Admitting My Phone + Social Media Addiction
My name is Nicole Scott, I’m 24, and for years, I have been addicted to my phone and social media.
I didn’t realize this, and a lot of people would not be willing to admit they are in the same boat as me. After discovering the Smartphone Compulsion Test from The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and receiving less than satisfactory results, I knew something had to change. I suggest everyone in their lives take the test to analyze their habits, or at the very least, pursue your own research.
In a culture thriving on the cult of productivity, new self-improvement and personal growth ideals are spread daily to the point of excess; thus, you might start to brush them aside of new age, millennial coping mechanisms or woo-woo trends and nonsense.
This is not one to ignore. The trend of social media and phone detoxes is a healthy, revolutionizing one.
I am not advocating you throw your phone in the trash. I am, however, advocating developing a better relationship with it. Take control of your phone, not the other way around.
This has been going on longer than we probably realize. Articles have been written for almost a decade now about how between 80-90% of humans are addicted to their phones or social media to the point where it could be diagnosed by a professional as a real, psychological condition. What does a day without your smartphone sound like? As much as phones are advantageous and miraculous devices, we can’t ignore the social ramifications such as raises in depression, suicide, anxiety, eating disorders, and numerous other issues across all demographics.
There is a reason why this new wave of addiction is comparable to others like drinking, smoking, gambling, and even gaming. Phone and social media developers design our devices and apps in ways which make them intentionally addictive, to keep us forever scrolling, to keep us wanting more. It produces the same chemical affects in our brain to check notifications as it does to pull a slot machine lever.
This does not mean we are “in too deep” so to speak. We can take actions to come back, be more present, and participate in our lives in ways that make us a happier population.
Actions I’ve Taken
There are small, actionable things you can do to improve your relationship with your phone right now. I am a fan of taking baby steps to achieve a bigger goal instead of going “all in” head first. Over the last 6-8 months, this is what I’ve done.
Admitted I was part of the demographic. I am addicted to my phone: Just say it, out loud. It’ll make you feel better.
Unfollowed. Unfriended. Uninstalled. Unsubscribed: One of the most toxic things about our phone is what we personally allow on our screens and feeds. We friend people we don’t care about or are toxic. We follow brands on Instagram which manipulate us to have low self-esteem or bad shopping habits. We receive emails of no importance which merely bog us down. We have apps which cause mindless behavior. Tailor your feeds ruthlessly to consist of people you love, images that make you happy, words which make you more informed. Delete apps you don’t want to associate yourself. You’ll notice at the very least when you do scroll now, you feel lighter.
Read How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price: Self help books are all the rage right now, but this is one of the most practical ones I have read. Once you read all of the data and go through the 30 Day Challenge yourself, you’ll get a greater sense of understanding of your relationship with your socials. After, just gift it to a friend who you feel it might help as well.
Created “No Phone Zones”: I recently went to dinner with a bunch of friends and they all had their phones out at once but me. I asked everyone to put their phones away because it made me uncomfortable. Then their reactions made me uncomfortable. They claimed there was nothing to talk about, they were filling empty time while waiting for our dinners, that I shouldn’t care if they’re out, I’m just being uppity. This severely hurt my feelings as a host. But it only took five minutes or so for conversations to blossom. It felt unnatural at first because of the tension, but it was worth it. So, I do not allow my phone to be around me while I eat, I do not allow it near me when I am in the car (unless I use it for navigation), and I do not allow it on my bedside table anymore.
Monitored phone usage with Moment: This was before the advent of iPhone’s new Screen Time function, but I needed to find out exactly how many minutes I spent on what kinds of apps. What were my triggers? How can I make obstacles to block those triggers (like app blockers or timers)? What numbers made me most upset? What do I want them to look like? Taking the time to analyze your usage will give you greater insight what you need to delete, as well as make tangible how severe your addiction is.
Asked myself: how can I befriend my phone? I don’t want to give up on my phone. But, I spent too much time surfing through online stores, obsessively checking my email, playing games, and scrolling through my social medias. I determined after asking myself this question I wanted my phone to be used for three things: communication (in texting, emailing, or calling), productivity, and learning. If I spent three hours on my phone a day, but two hours of that was reading a library book, then I am content. That’s better than seeing two hours spent on Facebook.
SOME realizations and results
The most terrifying realization I had was how poor my attention span was. Every moment of pause, I picked up my phone to the point it became instinctual. I forgot it is a concept to just pause and breathe. Or, better yet, do something. I might be sitting on the couch watching a show I claim to love, yet I am on my phone the whole time. I was not multitasking—I was not watching my favorite show. I was spending time with my phone. It is getting better, slowly but surely. Alongside this, my free time has opened up so much! That’s how I made time to write this blog.
I also realized I am terrified to be without my phone. I was scared intensely by how society has created this expectation for everyone to be on-call, reachable, accessible 24/7, 365. How am I to avoid this expectation? If I put my phone down for four hours, who knows who will get mad at me? What if there’s an emergency? Who knows what I’ll miss? These thoughts frightened me, and I have to find ways to find a medium.
The biggest surprise for me was I deactivated my Facebook. As an 8-year user, I didn’t think I would ever get to this point. But as it so happens, you realize after awhile it’s not necessary. I simply asked my Facebook friends for their phone numbers and emails and that was that. Now I spend zero minutes on that feed of fake news and pictures inducing FOMO.
The emotion I feel when I pick up my phone is not anxious anymore—it is excitement! It is the excitement of connecting with someone I love, learning something new, or accomplishing a task. It wasn’t that before. It was mindless, bored, and sometimes depressing.
According to analytics, I have decreased my phone usage (depending on the days/weeks) around 30%. I would say that’s very substantial!
This is only scratching the surface of my journey, but I hope this made you think at least in some way about your phone!
Thanks for reading! Cheers!