Are you addicted to your smartphone?
I must have asked that question 30 times in recent weeks and the most common answer I got in return was “My husband (or spouse) will say yes, but I don’t think I do.”
Is that something an addict says or what?
Here’s the actual definition of addiction from “Psychology Today”: Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (for example, alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (such as gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns.”
Smartphone addiction is real and it’s a problem even those in the tech industry acknowledge.
Journalist Catherine Price, author of the new book “How to Break Up With Your Phone”, told me smartphone addiction is definitely something people should keep in mind.
“The average person is spending 4 hours a day on their phone. That’s a quarter of our waking lives. Do you want to call that an addiction?”
Price and others in the tech world admit smartphones are designed to get us addicted to them. For example; the endless scrolling of Google search results and Facebook news feeds. “Related Links” in stories we read. Auto-play videos on YouTube and Facebook. Netflix automatically playing the next episode of a TV show you watch before the credits end and dings whenever someone sends a text, email, Facebook message or Snap.
Price found some of it is similar to how a lab rat receives a pellet whenever it rings a bell.
“We’re basically training our brains to seek out distraction. Our default is distraction; our brains want to be distract-able,” she said.
“When we check our phones and we find something waiting for us our brains release a chemical called Dopamine. Dopamine is important to us because it teaches us what’s important to pay attention to. It happens every time you go on your phone,” she told me.
“It’s designed to trigger this Dopamine circle so that you check your phone you see a little thing that makes you excited in some way, or angry or whatever, Dopamine is released, the brain associates the phone with a reward of some kind.”
Few people will readily admit they have a problem with their phone but most people, if they’re being honest, will admit its always within arms length and that they often feel anxious when it isn’t.
In her book, Price includes a Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by a professor and researcher at The University of Connecticut School of Medicine that can help a person get a sense of whether their relationship with their phone is becoming a problem.
Here’s a sampling of questions on that test:
- Do you find yourself spending more time on your cell or smartphone than you realize?
- Do you find yourself mindlessly passing time on a regular basis by staring at your cell or smartphone?
- When you eat meals, is your cell or smartphone always part of the table place setting?
- When your cell or smartphone rings, beeps or buzzes, do you feel an intense urge to check for texts, tweets, emails, updates and so on?
- Do you feel reluctant to be without your cell or smartphone, even for a short time?
Price suggests everyone reevaluate the relationship they have with their smartphone and take a break. She says she isn’t encouraging people to throw their smartphone away or stop using it altogether, but she does have a 30-day challenge in the book to help people remember what it’s like not being addicted (or at least devoted) to a mobile device. I strongly recommend reading “How to Break Up With Your Phone” even if you don’t think you have a problem.