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For the last twenty years or so, it’s gotten harder to deny society’s cell phone addiction to the small “super-computers” everyone carries in their pockets, purses, backpacks, or in holsters hooked to their belt.
More often than not, people have their smartphones out, eyes glued to texts they’re composing, games they’re playing, pictures they’re taking and posting or, in rare cases, talking to someone on the other end of a cellular signal.
Digital Addiction is not a recognized or official psychiatric disorder. Though, with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) including gaming disorder in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a classification for cell phone addiction might not be far behind.
It’s easy to ignore the idea of a smartphone addiction. After all, most jobs require digital duties of one sort of another, along with the fact that many of our day-to-day appliances – TV’s, stereos, refrigerators, air conditioning thermostats, doorbells, etc. – are connected to the internet.
Modern day life without the internet seems somewhat impossible, but there are extremes.
6 Symptoms of Smartphone Addiction
Here are a few symptoms of smartphone addiction that might be an indication it’s time to take a technology or social media detox:
1. An unwillingness to turn your smartphone off or keep it out of sight in order to avoid alerts, texts and calls
2. Spending more time than expected every time you engage with your device
3. Feeling shame or guilt after spending too much time on social media or on the internet
4. Lacking time to get non-internet related chores or errands done as a result of spending too much time online
5. Urges and cravings to “check-in” because of a fear of missing out (FOMO)
6. Failed attempts to limit the amount of time spent using various tech devices
Inasmuch as smartphones keep people connected, they can also create isolation and, in fact, disrupt the body’s natural functions and create mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
A Harvard Medical School study found that excessive blue-light, the kind of light smartphones and computers project, suppresses the body’s ability to produce melatonin, which is needed for a good night’s rest.
A lack of restful sleep over the long-term can increase a person’s chances of experiencing any number of negative health issues, diseases, and disorders.
Don’t feel alone, though. According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own smartphones and an estimated 44 percent of those people sleep with the devices next to their beds, making it likely that the last thing they see each night is the blue-light from the screen.
In an ironic digital twist, Google and Apple have taken steps to help users limit their smartphone usage by baking new digital well-being features into their Android and IOS operating systems.
5 Tips For a Digital Detox
Performing a digital detox doesn’t need to be done in one fell swoop. Going cold turkey is likely to simply cause more phone anxiety and lead to another failed attempt at cleaning up too much smartphone exposure.
Here are some tips for a slow, thoughtful digital detox:
1. First, track the amount of unnecessary tech use, such as social media, games, and internet surfing you regularly engage in. This will help find your baseline for pulling back.
2. Cut back on the easiest things first. This will be different for everyone, but it might be spending two hours on Twitter instead of three, limiting email checks to once an hour or changing the alert preferences on your device so there’s not a constant stream of incoming information.
3. Pick convenient times to stop. Checking texts and emails is something a lot of people have to do first thing in the morning. Keep that habit, but perhaps stop checking emails, texts or going on social media at a certain point in the evening, maybe an hour or two before going to bed.
4. Replace that time with other activities like reading a book, writing, mediating, taking a walk or exploring a new hobby.
5. Phone Anxiety is normal at first, so don’t let it trip you up. Changing our cell phone habits takes time, but very quickly we realize the world didn’t crumble while we weren’t looking at our phones or computers last night.
The Health Benefits of Getting Off the Phone
A digital detox sounds scarier than it actually is, but those who’ve adopted new habits and people who practice periodical detoxes report happier, healthier relationships and lives.
The Huffington Post reported on a study by the Public Library of Science that found the more time people spend on social media sites, the least satisfied they felt with their lives.
Little technology tweaks and simple changes can improve overall mental health and wellbeing and stave off the stressful chaos that cell phone addiction causes.