Break Your Phone Addiction

Am I addicted to my phone?

It's time you follow 9.1 million Brits and take a step back from your social media. A study from BUPA found two-thirds of us suffer from "compare and despair syndrome", with sadness and jealousy arising from viewing other profiles.

Of course, nobody Instagrams the worst parts of their life, so all feeds must be taken with a pinch of salt. So how have we gotten to the point where we shiver with every notification? MH plugs into the reasons we're addicted to our devices.

So, does your smartphone’s blinking battery indicator leave you nervous? Does your mobile always occupy the salad fork’s slot at dinner? Is it the first thing in your hand when you wake up? Then consider this an intervention.

Smartphone addiction isn’t recognised as an official diagnosis. Yet. But according to Dr David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, up to 20% of people show compulsive smartphone behaviour, while most of the rest of us are overusing our mobiles. So if you’re not addicted yet, you could be on your way.

That’s because your smartphone operates on what Greenfield calls a “variable ratio reinforcement schedule”. “Every time it buzzes and lets you know a piece of information has come in – a tweet, a Facebook update, an email – you don’t know when it’s going to come or how much you’re going to like it.” It hooks you in exactly the same way as a slot machine, with the Snapchat-from-the-girl-in-marketing jackpot interspersed with smaller, cat-getting-stuck-in-a-shoebox-level wins.

Keeping an eye on your Instagram doesn’t make you an addict, but if you’re jonesing for it while driving then you should be concerned. “When the behaviour interferes with one of your major spheres of living, with your quality of life or that of others, it’s a problem.” That could be sneaking glances in meetings, paying more attention to Twitter than your other half over dinner, or even – like 48% of British men – using it during sex. And not for a spot of Tulisa-like cinematography.

Not being constantly plugged in doesn’t make you a Luddite, says Greenwood. “People have developed the illusion that if they’re not available they’re going to be insulting people,” says Greenwood. “But we survived for centuries without smartphones.” Not knowing what your mate’s having for dinner isn’t going to ruin your day. And nor is not immediately getting back to that email your boss sends duringNewsnight.

But we’re so indoctrinated by the always-on mentality that breaking free is tricky. “That ease of access offers instant gratification,” says Greenwood. “And the habit isn’t going to go away by itself.” But that doesn’t mean you need to go digital cold turkey. First, find out if your use is potentially problematic by taking Greenfield’s online test to assess just how hooked you are. Then follow his steps to unplugging.

Take note

Smartphones kill time. “Most people are unconscious of their use,” says Greenfield. By tracking when you’re pulling it out of your pocket, and whether it’s to check work emails or mindlessly refresh Twitter, you can see how much time a day you’re wasting staring at its screen. Its beautiful screen…

Red alerts

Pocket vibrations are iPhone crack. “Every social network update is drugging you,” says Greenfield. Turn off alerts for anything non-essential and block out times in the day when you can check Facebook. That’s “10 minutes after lunch”. Not “the afternoon”.

Off the grid

Set yourself rules for when you can and can’t use your phone. “One day a week, turn it off for three hours. When you go into a restaurant, leave it in the car.” You’ll find you enjoy your steak more if it hasn’t gone cold while you Instagram it.

Video: 10 Signs That You Are Addicted to Your Phone

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Date: 10.12.2018, 00:35 / Views: 44571