What is smartphone addiction? Is it real? Would you recognise the symptoms and how would you know if you are suffering?
Smartphone addiction is more than an obsession. It is a dependence syndrome and a clinical addiction, defined by excessive use which has the propensity to negatively impact all aspects of life, notably relationships and professional activities. It also often masks deeper, underlying health and behavioural issues.
Research led by Professor James Roberts at Baylor University highlights that signs of addiction among smartphone users are very similar to those found among drug addicts. In the same way that gambling creates addiction by offering a monetary incentive or reward; the software and apps on our smartphones are also designed to hook us. For example, by getting a ‘match’ or receiving ‘likes’.
Do you feel very anxious and irritable without your phone? Has your smartphone caused problems in your relationships? Do you often turn to your phone when bored or in an uncomfortable social situation? Do you think your smartphone use is increasing and have struggled to cut it back? Is your smartphone glued to your pocket and distracting you from other daily activities? If these situations sound familiar, you may be suffering from smartphone addiction.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University, highlights that ‘excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life’ and tackling the root of these problems can reduce the excessive behavior.
For those of us who feel more obsessed than addicted, there are some actions you can take to reduce your smartphone dependency. Firstly, set time and place boundaries around your smartphone use. For example, do not take your phone to the bathroom or do not use it during mealtimes, especially when with friends or partners. It is recommended that you stop using screens an hour before you go to sleep. If this is not possible, turn your phone onto ‘sleep mode’ to reduce the impact of blue light.
"Time To Log Off offers retreats in places such as Hawaii, Italy and Cornwall. Perhaps for 2016 we should all have a go at stashing away our digital addictions ... and indulge in some good old analogue fun.
"Amazing! The experience made me realise how much I use my phone as a distraction. Not having my phone meant I could really escape from the stresses of everyday life. From now on I’m deleting work email from my phone at the weekends and I’ll be checking my phone a lot less regularly.”
“My expectations were very high but this exceeded them all. I feel like I have completely rebooted my life!”
“I wanted to test how I would react without my phone. Generally I felt much more relaxed and with better concentration. From this experience I know that I can live without my phone. I’m going to encourage other people in my life to develop this ability a bit more too!”
"This was a well-organised, friendly and worthwhile restorative. Blissful."
“I found the first day difficult but it subsided quickly. By the end of the break I didn’t want my phone back!”
“I loved it. After this, I’m going to get a landline and turn my mobile off for some weekends. I’m also going to take social media off my phone.”
“This really exceeded expectations. The food, company, setting. All of it was amazing - really serene. I think this will end up a vital experience for me. Thank you!”
“It was so peaceful. I’m going to buy a non-smartphone to use at weekends and ask friends to call me instead of texting/Whatsaspp-ing!”
"We came away feeling astonishingly refreshed and restored. Our eyes have been well and truly opened to the extraordinary benefits and pleasures of a hiatus from the constant noise of information."
"It was a revelation! I wasn’t aware how bad my digital addiction had become. Feel deliriously refreshed and restored – will definitely be incorporating regular technology breaks into my life. Everyone should!”
“A really great experience. I will be implementing a restricted phone and digital regime at home, i.e. no screens on a Sunday and no phones in the bedroom. I’ll also take off work email from my phone and be really mindful during the week of when I use the phone and Internet”.
"Three weeks later, I can’t quite believe I have managed to keep my tech use under control. Already I feel more connected and present during chats or out with friends"
"I found myself connecting much more deeply with the people around me. Without distractions, our conversations were much richer and more interesting."
“It was great to ‘lose’ my phone. I thought it would be stressful but it was surprisingly easy. I will definitely have down-time with technology in the future.”
"Time to Log Off aren’t about disconnecting forever, they’re about remembering to disconnect when it matters."
"Small talk becomes big talk and silences become longer, more comfortable. It occurs to me how frantic technology makes me."
"Corny as it sounds, when the retreat was over, I felt cleansed. I hadn’t checked the news but I didn’t fear that the world had fallen apart. I felt recharged, not anxious about the work I’d missed."
“Doing this retreat has actually revealed just how unhealthy my internet obsession is. I've slept better, felt less stressed and had more energy. The retreat has given me some great ideas to help control my phone. I feel fantastic!”