Do you seem to be on your smartphone a lot of the time — for example while eating at a restaurant, standing in line or watching TV? Do you feel anxious when separated from your device? You might wonder — like a lot of tech users — if you’re addicted to your phone.
Researchers from diverse disciplines have studied this type of addiction and have determined it’s a real problem for many people — especially the young. Among the negative effects associated with phone and Internet addiction are: distracted driving, disturbed sleep, diminished concentration, social isolation, increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Here are some signs you’re hooked to your smartphone:
- You have trouble finishing tasks at work or home because of too much time spent on the phone.
- You lose track of time while using your phone.
- Your creativity and productivity are hurt by phone use.
- You’re isolated from family and friends because your attention is increasingly fixed on the phone.
- You check your phone compulsively for fear of missing out on important news or social media post.
- You feel anxious if you’re separated from your phone or otherwise can’t check it due to a dead battery or no connection.
- You feel lonely or at loose ends without the smartphone in hand or nearby.
If any of these symptoms apply to you, it’s time to acknowledge you may have an addiction problem. Realize you can’t stop “cold turkey.” (Nor would you want to, given the convenience and legitimate usefulness of these devices.) But here are some tips for curbing excessive use:
- Reclaim your time by taking a phone-free break one day — or even a a half day — every week. Consider the day a sacred period to reconnect with loved ones and to complete important tasks.
- Don’t take your phone to bed. The blue light disrupts normal sleep.
- Limit the number of times you check your phone a minimum of every 15 minutes. Then increase the time between checks. Use new “screen time” apps to monitor usage.
- Turn off the phone while driving, eating meals, socializing, exercising and other significant moments during the day.
- Substitute smartphone use with healthier, more productive activities, such as meditating, doing something creative, and interacting with friends in person. Have a plan for such times.
- Curb your FOMO (fear of missing out) by accepting the reality that you can’t stay on top of every bit of news or gossip. It’s liberating to be free of a continuous reliance on tech.
If you find that you can’t break smartphone addiction on your own, seek the help of a professional. Individual or group therapy can be a great support in dealing with the problem.