The cell phone is one of the most used and productive tools in our daily lives. However, cell phone addiction is a major issue globally. It negatively affects work productivity, relationships, even our own health. We have this need to stay connected at all times. People are developing habits of checking news, friends, and memes on every social media platform. There’s even a term for the phenomenon—FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Over time, this has evolved into an unforeseen cell phone addiction for a an entire generation.
In 2018, Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a mobile device, up from 35% in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. And in a 2017 survey, Deloitte reported that US smart phone users check their phones as much as 47 times a day. Of these users, 47% said they have tried to limit their usage, but only 30% have succeeded. The lure of checking emails, and social media platforms like Facebook, is hard to resist. Of the respondents, 85% check their phones while talking to family and friends. Eighty percent also check their phones within an hour before sleeping, and upon waking.
The increasing use of the device can result in detrimental effects, including neck and spine problems, neurological issues, anxiety, insomnia, and even death from increasing cases of distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said distracted driving
A Manhattan study on pedestrians found that 42% of those who entered traffic during a “Don’t Walk” signal were on their electronic devices. Injuries increased tenfold between 2005 and 2010.
The survey also asked respondents ways to restrict cell phone use. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents keep their smart phones in their bags or pockets when meeting people. Thirty-two percent mute notifications, while 27% keep their devices in their bags or pockets when they’re alone. Deleting apps is the solution for 26% of the respondents to reduce temptation to access apps. And finally, 26% of respondents turn off their devices at night.
Realistic Tips to Kick Cell Phone Addiction
Kicking the habit doesn’t always have to go the cold-turkey route. Once you are aware of the effects of cell phone addiction on you, you can slowly build a routine that is doable for you.
Don’t use your smart phone as an alarm clock
Snoozing alarms conditions you to be lazy in the first place. Your phone is the first thing you use, trapping you in a black hole of emails and social media. By the time you get up, you are fatigued by information that somehow affect how your day proceeds.
- Leave your phone outside your bedroom
Make your phone completely out of reach during sleeping time to reduce distractions. Also, the light from your phone messes with your circadian rhythm. The blue light mimics sunlight and causes your brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. People can get insomnia, which can lead to other health risks like depression, obesity, and memory issues.
Turn your device on airplane mode
This is a great short-term technique, especially when driving, as it doesn’t distract you. It saves you on data as well.
Don’t bring your phone inside the bathroom
The bathroom is one of the worst places to use your smart phone. Leaving it at your desk outside the bathroom helps increase productivity and reduces spreading germs to your face, hands, and to other people.
Regulate app use
Apps like Moment, Space, and OFFTIME track your mobile usage and tells you which apps take most of your time. They also actively block you off from certain apps during specific times, and some even have mindfulness activities you can do in the meantime. You could also delete any excess apps that pull your attention away from more important things.
Leave your phone at home
This takes a lot of commitment and planning to execute. There was a time when we moved around all day untethered from our devices. Cell phone addiction can be avoided even in the modern digital age.
Time for Re-evaluation of Smart Phone Addiction
It is evident that our dependence on our smart phones has gotten out of hand. In Apple’s 2018 WWDC Keynote, one of their main highlights is their new feature, Screen Time. This app helps users to be more mindful of how they use their devices by providing reports on app usage and device pickups. It can also set limits on apps and put apps on off limits on specific times for better productivity and sleeping habits. It is important for every cell phone user to realize how their mobile activities affect them, and start with simple, doable steps that will positively impact their everyday lives. It is time to put a stop to cell phone addiction.
Over the past five years there has been a proliferation of studies assessing how excessive social media use can impact negatively on health. In a recent paper Dr. Kuss and Mark D. Griffiths again reviewed the latest research on the topic and showed that social media use for a minority of individuals is associated with a number of psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, loneliness, Attention DeficitHyperactivity Disorder, and addiction. Because social media is most frequently accessed via smartphones, their usage is intimately intertwined and their mobile nature contributes to excessive checking habits, which often derives from what is commonly labelled as the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO).
The good news is that very few people are genuinely addicted to social media. However, many people’s social media use is habitual and it can start to spill over into other areas of their lives and be problematic and dangerous, such as checking social media while driving. Other behaviors may be annoying rather than dangerous, but may be indicative of problematic social media use, such as checking social media while eating out with friends or constantly checking your smartphone while watching a movie at the cinema. Others may snub social contact with their loved ones or friends and prefer to check out social media on their smartphone instead (so-called ‘phubbing’).
If you want to check whether you may be at risk of developing an addiction to social media, ask yourselves these six simple questions:
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
Do you often try to reduce your use of social media without success?
Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies?
If the answer to all six of these questions is “yes,” then you may have or be developing an addiction to using social media. We say “may” because the only way this can be confirmed is through a diagnosis from a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.
If you answered “yes” to a few of these questions, it is more likely that you are a habitual social media user and that what you should do is engage in ‘digital detox’ strategies that simply allow you to reduce the amount of time spent on social media. This can include simple steps, such as turning off sound notifications and only allowing yourself to check your smartphone every 30 minutes or once an hour. Other simple steps include having periods in the day where there is self-imposed non-screen time (such as during meal times) and leaving your smartphone in a separate room from where you sleep (just so you don’t get the urge to check social media before bedtime, during the night, and when you wake up).
At a societal level, steps need to be taken by governments or organizations to help minimize and (in some cases) prohibit the use of mobile devices. Some such steps are in place in many countries, such as the banning of smartphone use while driving. Given the loss of productivity in both the workplace and educational settings, employers, schools, and colleges need policies in place to ensure that individuals are focused on what they should be doing. Many schools ban the use of smartphones in the classroom. Prohibition in other contexts such as workplace settings may also be justified if it is practical to do so. Some restaurants are now providing discounts on food bills if customers refrain from using their smartphones during their meal. These positive reinforcement strategies may well be the way forward in trying to decrease time spent on smartphones checking social media.
Digital literacy and awareness of the effects of excessive social media use need to be embedded with work and educational settings. More controversially, social media operators (such as Facebook) could start using their behavioral data to identify excessive users and provide strategies to limit time spent on their products. This is already being used in the online gambling industry and could easily be applied by social networking sites.
For the small number of individuals that are genuinely addicted to social media use, treatment is warranted. However, the goal of treatment for this type of addiction (unlike many other addictions) should be controlled use rather than total abstinence, as it is not feasible to stop someone from using devices that have Internet access (i.e., their smartphone). The most successful type of treatment for online addictions appears to be cognitive behavioral therapy (which is a talk therapydesigned to help people change the way they think and behave), although there are relatively few published studies examining its efficacy in relation to internet addictions. Other more specific ways of how to treat individuals with excessive and addictive Internet use, including social media use, have also been outlined elsewhere.
When it comes to solving the problem of reducing individuals’ use of social media there is no magic bullet. While individuals are ultimately responsible for their own social media use, policymakers, social media operators, employers, and educational establishments all need to play their part in reducing excessive social media use.
(Please note, this article was written Mark D. Griffiths and Dr. Daria Kuss and was the original extended version of an article that was subsequently published in The Washington Post)
References and further reading
Andreassen, C.S., Billieux, J., Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J., Demetrovics, Z., Mazzoni, E. & Pallesen, S. (2016). The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatricdisorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 30, 252-262.
Andreassen, C.S., Pallesen, S., Griffiths, M.D. (2017). The relationship between excessive online social networking, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addictive Behaviors, 64, 287-293.
Chotpitayasunondh, V., & Douglas, K. M. (2016). How “phubbing” becomes the norm: The antecedents and consequences of snubbing via smartphone. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 9-18.
Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Social networking addiction: An overview of preliminary findings. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.119-141). New York: Elsevier.
Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552.
Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2017). Social networking sites and addiction: Ten lessons learned. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14, 311; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030311
Pontes, H.M., Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The clinical psychology of Internet addiction: A review of its conceptualization, prevalence, neuronal processes, and implications for treatment. Neuroscienceand Neuroeconomics, 4, 11-23.
Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fearof missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841-1848.