What to do if you’re addicted to your smartphone
Chief of research for work-force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada and former chief research and development officer of work-force productivity with Morneau Shepell
You’re walking down the street and suddenly think you feel a vibration coming from your pocket or purse. You believe your smartphone has just gone off, so you stop to check and discover it hasn’t. This innocent check may be a sign that your body has become conditioned to expect an interaction with your smartphone, so it is anticipating a vibration. It’s called phantom cell phone vibration.
The scientific reason why this happens is not fully agreed upon or understood. Regardless, it’s further evidence that smartphones are having an impact on shaping human behaviour. If this happens to you, one way to stop this phantom vibration is to move your phone to another location, turn off vibrate and turn on the sound on your phone.
A study in the United Kingdom reported that 51 per cent of participants experienced severe anxiety when separated from their smartphone.
Establishing a healthy norm is key as a baseline to monitor your smartphone use. A 2017 study reported the average American spends 2.51 hours a day on their smartphone.
The increasing number of people getting access to smartphones and the increased amount of screen time they’re engaged in, both at work and for personal use, has resulted in more users developing a risk for smartphone behavioural addiction. Many behavioural addictions, such as gambling, shopping, food, online porn and sex trigger the brain’s reward system that ultimately drives the cycle of addiction.
Any delay in gratification for those who have developed a dependency on their smartphone can result in a form of pain and anxiety that builds and impacts their emotions and thinking until they check for a message or notification.
Each behavioural addiction has its own unique pattern. It becomes problematic when the behaviour starts to drive psychological urges, compulsion and loss of control. For example, smartphone notifications go off and you feel you must immediately check; you’re not capable of delaying that action without feeling some form of internal discomfort or anxiety.
For a person at risk for a smartphone addiction, the urge to check their smartphone is like a gambler chasing a bet to win; each bet is an opportunity.
If you become aware that you’re at risk for a smartphone behavioural addiction, the next step is to make a conscious decision to regain control.
The key to reducing the risk of becoming controlled by your smartphone is to be aware and pay attention to how it’s influencing your behaviour and what you’re missing out on because of it.
Recommendations for preventing a smartphone addiction:
Set a daily maximum and monitor your personal screen time. Screen-time apps can mon- itor how much personal time you spend on your smartphone. If you set two hours a day for personal screen time as your maximum and you can’t adhere to this limit, it may be a red flag that you’re becoming controlled by your smartphone.
Sleep in a different room than your smartphone. Train your brain to sleep and relax. Waking up through the night to check messages as you hear a notification is a sign that you’re being pulled in by the stimulusresponse power of a smartphone.
The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2018 winners of the award at tgam.ca/workplaceaward. For more information about the award go to www.employeerecommended.com.