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Smartphone Addiction: The Tech Lover's Conundrum

Smartphone addiction is rampant among U.S. kids, teens, and adults.

Many of us who code, develop apps, game, or just generally love tech, see our smartphones and tablets as windows of opportunity to create and connect with others. The possibilities have become seemingly infinite. And it’s glorious! But, because of the prevalence of smart devices, it can be easy to gloss over our attachment—or over-attachment—to our screens. Many us have developed some degree of smartphone addiction.

By now, the issue is extremely well-documented. There are books like this. Articles over at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Business Times. Viral videos (ironically) like this. Recently, Leslie Perlow at the Harvard Business School studied 1,600 adult professionals and revealed that:

  • 70% check their smartphone within an hour of getting up.
  • 56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
  • 48% check over the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • 51% check continuously during vacation.
  • 44% would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.

Hm. Sounds kind of like me. Over the past four years, my Droid has become a habit. Something that I fiddle with when I’m distracted. When I’m waiting in line for an ice cream sandwich. When I’m tired after band practice. When I’m too lazy to walk outside to see if I need a sweater. When I’m about to fall asleep but HAVE TO check my Facebook just one…more….ti……

Do any of these traits ring true for you? Are you bothered by them? Should you be bothered by them?

Depends who you ask. To some, relentless smartphone use is simply “the way things are now.” To others, it’s absurd.

“Why would anyone care that you just had Eggo Waffles?”

“Did you just bring your phone in the bathroom?”

“When I was a kid, I’d rather have gone to the park with my friends.”

“Can’t we have one meal without your face buried in that screen?”

Sound familiar? We’re likely all guilty of some of these things. It’s problematic when they become the norm, and when our loved ones start to perceive us as detached, distracted, and missing out on opportunities for meaningful, in-person interaction.

There has to be a balance.

Quality Time, On and Off-Screen

Just like we should strive to spend quality, face-to-face time with our friends and loved ones, we’d do well to spend quality time on our screens—and work to eradicate some of the time-wasting, aimless scrolling, swiping, and tapping. Naturally, the definition of “quality time” will vary from person to person. To me, it’s cool to take advantage of Yelp and find the perfect birthday dinner spot, to say goodnight to your best friend across the country via Skype, to send your sick relative a goofy Snapchat to brighten their day, to flex your skills and code a new mobile game, to read a book, or even to take a break from working hard and treat yourself to a thankless run of Flappy Bird.

The important thing is that we stay honest with ourselves and admit when we’re truly squandering our days away, neglecting to look up from our screens when someone’s talking, or when we’re being downright dangerous. We’ve got to put an end to texting while driving, and even while crossing the street.

Control Your Smartphone Addiction

Even dedicated techies may need some help reining in their smart device use. Consider implementing the tips below, or jump to Gizmodo for a more in-depth how-to guide:

  1. Open your settings and turn off your notifications to alleviate the constant barrage of blinking lights and vibrations.
  2. Uninstall culprit apps that perpetuate time-wasting.
  3. Set time limits for yourself (or for your student), and reward yourselves with a fun outing each week you stick to them.
  4. Switch on “Airplane Mode” (or just power down) for a quick fix.
  5. Utilize a “quitting” app such as BreakFree or AppDetox to help you resist the temptation to mindlessly check your phone.
  6. Avoid always having your phone on-hand—don’t be afraid to leave it in the other room or in a drawer while you’re at home.
  7. Remember that every special moment, beautiful sunset, rock show, or surprise party you attend does NOT need to be filmed. Live in the moment and savor the memory—not the shaky mobile phone footage.
  8. Lastly, let’s all do each other a favor and not act like these folks…

smartphoneaddictgif

Here’s to a happy, well-balanced new year where WE control our smart device use—not the other way around.

 

Header image from huffingtonpost.com

.GIF image compiled from footage from Windows Phone 7 commercial