My First Published Book – Prisoner of Fate Cheers!! Today is the first day of
“Nomophobia is Phone Addiction and you are probably an addict”
You can’t stop the beeps and messages from coming in torrents, but you can control how you react to it
Not until recently, the word Nomophobia- the fear of being without your cell phone, was not a commonly used term. But for all that its worth, it represents that anxious feeling you get when we lose your smartphone or accidentally leave it at home.
I remember sometime last month, I was at an event with a good many other well-dressed young people listening to the soft music from the DJ while the event was in full swing.
Although the event was well attended, no one was talking directly to each other. In fact they weren’t even looking at each other. Almost all the guest were looking at the ground, chin tucked in, smirking into the soft glow of an LED screen. Lost in an alternative reality fueled by apps and social media platforms and games.
They would occasionally glance up from their device to make sure the group was still there. Sometimes the phone would go back in their pocket for a brief reprieve.
But, when that next notification vibrated or if there was ever a moment of ‘boredom’, the phone was back out — as if the longer a notification was left unchecked, the more the anxiety and unease mounted.
Even when I tried small talk with a few new friends, they shared the moments with their smartphones unapologetically.
Unlike alcohol, weed, cigarette or drugs, most people cannot imagine smart phones being an addictive substance so much as the others mentioned earlier. Even when we are heavy users of the mobile phone, spending a good chunk of our adult life flicking through tons of images and text from social media and other apps, we never consider the use of our smartphones as an addiction.
This has created several debates in the medical circuit on what level of smartphone use constitutes an addiction or even a pandemic. When do you cross the invisible line into problem/addiction territory?
The pertinent question therefore remains; When am I considered addicted to my phone?
Let me help you with some obvious indicators;
- Inability to Focus / Complete a Task- When you find yourself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations without reaching for your phone.
- Chronic impulsiveness to check your device -Obsessively checking for missed calls, emails, and texts
- Conscious use of phones in dangerous situations or in prohibited contexts (e.g while driving) and using your phone in inappropriate places like the bathroom, during serious office meetings or even in church.
- Experiencing anxiety or panic over losing your phone and irritability if cell phone is not accessible, feelings of unease when unable to use it.
- Excessive phone use causing noticeable physical, mental, social, work, or family disturbances (e.g eye strain, neck pain, insomnia, stress and restlessness, symptoms of withdrawal and anxiety)
- Frequent and constant checking of phone in very brief periods of time causing insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Social Anxiety – The need to respond immediately to messages, preferring the cell phone to personal contact
The Startling Statistics
Young adults (age 15–24) check their smartphones an average of 150 times per day (or every six minutes), and send an average of 110 texts per day — New York Times report, 2017 — Pew Research Study 2011
54% of young adults are checking their devices constantly (multiple times per hour) — Bank of America Trends in Consumer Mobility Report (2015)
2.7 times higher rates of depression were found in frequent social media users over less frequency users. — University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Social Media & Depression Survey 2016
33% of teens and 50% of parents occasionally or very often try to reduce the amount of time they spend on their mobile devices, but most fail to change. Lake Research Partners, Device Addiction Survey (2017)
Let me not bore you with the numbers and if you read this far and you’re anything like me — as the statistics suggest you probably are, at least where smartphones are concerned — you probably have an addiction too.
It’s okay if you deny it. Self-denial is also an indicator that you are addicted to your smart phone….lol. I also don’t love referring to what we have as an “addiction.” That seems too sterile and clinical to describe what’s happening to our brains in the smartphone era. But perhaps we can work our way out of it by taking some definitive steps. Which I would explain shortly. Stay with me!
Okay let’s get to the serious bit. Your life is what you pay attention to and the smartphone can turn you away from the most important things in life the moment you get caught in its snarl.
We need to stem it before it gets to pandemic proportion where we become completely incapable of becoming social beings as we were originally created to be. I am counting on the following tips and tactics changing your life from this moment on.
You need a phone Rehab
If you are a real heavy phone user who genuinely realizes that you have created a dependency relationship with your smartphone then the first step is to address the root causes of your addiction which typically includes the emotional triggers that causes you to reach for your phone in the first place.
To determine this, try to decipher the triggers for reaching out to your phone every time you are brushing your teeth (yes I am talking to you), or the moment you step outside of your house walking down your street.
Try to explain why you would check your social media pages during the 5 seconds window between the times your card is inserted into the POS device and when you have to enter your passcode? How about why you reach for your phone the moment you get into the elevator or in a boring meeting? How about listening to podcast while you transit to work in the morning or even use an app to meditate?
What is driving this seeming impulsive behaviour?
It may interest you to know that there is a budding industry coined the digital wellness business where there are self-help gurus who are set out to help cure people from addiction to the screen.
They offer what they call digital detox packages at luxury hotels and even have communities that practice “digital Sabbath” movement, whose adherents vow to spend one day a week using no technology at all.
But my Phone rehab suggestions for you is more practical and most importantly comes free of charge (Yes, you are welcome);
- Disable Push Notification -This was my very first step to weaning myself of addiction. I disabled push notifications for everything other than phone calls and messages from a preset list of people that included important people at work and family. The constant beeping of the phone everytime an event occurs from any of the installed apps can be a huge distraction. Anyone serious about fighting this addiction must first go silent on the notification including twinkling lights. Check your phones only when you have to and not because the phone beeped.
- Prune your home screen to just the essentials: calendar, email and password manager. And uninstall apps that you do not use as often Afterall you can always reinstall them when you need them. The point isn’t to get you off the internet, or even off social media — you’re still allowed to use Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms on a desktop or laptop, and there’s no hard-and-fast time limit. It’s simply about unhooking your brain from the harmful routines it has adopted around this particular device, and hooking it to better things. So Take time to look at all your apps and carefully choose to keep the ones that sparked joy and contributed to healthy habits and toss those that don’t.
- Set up mental speed bumps so that you would be forced to think for a second before engaging with your phone. This could be in the form of screen savers that reminds you every time you unlock your phone to slow down on checking it often. This has to be deliberate and you must be consciously reminder of your fight against addiction.
- “Trial separation” — Try separating from your phone for 48-hours. This is preferably during the weekend. It sounds impossible but to be brutally honest it is very possible and you will find it highly therapeutic. During this period you are not allowed to use the phone or any other digital device totally. You can give notice before hand to friends and frequent contacts and you can actually do a get-away during this period, deservedly so. Set your email to notify anyone of your absence formally. You will then be forced to appreciate the better things in the world around you. You will begin to notice the nature, hear the birds chirping, the architectural masterpieces littering around the city, watch commuters in the bus or in traffic, appreciate the weather and listen deeply to your own thoughts and emotions. In no time your attention span will stretch back out. I highly recommend this once in a quarter!
- Set up a deliberate and intentional phone check-in time. This could be every hour for 10mins or every two hours and intermittently. Not 30mins!!!! I would advise the interval is longer. During this period, you will make the most of the time and become productive with the time you spend on the apps and then wait till the next check-in time.
- Pursue activities that could replace your phone addiction habit- learn to play the guitar so you can use your fingers more productively rather than for swiping through screens. You can learn art or even the piano. There are lots of other skills to learn when you start to think about it.
- Keeping your phone out of reach when in bed – Where you keep your phone is also important when it’s time to sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t charge their phones in their bedrooms are significantly happier than those who do. It is most time responsible for insomnia and neck pain. Sometimes it is a struggle to put the phone down late at night. Many sleep off with their phones in their palms while others would rather run the batteries down before they can hope to sleep. If you love your eyes and hope to have a sound sleep, leave your phone charging in your dining, living room or any other place other than your bedroom. Thank me later.
Try all of this first and watch as your friends, wives, husbands, colleagues would notice the striking change in your mood, behaviour and attitude. One most noticeable feature is that you will become more present and attentive to others and they would be grateful to have you listening to them every time you engage them.
I believe that the smartphone was created to serve me, not the other way round. If you are a slave to it, then you are addicted. When you run hurriedly to pick a ringing phone you are addicted.
When you must respond to every beep or every message from your apps, then you are clearly addicted. They are can wait for you. The calls, the messages, the emails; they can wait.
You can’t stop them from coming in torrents, but you can control how you react to it. So…work on yourself.
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