Trish, I’m kinda scared because I feel like I’m always on my phone. Am I addicted? What do I do?
Hi there! First and foremost, thank you so much for asking this important question. I want to begin by asking you to take a deep breath – and by validating how you’re feeling. As we’ll discuss in this post, phone addiction is a very specific (and less common) type of relationship with our phones, but it goes without saying that lots and lots – certainly the majority of my friends – feel like they spend too much time on their phones. After all, it’s always there, nudging us with notifications (which, if you’re like me, stress me out!), and keeping us laughing and engaged with funny videos. And that dependence can feel like you said, a little scary. All that’s to say – I promise you’re not alone in feeling that way.
I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t say whether you are or are not addicted to your phone, but in this post, I’ll define phone addiction with some key nuances and points. I’ll then dive into some brief tips of ways I like to maintain some (often well-needed) distance between myself and my phone. Note that if you are struggling with phone addiction, these tips will likely only be a starting point for you – and that seeking medical help and/or speaking with a counselor is the best step forward. There’s no shame or stigma in asking for help – we all struggle with various boundaries in our lives, and by identifying and working on those challenges, we can become better, for ourselves and for the people around us.
With that said, let’s get into it:
Simply put, phone addiction (sometimes referred to as “nomophobia”) refers to compulsive and constant use of (usually) a smartphone. It’s sometimes described as “obsessive” use of a phone. Keep in mind that it’s not so much the phone that creates this addiction; it’s more the engaging apps and content on the phone. Unfortunately, beyond eating up your time, phone addiction can have a range of worrying side effects, from sleep deficits to stress and anxiety. And indeed, while some people may think phone addiction isn’t anything serious, many medical professionals recognize it as a genuine psychological disorder that affects lots of people. You can read more about smartphone addiction here: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/smartphone-addiction.htm.
It is important to note that simply spending what can seem like a lot of time on your phone does not constitute a phone addiction medical issue, per se. (In today’s digital era, we all spend tons of time on our devices. In fact, a Common Sense Media poll found that 50% of teens feel like they’re addicted to their mobile devices.) So if you find it a little difficult to put your phone down at times, trust me, you’re not alone in that and that in and of itself does not point to a disorder. With that said, the only person who can help you understand if you have a phone addiction is a medical professional. So if you’re seriously worried about your relationship with your phone, please contact a professional immediately.
As someone who spends plenty of time on my laptop and phone, I think a lot about how to maintain boundaries with my devices to protect/preserve mental and physical health and wellbeing. Given that, I’ll end this post by sharing some brief tips re: the ways I manage my screen time – I hope you find them helpful! (Once again, these general tips are not tailored to any type of addiction disorder, for which I’d strongly recommend you seek medical help.) Here they are:
- I put my phone away at least 30 minutes before bed. I turn “Do Not Disturb” on so I’m not prompted or tempted to look. Not only does this make part of my evenings phone-free, but I’ve also found it actually helps me sleep better!
- When I’m trying to get something else done – or just stay off of my phone – I’ll move it out of my line of sight. If it’s sitting there in front of me, I can be tempted to pick it up and take a peek. Out of sight helps me get it out of mind.
- I leverage my phone’s tools to avoid being distracted by it. Your smartphone likely has settings like “Do Not Disturb” or options to turn notifications off; these settings can be a great way to keep you from being interrupted by and/or tempted to check your phone.
- I make plans to see friends and family in-person – and when I’m with them, make it the norm not to check my phone. Being with other people can be a great “accountability” measure because it’s generally not super nice to be scrolling and tweeting while you’re with them. It’s also a great opportunity to put your phone down and focus on the people in your life.
I hope this post was informative, enlightening, and above all, a helpful resource as you work to put some distance between you and your phone. On that note, now that you have these tips, go put them into practice! I’m excited to hear how it goes – let me know in the comments of this week’s TikTok video. Also, don’t forget to pass on this valuable knowledge – if you think it’d be helpful, share these ideas with friends and family.
As always, before I end this post, I want to invite and encourage you to share any of your questions or reflections about the Internet with me here. Your topic just might be featured in next week’s TikTok/blog post! And remember, you’re not the only one who benefits from sharing a question – our entire community benefits, too! Readers often tell me that these posts can completely change their perspectives on the Internet and/or digital practices – which is so very powerful. So, please, help us all out and fill out the form! (It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.) Thank you so much for advancing this wonderful community.
Have a great rest of the week,