Your smartphone is your connection to just about anything and everything. Think about it: in the palm of your hand you have access to news, sports, music, video, social media and messaging. We are connected in ways that we haven’t yet begun to fully comprehend.
While smartphones are meant to help us be more efficient, that type of access can also be habit forming; almost addicting. You’re almost afraid to leave home without your phone, and you will routinely pat yourself down in panic if you can’t find it. Laugh if you must, but the fear is real, and it has a name – nomophobia. The term essentially refers to the fear of not being able to use a smartphone and the loss of the convenience that it provides.
That sense of disconnect can be terrifying; how will you know what your friends are having for dinner? Will your lack of access to your relatives’ endless supply of selfies make you forget what they look like? Joking aside, not having that convenience could be troublesome, especially for introverts who thrive on being the exact opposite through social networks.
There may also be physical changes associated with mobile device usage. On one hand, mobile app stores are densely populated with diet, fitness and other health apps that help users be more aware of their nutrition or fitness levels. We hope they’ll lead to positive physical changes (with some effort on our part, of course).
On the other side of the spectrum, too much mobile device use could have a negative impact on the human body. One of the many studies about the effects of mobile device usage on the human body indicated that less-fit users tend to use their mobile devices more. Have you heard of “text neck”? The term refers to nerve pain and headaches cause by the poor posture we assume when hunched over our mobile devices. Those emails you’re pounding out? That game you’re trying to beat? They may be detrimental to your health.
Overuse can also be detrimental to relationships. Phubbing, a coined term that has surfaced over the past couple of years, means snubbing a significant other to use your smartphone. Researchers from Baylor University reported that 46% of those interviewed claimed that they were phubbed by their partner. This could point at a problem in the relationship that already exists, with the smartphone just blamed as the root.
Now I’m not insinuating that we should we stop using our smartphones, that’s just crazy talk. It’s about moderation; a mobile device is meant to provide assistance in your life, not take it over completely. Unless… that’s what our future robotic overlords are hoping for. If you’re having trouble putting your phone down, here are some helpful tips to see you through to recovery.
5 tips to break your smartphone addiction
- Create no phone zones – It’s true; there is a time and a place for everything, including phone usage. Setting up areas free from phones – such as meal time, family game or movie nights and (especially) the bathroom – are a great way to be forced to stop surfing. Your phone is dirty enough as it is, you don’t need to tweet while you, you know. Having friends over? Set out a basket to put their phones in so you can actually spend some quality face-to-face time, instead of posting about it.
- Change your bedtime routine – I use my smartphone as my alarm clock. While nothing screams “mobile addict” about that function, that accessibility could quite literally keep you up at night. You’d be tempted to watch a video, play games or browse the internet. There’s even the risk of “sleep texting.” To avoid trouble, keep your smartphone on the other side of the room. You’ll be less tempted to reach for it if you’re too snug in your bed to get up. The added bonus is that once the alarm goes off, you have to get up to turn it off, reducing the risk of hitting snooze or sleeping in.
- Demote your notifications – The sound of an incoming message can be a source of excitement, like the sound of an ice cream truck rolling through the neighborhood. It can also be distracting, so why not set up profile notifications? On my BlackBerry Z30, I can set my phone to a variety of audible or silent profiles and even create custom contact notifications. That way I can enjoy peace and quiet unless an extremely important phone call or message comes in.
- Take a break – Some weekends call for a complete disconnect. You want to talk? Come on over for dinner. Want to play a game? Dust off the baseball and glove and get outside. Again, you lived before the age of mobile devices; you can get back to the good old days now and then. You don’t need a phone to get through awkward silences or boredom, you can fight back with your own imagination. Put the phone down, lift your head up and immerse yourself with life that is happening around you. (As I type this, I can hear my dad’s voice telling me to turn off my NES.)
- ‘Apputation’ – This may be going a bit extreme, but we are in desperate times aren’t we? Apps are meant to provide shortcuts, easy access and mindless entertainment. It’s the source of the thought “oh, let me just check…” You tap through sport scores, movie reviews and social media while you’re barbequing. The next thing you know, your steak is burned and so is your house. Apputation (App+amputation) is a cute way of saying: Suck it up and uninstall apps that give you access to things you can get through a browser. Chances are, you’ll be less likely to check them as often.
My BlackBerry is my constant companion, but it doesn’t have complete control over me. I know that it will keep me connected, productive and efficient, even if my face isn’t perpetually glued to it. It makes my life easier, not non-existent. What do you do to keep your smartphone addiction in check?