Breaking the Addiction to Mobile Devices
Ann Bode
Ann Bode
Aug 31, 2022

Breaking the Addiction to Mobile Devices

I recently started noticing a pain in my left arm and a numbness in my thumb on the left hand. It became more apparent every time I held my phone. It made me increasingly aware of how much I was picking up my phone and how often I was holding it.

One day I was perusing books in the bookstore and came upon a book entitled “How to Break Up with Your Phone”. After just a couple of pages I realize this book was important.

I started noticing that some teens and preteens in my dance classes we’re having a hard time staying away from their phones. Every time there was a break they went right to their phones to “check” and sometimes to document the experience they were having. It was as if they were thinking in posts in order to garner more attention and likes. They were not organically enjoying the moment. I have since banished phones from the classroom altogether and they can only be used with permission to record dance combinations at the end of class.

I fully understand why these children are enticed to do this. I have the same problem. I have caught myself checking email in the middle of a class. I decided to turn off all notifications while I am teaching. They are there to distract you from your current focus. As a matter of fact, the phone is designed to encourage addictive behavior. An increasing number of mental health experts conclude that phone use is addictive. I know that seems harsh but not all addictions have to do with substance. Addiction can also be behavior related. Things like gambling, exercise and gaming are all addictive behaviors. We can become addicted to things without it destroying our life.

The Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge explains the general characteristics of addiction as such: Addiction is defined as continuing to seek out something despite its negative consequences. An addict will show a loss of control over a certain activity and compulsively seek it out despite its negative consequences. Addicts will develop tolerance so they need higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction and will experience withdrawal if they can’t do the addictive act.

I think this pretty much sums up what can happen with a smartphone. Even the technology companies themselves know that the phone can be addictive especially for younger people. It delivers many of the same feel good brain chemicals and reward loops that drive addiction. It’s a fact that most tech executives limit their own kids exposure to smart phones and technology. They must know something about it and what it’s designed to do.

The fact of the matter is our phones are specifically engineered to get us to spend more time on them.

If you find yourself in a situation where you think you might have a little problem with phone addiction like I did, there are things you can do! You don’t have to completely give up your phone and live like someone in the 1970s. That just isn’t reasonable. However there are things you can do to take back your life and start feeling better and enjoying what’s going on in front of you rather than what’s going on in the virtual world.

Most phones now have a tracking app or software where you can see how much time you’re spending on your phone and what apps you are using the most. There are also a variety of apps that can curb phone use and track your habits. I was stunned at how many hours I was wasting every day on things like Facebook, solitaire and other mindless things. I am interested in mindfulness not mindlessness so this came as a surprise to me.

In Catherine Price‘s book she came up with some simple strategies to help curb phone use and actually take vacations from your WMD (wireless mobile device). Here are a few of the things she suggests…

  • Download a tracking app if there’s not one already installed in your phone.
  • Start paying attention to how much you use your phone.
  • Try deleting social media apps from your phone. If you want to use them, make it harder by having to download the app again every time you want to use it.
  • Turn off your notifications for all of your apps including email and text. You will still get these messages - I promise you.
  • Tidy up your homepage. I only have tools on the front page such as calendar, clock, calculator, weather, and maps. I put all other apps into folders on the second and third page, making them too small to see unless I open the folder. I renamed things to remind me of their addictiveness. For instance, any social media still left on my phone is called “the black hole”.
  • Put a reminder on your home screen. Mine says “pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.”
  • Don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed. Invest in an alarm clock and charge your device outside of your bedroom.
  • Set boundaries. Create phone free zones and phone free times in your day.
  • Use your phone politely. Do not use it in the presence of other people whenever possible. When you do, excuse yourself and leave their presence. Using your phone in the presence of another person is “phone snubbing” or “phubbing”.
  • Try a “digital Sabbath“. Pick a day once a week where you just don’t pick up your phone. Turn it off. This may take some practice and preparation.

All of these are just suggestions to help you enjoy your life more without the use of a phone. We may think that the phone or mobile device improves our life but in actuality it makes us feel less than and can actually increase depression and anxiety. We use it as a soothing device and it does not truly soothe us.

Years ago a great deal of the population used to smoke cigarettes to soothe themselves and calm themselves down. People used to smoke when they were bored and had free time or when they were waiting for someone or something. Eventually it became addictive for most people. It is just my opinion but I do believe that the phone has taken the place of the cigarette.

The mobile device takes it a step further. People go on their phone so they don’t have to sit alone with their feelings or their thoughts. They don’t have to engage with other people or make eye contact because they can just stare into their phone. It makes you look like you’re doing something instead of just sitting there which can sometimes be very uncomfortable.

We need to become more mindful about the way we use our smart phone. It can lead to a lowered attention span, inability to connect with others, and also create habits that are unhealthy as well as rude and offensive. It has been proven to increase depression and anxiety.

I am making a conscious effort to cut back on my phone use and also change the way I use it. I want to use technology as a tool to enhance my life not let it use me and hypnotize me into a state of numbness.

Take a look at your own habits and see what you think! Get the Book "How to Break Up With Your Phone" for more on how to improve your life through setting your phone down, getting active and engaging with others.  

Here are some other suggestions for ways to address the subject with your kids.

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