Smartphone addiction isn’t just for people with social media. I know this because I am addicted to my smartphone… and I don’t have social media. I also don’t have Netflix or Amazon Prime. We do, however, use CuriosityStream once in a while, but… it’s not on my phone.
I don’t even have my “Mail” App downloaded to my phone. Is it possible for someone like me to be addicted to my smartphone?
Defining Smartphone Addiction
Some people will read this and laugh at the idea of me being addicted to my phone compared to others they know, but I believe the primary definitions of addiction (per Merriam-Webster) are worthy indicators:
1: (noun) a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence : the state of being addicted
2 : (noun) a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly
Here’s what I’ve noticed about myself; maybe you can relate:
- I compulsively reach for my phone to turn it on and mindlessly swipe through texts and apps for work (even when I’m not sitting down to work). I often scroll through the news headlines (which I feel are my placebo for social media in many ways), for no specific reason at all!
- Even though I don’t have my email app on my phone, sometimes I log in to Gmail via my browser to check my email. Not because I’m looking for something, but simply because I have a bizarre compulsion to do so.
- I pick up my phone to send a text or picture and end up checking other things too. Sometimes I get distracted from my initial task, and sometimes I just get sucked into the glowing void.
- I have to turn my phone off and place it in a drawer to spend an hour or more not checking it.
- I make excuses about why I need to be on my phone when I have something else to do. Often I’d rather be doing something else, but I feel compelled to reply to the many text messages waiting for me. Sometimes they’ve been waiting for days because I start a reply and then get distracted by something else.
- Despite understanding that it’s dangerous, I check my phone while driving. Often it’s at red lights, but sometimes I just have to voice text a quick thought to a friend (and then “lol” about the poor transcription).
- Many times I will turn on Rafi songs through my smartphone for the kids while I’m driving. I don’t have to do that- I could easily wait for a light. My phone has conditioned me to obsess over instant gratification and feel anxious or irritable when I’m not getting what I want done right away.
Based on the above, I’m comfortable saying that I’m facing a smartphone addiction.
Treating My Smartphone Addiction
The first thing I ever did to reduce my screen time was get rid of social media. It’s a breath of fresh air when you get away from the debilitating influence of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I don’t have Snapchat, TikTok, or any of the other apps that exist that I am unfamiliar with. I still use Pinterest occasionally on my laptop.
I am extremely happy with my decision and I share my happiness with people all the time. If you feel like you don’t have a lot of time, get rid of social media. If you feel anxious or irritable, get rid of social media. If you want to check your phone less, get rid of social media!
Smartphone Addiction Stems From More Than Just Social Media
I’m convinced that my smartphone addiction (and that of many, many other people) is debilitating in more ways than I care to admit. Social media is designed to suck people in and keep us coming back for more.
What I’m seeing in my life now is that even without social media, I still come back for more to check my smartphone. I’m incredibly dependent on it!
Aside from the hours per week I spend talking on the phone and texting, I have plenty of other ways I use it regularly. Whenever I need to look up a word, I use my phone. Whenever I need to convert something for a recipe, I ask Siri.
If I need to find out what time Target closes during various waves of the pandemic, I check it on my smartphone. If I need directions to a restaurant or store, I use my phone! Don’t even get me started on shopping.
The second I have an idea for a friend, I text it to them. Anytime I have a question, I can ask someone. There are never-ending opportunities for communication.
If I’m disagreeing with my husband and don’t want to think about it, I can just text a friend and chat with her instead. If I’m overwhelmed by life, I can scroll.
When I’m sad, I can look up something silly. I can text someone. If I don’t feel like playing with the kids, I can excuse myself and say “Mommy needs to get back to a few people, so I can’t play right now.”
I can skirt my way around almost all unpleasantness, boredom, and discomfort with distraction from my smartphone.
Taking Recovery Further
My self-prescribed treatment started by just turning my phone off for a few hours at a time. Often I would turn it off overnight. And then all day Sunday. Sunday quickly became my favorite day!
A few days ago, it hit me- I spend money every single month for this device that I don’t even like that much. I pay hard-earned dollars to a service provider so that I can be “connected.”
I don’t want to be connected like that. Connections happen in person and deserve to be distraction-free.
In order to more fully experience the life happening around me, I’m getting rid of my smartphone. There are a lot of “what ifs” and a few things I’m concerned about (namely getting lost because I’m so dependent on my phone for finding places)! We’ll still have internet and my husband still has to have his smartphone through work, so I’m not going totally dark.
I want to be free from the burden of imaginary, digital “connection” and live the life that I can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. That’s why I’m letting go.
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