one is allowed to check their phone. However, if someone can’t resist grabbing their phone, then that person pays the check.







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