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Can’t Live Without Your Cell? Being Too Attached to Your Smartphone is a Real Thing

July 01, 2017

Have you ever fallen asleep with your smartphone clenched in your hand — and woke up with it still there?

Have you ever experienced extreme panic when you thought you lost your phone, even though you knew it easily could be replaced?

Can you not go even a few minutes without checking your phone for the latest Facebook update, tweet, news alert or a non-urgent text from a family member or friend?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be too attached to your phone.

About 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, making these devices an integral part of our everyday lives. But sometimes mobile phones can interfere with normal one-on-one conversation and relationship-building (think of how many times you’ve been at a restaurant with your family and mindlessly stared at your phone or seen other people do the same thing).

If your smartphone is taking up too much space — and time — in your life, here are some ways you can rein it in.

Recognize There’s a Problem

The first step to admitting you have a problem is to recognize it. Think about your phone behavior. Can you spend several hours on your phone without a break? Do you spend more time communicating on these devices than you do with people in real life? Do you use your phone any time during the day or night, even when you should be asleep? If yes, then this may signal you need to curb your phone use. If you’re on the fence about what level of cell phone use is too much, the New York Times has a Smartphone Compulsion Test on its site that it co-created with the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. This may give you some insight about your phone use and how to adjust it.

Keep Your Phone Out of Reach

If your phone is easily accessible, it can be hard to overcome the temptation to use it. To minimize this urge, keep your phone out of reach.

When you drive, store your phone in the glove compartment or put it in your purse and put your purse in the back seat. When you’re at a restaurant or other social outing, turn your phone off and put it away. Same thing goes for when you’re at work. Put your phone on silent and put it in your desk drawer.

It can be tempting to “always be on” because we think of a phone as a lifeline if there’s an emergency. But how often do these things actually happen? Going a few hours without checking your phone won’t hurt — most of the time, any incoming text or phone call can wait.

Have Designated No-Phone Zones

Don’t take your phone with you into the bathroom. In addition to being excessive, this behavior also may be unsanitary. When you’re getting ready in the morning, this likely is the only time you have to quiet your mind before you prepare for the day ahead, so don’t bring your phone into the bathroom and check work email and online news sources when you should be using this time more wisely.

Also keep your phone out of the bedroom or at least as far away from your bed as possible. Keeping the phone under your pillow or on your nightstand may make you more tempted to reach for it. Before you go to bed at night, turn your phone off and put it away, ideally in another room like the kitchen or in your dresser drawer or closet several feet away.

Set Designated Times for Phone Use

Some families institute a no-cell phone rule during certain times of day. For example, no checking cell phones during family dinner or during weekend family activities unless it’s an emergency.

You also can shut down your phone after a certain time during the workweek, the same way you’d stop checking work email. This could be right before you sit down for a meal at 7 p.m. or at 9:30 p.m. after the kids go to bed. Choose whatever works best for you.

Enjoy Real-World Conversations

There’s nothing more distracting than being out with a family member or friend and seeing them check their phone several times while you’re trying to have a conversation.

I often find it ironic that smartphone devices are meant to make it easier than ever before to connect people, but instead they often distract us and keep us from connecting to our loved ones in more meaningful ways.

Instead of looking at your phone every second, turn it off or at least put it on vibrate when you’re socializing with family and friends. Once you start doing this, it’ll become a habit.

About 40 percent of people say they are afraid to be without their phone, which indicates just how serious a problem smartphone overuse is. Smartphones have changed the way we all interact, but these devices shouldn’t interfere with your life or prevent you from spending quality time with friends and family — or being fully present with loved ones when you’re around them.

Nine times out ten, there’s no text, voicemail or Facebook message that’s so urgent that it can’t wait a few hours. Instead of passing away the time on your phone, do more enriching activities like exercising, seeing new sights around your town, getting out and meeting new people or spending time with those you care about it. These are all more worthwhile than being glued to your phone. 

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