At the Morningside Recovery Center in California, you can call them up and get help for you addiction to heroin, xanax, cyrstal meth, cocaine……..and your CELL PHONE.
That’s right, it has come to the point in our society that our cell phone use has become an addiction for some. Along with this addiction comes reduced social interaction, fatigue, and depression.
While I’m sure that most of us don’t need an actual trip to a recovery center in order to cope with your attachment to the glowing screen, I’m willing to bet that there are a few habits that if you could ditch them would improve the quality of your life.
As I was planning the blog for this week I was struggling to figure out exactly what I wanted to talk about. I have recently made changes to reduce my use of certain social media outlets due how much time I was mindlessly using them and because I noticed that when I would finally break away, my mood had taken a downturn. Having discussed this frustrating behavior (mindlessly scrolling only to end up more negative than when you started) with friends, I found everyone agreeing.
If you choose not to participate in social media, particularly if you have been doing so for awhile, you feel as though you are missing out on something. But when you do start scrolling, it affects you in unanticipated ways.
SMART PHONES: FRIEND OR FOE?
If you went back in time – even as recently as the 1980s and showed someone your smart phone they wouldn’t believe their eyes. Seriously, how many of you remember your teacher saying you had better learn how to do this math because you won’t have a calculator in your pocket all the time? (Hah! How wrong you were Mrs. Grant!)
I’m sure that that person from the 80s would also struggle to understand how this miraculous device isn’t making you the happiest person on earth. All your information, connection, and entertainment needs at the push of your thumb.
So what is going on here? Why aren’t these things bringing us unparalleled happiness and satisfaction?
The answer is twofold:
First, everyone has a basic happiness set point. Scientifically this is referred to as hedonic adaptation. It basically means that whether something good or something bad happens to you, when it’s all over you’re going to end up back at about the same point on the happiness line that you were prior.
That’s not to say that there aren’t huge life altering events that change you forever, but for the most part buying a shiny new smart phone or spilling the coffee you just bought all over your favorite shirt, is only going to affect your mood for so long.
Second, smart phones come with enough pluses and minuses that it all seems to even out as far as their overall effect.
- There’s the connection you feel to your friends online vs the multitude of cyber bullies and trolls to battle
- The productivity that you feel by using apps vs the distraction that comes from using other apps
- The ability to research everything before deciding vs all the choices that it gives us causing decision fatigue and wasting our time
- The fun boredom busting games and distractions vs staying up too late, checking it in the middle of the night, melatonin destroying blue light induced insomnia – all causing fatigue.
Cell phones make you closer to the people that are far away from you, but take you away from the people sitting next to you.
THE TRAPS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Just like the smart phone itself social media comes with it’s boons and pitfalls that we all must navigate.
Like much of the technology we have access to, the way that you use it determines whether it is helping you or hurting you.
For example, if you log into social media, scroll endlessly, compare your life to others highlight reel – this can make you feel more depressed and isolated. Obviously this is not the intended result of social media, but it can happen. This is the reason that I needed to take a break. I was wasting huge amounts of time mindlessly scrolling and unconsciously comparing daily my life with the high points that others were posting of theirs.
Engaging in the comparison game can lead to you feeing inferior, hostile, and resentful.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If you instead interact with your social media by posting and engaging with others to maintain and build your network, then it can have a positive effect on your emotional state. The key point here is that you are genuinely showing up regardless of how many likes you will get. Posting just for likes is just another form of comparison which will only bring you down.
There is no denying that we as a society are increasingly dependent upon, and addicted to, our smart phones. Some estimates state that we are looking at our phones an average of 150 times a day – including all through the night.
The problem that arises here is that our social interactions are being hindered. Many of the positive feelings that we get from interacting in person are lost through the phone. Our brain releases bonding chemicals that make us happy (oxytocin) when we see people close to us smile. You can’t get that through an emoji.
You also can’t get that if your friends smiles and you’re busy looking at your phone.
People report having a reduced satisfaction with social interactions when either they or their companion were looking at their phones – so even when we are out among people, we’re diminishing the benefits by our cell phone use.
In order to improve our social interactions we need to take some steps to create some distance from the technology so that we can fully participate in the social experience.
1. Set Some Boundaries
If you’re like me and the actual smart phone wasn’t so much the problem as just a few apps, then you can take steps to limit their usage. Deleting the app is the easiest way to stop using it, but if that feels like too big a step, then move the icon. This is a big enough change in the habit loop that you will have to make a conscious decision to use the app. This step allows for a moment of decision making to occur as opposed to the choice being automatic. If that’s not enough then you can get other apps to limit yourself to a certain amount of time using the app.
If you really have no control around the apps in question then it’s definitely time to consider a detox. Being unable to control the behavior is a sign of actual addiction. Consider removing the app from all your devices and taking a break for a week or more to assess how it’s affecting you. It may be hard at first, but you might find that you’re actually happier without it.
2. Define What’s Important
When you’re headed out to a social engagement take a moment beforehand to decide how your device will be handled while you’re there. If you’re not expecting anything urgent to come up (a phone call from your spouse about urgent family business, for example), consider turning it off for the duration of your event. Or at least stow it away so that you’re not able to mindlessly pick it up to check it.
3. Cut Back on Notifications
Even if you aren’t engaging in the notifications, seeing them flash up on your screen is distraction enough to derail your focus. In a very noisy world, consider the protection of your focus paramount.
One of the best ways is to eliminate the visual/auditory notifications for as many of the apps on your phone as possible. If the app is non essential turn off all the notifications. If you need to know, but not right away consider only allowing badges or other non intrusive alerts. Save the buzzing, beeping, and banners for the really important stuff.
4. Ask for Help
One of the sneaky things about habits is that they are automatic. It can get to the point where it’s so ingrained that you don’t even realize that you are doing it. In order to break strong habits such as these, consider recruiting those close to you to help you.
Acknowledging the behavior is the first step to any brain change you want to make, so get help noticing. The more you notice and actively change what you’re doing, the easier it will become to notice and change the behavior.
Cellphones are neither good nor bad.
Social media is neither good nor bad.
It’s how you use them that matters.
Taking a moment to assess your attachment to these things and their effect on your life is an important action in our modern society. Being mindful about how you use them and and not allowing them to hijack your attention and emotions will keep you happier and healthier – both personally and socially.
If you’re struggling with feeling stuck and wanting a change please send me a message. I offer a free conversation to discuss how coaching can help you.