I use my phone every single day, without fail. I write emails from it, scroll through Instagram and Twitter, message my friends and family. It lets me look up addresses, maps, read blog posts, listen to music and podcasts. I’m pinning on Pinterest and taking photos as I go about my day. It is in my hand or my pocket or next to me 99% of the time. And that terrifies me.
I know it’s a slightly different subject, but I am so aware of how much we use our phones. We are glued to them! Whilst I was sitting on the upstairs of my bus yesterday, I looked down to see a single-decker bus driving past. It was dark, but the inside was lit up with the glow of every single commuter on their phones. The average person checks their phone over 100 times a day.
I know it isn’t the worst disaster in the world. We could be doing things that are a lot worse! Phones are great in so many ways. If you’re going to be home late, you can ring and let someone know. You can pretty much run a business from your phone, as well as having a portable camera – most with standards almost as good as DSLR cameras these days. My phone allows me to blog on the go. They hold memories, information, ideas, notes and plans; contact lists and an instant way to get in touch with anyone you know.
In fact, my phone helps me a lot if I am ever feeling anxious or nervous. I can plug my headphones in and zone out. On a crowded commute, I can escape by reading a few blog posts – meaning I am distracted from the uncomfortable nudge of anxiety. Music can make a bad day better and the fact that we have all of this at our fingertips is amazing really.
How bad is it?
But, checking our phones over 100 times each day is excessive. What if someone told you they smoked 100 cigarettes? You’d know this was unhealthy – something you’d need to take action to change to take care of yourself. I think a lot of us quickly get defensive when told we are ‘addicted to our phones’ but let’s be honest – aren’t we all?
In terms of the internet, the fact that all the information in the world is instantly there for us, with just a quick search makes us lazy. We don’t learn why or how, just the what. ‘How far is XX from my house?’ ‘What time is XX on TV?’ ‘How to do XX on Photoshop?’
This study showed that young people felt ‘withdrawal’ and felt genuine physiological symptoms like increased heart rate and blood pressure, plus a sense of loss when forced to get off their phones. Separation anxiety. To a phone.
Over 60% of us sleep with our phones turned on, either next to our bed or under our pillow. There is a niggling thought that I get quite a lot. We are the first generation of people to be immersed in this completely digital world. What are the long-term effects? I worry about our eyes, being constantly glued to the lit-up phones, especially late at night. Research is now showing that these lights are changing the chemical balance in our brains. So it isn’t just our eyes, it is our minds being damaged too.
I know that feeling when you scroll through Instagram and see somebody with what appears to be the perfect life. Young, impressionable girls and boys are being taught that they aren’t good enough every time they look at their phones. It genuinely makes me sad.
I’m not sure really. I feel lucky that until I was about 12, there weren’t iPads or tablets or mobile phones (apart from those huge ‘brick’ phones everyone’s parents had!) to be handed to us. I think children are exposed to them very early. Studies now show that giving a child a smartphone is like giving them a gram of cocaine – it is literally the equivalent addiction level.
So how do we change?
This is difficult. It would be very easy to say ‘Ok, well I’m not going to use my phone in the evenings any more’ – or similar. But the problem is, you are then isolated. Because almost everyone has a phone these days, by not using yours, you are cutting yourself off. You would miss invites to go out and opportunities to chat to your friends.
For first steps, I think it is good to just try a few ways to spend less time on your phone, rather than removing it from your life entirely. That seems a big first step! Although if anyone has done this, let me know how you got on!
A few steps to try to help minimise time on your phone
– Delete unwanted apps. I deleted Facebook for about 3 months and did not miss it. I kept Messenger so I could chat to my friends, but the temptation to scroll through posts and videos was gone. Highly recommend this one!
– Have an internet-free day. You won’t be looking at social media, but you’ll still be able to get texts or calls and take photos. It sounds easy, but trust me, it isn’t. It takes will-power not to Google your questions or have a quick browse on Instagram. It’s a good challenge that I’m going to do more often, a great way to practise self-control.
– Don’t look at your phone last thing at night. This is the one I need to work on the most. When I’m on my own without my boyfriend, I’ve gotten used to watching a YouTube video to help me fall asleep – this started a few years ago after I watched a really scary film so needed a distraction! Reading a few pages of a book to help me get to sleep is an aim I have, just to make sure the last thing I look at isn’t my phone.
I’d love to start a conversation about this in the comments. Do you feel addicted to your phone or do you have it under control?