Admit it. You just asked Siri to define “addicted,” didn’t you? Does anyone own an actual dictionary anymore?
Only a unicorn would not be addicted to their cell phone in this day and age. Aside from the obsessive compulsion to check email every 30 seconds, there’s the endless functionality our devices offer. Oddly, none of these appealing functionalities have much to do with actually talking on the phone.
Our phones are our calculator, day planner, flashlight, GPS, meteorologist. They even serve as spies – Facebook stalking, anyone? An endless stream of information and entertainment in your hand (I’m guessing you’re reading this on your phone right now)!
An addiction is not merely a bad habit or strong craving, but a chronic disease which alters the reward center in the brain. When we seek out and indulge in an addiction, dopamine (a happy, feel-good chemical) is released. The sensation we get from it is too good to do without, so as soon as the feeling passes, we go to great lengths to seek out the feeling again… and again… and again.
This rising and falling of dopamine creates a cycle which, over time, desensitizes us to the feeling, leading us to need more of whatever it is we’re addicted to: food, sugar, shopping, gambling, sex, cigarettes, phones.
Social media and email platforms have features that specifically target this dopamine spike: likes, comments, message alerts, little hearts and symbols that validate us, and they’re all just a refresh away! Not to mention all the buzzing and dinging that turn us into Pavlov’s salivating dog at the sound of a bell.
We know that addictions to narcotics, alcohol, and nicotine are serious and may require intervention. Repeated use of these substances can deteriorate the body, and the same can be said for phone addiction.
You may think, “What’s the problem? You can’t compare excessive alcohol to a cellular device!” That’s true, your phone isn’t likely to damage your liver or make you tell your married friend that you’re in love with them (in vino veritas). But phone addiction is more harmful to health than meets the eye.
Like any other addiction, phone addictions can cause you to lose control over your actions, become removed from your friends and family, and experience physical and emotional side effects. (Individuals who identify as being addicted to their phones have higher rates of anxiety and depression.)
It’s fair to say most of us are addicted to our phones, but just how addicted are we? Ask yourself, do I:
-Reach for my phone the moment I’m bored
-Reach for my phone even when I’m with others
-Check my phone compulsively for new messages, even if I’m too tired to answer them
-Check my phone in the middle of the night/first thing in the morning
-Feel anxious or lost if I don’t have my phone with me
-Frequently have accidents or miss important information because I was distracted by my phone
-Try to give myself a break from my phone and find myself relapsing soon after
The more yesses, the more addicted, and it may be time to challenge yourself to reduce exposure. We’ve got you covered there! Check back in next month for helpful tips to break your phone addiction.