Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media or playing a game on your phone for hours on end, even when you know you have other tasks to complete or people to interact with?
If so, you're not alone. Many people struggle with what feels like a phone addiction. It feels like a compulsive need to use your phone constantly, even when it interferes with your daily life.
But why exactly is it so difficult to put down our phones and what makes them feel so addictive? Are they really addictive?
Are phones addictive?
Phones are not always as addictive as addictive substances, but that doesn't mean that you can't develop phone addictions or strong and harmful phone habits.
Wondering if your phone usage is not just a bad habit? Think it's somewhere along the addiction spectrum? A good indicator is if you regularly feel like your phone is the only thing that can give you any pleasurem and it's significantly impacting other parts of your life.
All technology inherently has some addictive properties. Being connected with the rest of the world gives us limitless information and entertainment right at our fingertips.
Phones and the apps we use day to day are designed to form habits very quickly and effectively. The designers and engineers behind our phones tap into psychological principles that make anyone susceptible. Many apps and games use rewards and incentives to keep us coming back for more. Social media companies in particular perfectly balance these rewards in an unpredictable way to keep us engaged. The experience of connecting with others, sharing our thoughts and experiences, and receiving likes, comments, and other forms of feedback involves a lot of dopamine (the key neurochemical responsible for motivation and addiction).
Why is a phone addiction bad?
All addictions are harmful, and phone addiction is no exception. Addiction is defined as a chronic dysfunction in the brain causing persistent, compulsive dependence on a substance or behaviour. This causes a reduction in your ability to enjoy other aspects of your life.
Phone addiction, besides limiting the quality of your life, will involve excessive screen time. Too much screen time has been linked to a range of negative side effects, including eye strain, sleep disruption, and even depression and anxiety. It can also interfere with our ability to concentrate and be present in the moment, leading to a lack of productivity and difficulty forming meaningful connections with others.
How to deal with phone addiction?
If you find yourself struggling with phone addiction, there are things you can do to reduce your reliance on your phone. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Set realistic limits on your phone usage
Use the built-in screen time tracking features on your phone to track how much time you spend on your phone each day, and set limits for certain apps or activities.
2. Schedule breaks from your phone
Set aside dedicated phone-free times each day, such as during meals or before bed, to allow yourself to disconnect and relax.
3. Find alternative activities
Instead of turning to your phone when you have free time, try finding other activities that you enjoy, such as exercising, reading, or spending time with friends and family.
4. Seek outside help
If you find that you are unable to control your phone usage on your own, consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor. They can provide guidance and support to help you overcome your phone addiction.
If you'd like some more tips to reduce screen time and get back in control of your phone I recommend this article - 12 ways to reduce screen time.