Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The proliferation of the smartphone has plunged our world into a new era of technology dependence. At one time, landlines and payphones were all we had–and we survived just fine, thank you very much. But now, it’s almost laughable if you don’t own an iPhone or Android, and for some of us, we can’t even go a day without them.
Smartphone addiction is a real issue for modern society and, like most addictions, people who are addicted don’t truly realize how addicted they are. And even if you aren’t addicted yourself, chances are good that you know someone who is.
What Is Smartphone Addiction?
Before we can discuss smartphone addiction, we’ll need to define addiction as a term. According to my dictionary, this is what we’ve got:
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma
That’s the definition we’ll be working with. And even as I typed out the definition, I could see the symptoms of addiction in myself and the people around me. I’m sure you could, too, if you looked hard enough.
“Enslavement” might be a harsh term, but no one can deny that smartphones have such an effect on people that “habitual” and “routine practice” are noteworthy terms. How many times do you take out your phone and steal a glance out of habit? Do you check your phone right after you wake up? Right before you go to sleep? Habitual, indeed.
And what about the part where “cessation causes severe trauma”? Of course, “severe trauma” is a bit vague on its own, but we all know those people who can’t be apart from their phones for more than a day, or even a few hours. Have you ever known someone who grew anxious when they lost their phone?
So in simple terms, here’s my definition: smartphone addiction is when your smartphone is so engrained in your routine life that breaking away from it causes you psychological anxiety.
Smartphone Addiction Checklist
But even if you know the definition of smartphone addiction, sometimes the reality of it can escape you. Denial, as it’s called in most addiction-fighting circles, is a very real aspect of addiction, and it can be dangerous because if you don’t believe you’re addicted, then you won’t take the steps necessary to recover.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you may be addicted to your smartphone:
- Do you check your smartphone within an hour of waking up?
- Do you check your smartphone within an hour of going to sleep?
- Do you check your smartphone at times without any reason?
- Do you check your smartphone over 30 times per day?
- Do you have to check your smartphone the moment you receive a text message or email?
- Do you check and use your smartphone during face-to-face interactions?
- Do you feel the urge to text, call, or social network while driving?
- If you were asked to give up your smartphone for one week, could you do it?
How to Break Smartphone Addiction
The simplest solution would be to give up smartphones cold turkey until the addiction subsides, but that’s not always the most practical answer.
If you are addicted to your smartphone, it probably feels very automatic to you. You check your smartphone without even realizing it. One response, then, is to be very conscious of your actions. Every time you check, ask yourself, “Why am I checking?” It could be due to boredom, loneliness, or anxiety. Once you pinpoint the cause, you can find something else to alleviate the problem.
Turn off alert signals and notifications. Most text messages and emails don’t require immediate attention (unless you are working a time-sensitive job, in which case you may want to skip this suggestion). Force yourself to check your phone only once every hour, or even less often.
Turn off your phone altogether. During those times when you don’t need your phone, like during office hours, you may want to turn off your phone. This forces you to go a long period of time without even touching it, which can help to offset addiction by making you less reliant.
Find out what it is about the smartphone that’s addicting. Is it social media? Then delete your Twitter and Flickr apps. Is it social networking? Delete your Facebook app. Is it email? Disable push notifications. This way you can still use your smartphone without having it consume so many hours of your day.
If you’re addicted, it’s never too late to fight it. If you think one of your friends may be addicted, then let them know gently. Addiction can be dangerous when it starts to interfere with work, relationships, and health. You may not want to be the one who tells your friend that they’re addicted, but if they’re texting while driving, you may be the one who saves their life.