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Are you addicted to your smartphone?

Smartphones are an integral part of our lives: they connect us with other people both locally and globally, they help us organise our day-to-day activities, and they keep us entertained in times of boredom.

In short, they span pretty much every aspect of our lives. So it’s no surprise that some of us have got a little too attached to our devices.

In this post, we’re going to examine some of the symptoms of smartphone addiction and ways you can spend a little less time with your phone and a little more time with your family, friends and your own thoughts too.

We’re not discouraging you from using your phone entirely; phones are wonderful devices that make life so much easier. But we hope that we can encourage you to be mindful of your smartphone usage, and recognise that there’s more to life than staring into that little black screen in your pocket!

First, let’s look into how much of a problem ‘smartphone addiction’ really is.

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According to a recent report by Informate, US citizens spend an average of 4.7 hours on their phones every single day. The average American is only awake for 15 hours each day, which means we’re spending one third of each day on our phones!

Another study by Deloitte found that the average American checks their phone 46 times a day. As a nation, we collectively check our phones 8 billion times a day!

Remember: smartphones only came into existence ten years ago. In that time, we’ve gone from not using smartphones to spending a third of our waking time using them, and that drastic change has caused some drastic side-effects.

Researchers at Baylor University found that excess cell phone usage can damage romantic relationships, leading to high levels of depression. Surveying 453 adults, they found that 46.3% had been ignored by their partner in favor of a smartphone, with 22.6% claiming it caused conflict in their relationship. Excess cell phone usage may be having an impact on our ability to control our impulses and delay our gratification too, according to psychologists at Temple University. Other studies have linked excess cell phone usage to increased stress, negative thinking and insomnia.

The good news is that more and more of us are aware of our attachment to our cell phones. 50% of teens polled by Common Sense Media said they felt addicted to their smartphones, with 28% feeling their parents were addicted too.

We also know the main cause of cell phone addiction: dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, and our brains are hardwired to seek out as much of it as possible. We receive a little dopamine hit when we receive a notification, search for something or watch funny videos, and subconsciously replicate these actions to get more and more dopamine hits.

What’s wrong with a constant loop of enjoyment? Well, constantly seeking dopamine hits means we’re less focused and constantly stimulating our dopamine centers makes us tired. If you feel like you can’t focus or you constantly feel tired, your phone may be the culprit!

So, how do you know if you’re using your phone a little too much?

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There are no official symptoms of smartphone addiction, but there are a few behaviours which can point towards using your phone too much!

You look at your phone when you’re with other people

Yeah, we know: some people are super boring. But it’s still pretty rude to whip out your smartphone and start scrolling through Facebook when you’re with someone else, even if you’re struggling to start a conversation.

Looking through your phone when you’re in someone else’s company says: “what I’m looking at on my phone is more interesting than anything you have to say”. It may be true, but it’s not cool!

Your phone is the first thing you look at in the morning

I’m willing to guess that most people reading this post use their phone as an alarm clock. That’s totally fine, but turning it off can lead to what I like to call the ‘pre-pee spiral’, where you end up scrolling through social media and the news for 20 minutes in bed then have to rush to get ready for work!

Reading about all the horrible things happening in the world or comparing yourself to other more ‘successful’ people (who have carefully cultivated their image on social media, by the way) isn’t the best way to start your day either. Go to the bathroom, have a nice stretch and eat some breakfast instead.

You panic when you don’t have your phone

Nomophobia, the fear of being without your cell phone, is a real condition and more people suffer from it than you think; research from the UK found that 66% of people felt anxious if they didn’t have their device with them.

When was the last time you spent more than an hour away from your phone? And how did you feel? Did you worry about what you were missing out on, panic about things that may happen, or struggle to sit alone with your thoughts when you had nothing to do?

You suffer from phantom vibrations

Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that 90% of people suffer from phantom vibration syndrome, a phenomena where people feel like their phone is vibrating in their pocket even though it isn’t.

Dr Robert Rosenberger, an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, suggests that the condition is caused by the fact our phones sit in our pockets all day to the extent that they become an extension of our body and the anxiety caused by modern technology.

You use your phone in the bathroom

It’s totally gross but so many of us take the risk anyway. Bathrooms are literally covered in disgusting germs, especially door handles and toilet flushes, all of which can contaminate your device and, in the worst case scenario, make you super ill.

Rest rooms may eventually have dedicated smartphone wiping facilities but until then, leave your phone at the bathroom door.

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There are quite a few ways to limit your smartphone usage, and all of them are pretty easy too! Here’s where to start…

Turn off notifications

There’s nothing worse than sitting in an important meeting, feeling the buzz of your phone then spending the whole time wondering who or what it could be… only to find it’s Facebook reminding you it’s someone you haven’t talked to in years’ birthday.

Turn off all your notifications for a week and you’ll experience a lot less distractions. It won’t cure your FOMO entirely though, which is why you should also…

Question everything

Honestly, when was the last time you read something absolutely life-changing on social media? Or the last time you read a piece of bad news and felt compelled to go out and do something?

These kinds of moments are few and far between yet people spend hours gawping into their phone hoping to find one. The chances of you missing out on something major by not checking social media are super slim. And hey, if something really important really happens, it’s not like social media is the only form of communication; if you need to know something, someone will tell you!

Put your phone down after work

As soon as you get in, put your phone down and don’t pick it up again until the next morning (unless there’s an absolute emergency). Those nights that seem so short will suddenly seem long again, ready to be filled with all kinds of productive and creative activities like cooking and learning new skills and watching movies (or just taking a nap… it’s your call).

If you struggle to go a whole night without your phone, try leaving it aside for an hour a night and build yourself up.

Track your phone usage

Use an app like Moment or QualityTime to see how much time you spend on your phone. The results may just horrify you into quitting your phone entirely!

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