Statistics by the media analytics company Comscore state that an average American in 2016 spent about 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphones daily, which has since increased. This is corroborated by a study of 1,600 managers and professionals. In this study, the researchers discovered that over 70% of the participants checked their phones within an hour of waking up, 56% of the participants checked their phones within an hour of going to sleep, 48% checked their phones over the weekend, and 44% disclosed their susceptibility to anxiety if they lost their phones and could not replace it within a week.
Indeed, these staggering numbers all boil down to one thing —there is a crippling smartphone addiction, and this apparent addiction, according to Peter DeLisi –the academic dean of the information technology leadership program at Santa Clara University– raises the question of “why?”
Why are smartphones so addictive? Why do people go so far as to endanger their lives just to continuously be on their smartphones?
The answers to the above questions remain unclear, but according to David Greenfield, Ph.D., a psychologist, and author of Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cybeer Freaks and Those Who Love Them. What remains certain is that certain forms of computer use are addictive and compulsive. According to Greenfield, these technologies are psychoactive because they can trigger pleasurable feelings. One viable example is the need to constantly check your emails for that email that will give you the good feeling you crave.
Experts call this the “variable ratio reinforcement” because you never know when we might get that email that will grant you that satisfaction, so you keep checking repeatedly.
Is Smartphone Addiction Unhealthy?
For Greenfield, such addiction becomes unhealthy when it affects your work or family life. According to him, the disruption could be as little as ignoring your friend during lunch to go through your social media or as significant as ignoring a distressed partner or coworker to review your emails.
For other experts, it may be more of a dysfunction than an addiction. Per a study published in 2011 in the journal, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, people may not be as addicted to their phones as they seem. Instead, they may have developed “checking habits” with continuous phone use —including the repeated urge to check for news updates, emails, or social media notifications. Finally, the same study noted that environmental triggers might lead to these “checking habits,” such as being bored or listening to a lecture.
However, Nichola Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, opined that due to the small size, ease, and even the proliferation of smartphones in our environment, People tend to be with our smartphones from the time they wake up to the time they head to bed. Therefore, the smartphone breeds an environment of constant distractions and interruptions. Nicholas further stated that smartphones steal the ability to maintain focus for a long time on a particular task and also steal away the time for inner reflection.
How to Break Free from Smartphone Addiction
Experts have proffered several ways to break out of your smartphone addiction. These include the following:
- Place the phone far away: This also distances you from the temptation to check your phone.
- Mute your notifications: The loud notifications you get may be why you feel the increased need to constantly check your phone. You can check your notifications at your own pace and time by muting the notifications.
- Put a timer on phone use: You can set a timer that monitors how long you use your phone. For instance, you can set aside 15 minutes to check your phone daily.