Tuesday, January 3, 2023

My Dirty Little Addiction

I have an addiction. To my phone. When I feel unhappy, unfulfilled, overwhelmed, depressed, bored, anxious, I turn to my addiction for escapism. And this past year, I have felt those emotions ALL the time. I reasoned that it wasn't a big deal. I mean, it wasn't harmful like alcohol, nicotine, or drugs so it wasn't really bad, right? Except that I was wrong. It was harmful. I think it has broken my brain. 

I can no longer seem to concentrate on a single task. I can't watch a movie without simultaneously scrolling on my phone. I can't clean my apartment without taking breaks to grab my phone. I can't talk on my phone without putting it on speaker so I can play games at the same time.

Cellphone addiction is not recognized as an actual psychiatric disorder, but there is a growing body of evidence that supports the notion. Obsessive use of smartphones can cause sleep disturbances, lowered concentration, anxiety, loss of relationships, poor school/work performance, among others. According to addictioncenter.com, research has shown that chronic phone use can alter a neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain, as well as decrease gray matter, and it's linked to an increase in suicide.

I'm inordinately embarrassed to admit that I averaged over 9 hours a day on my phone last week. NINE HOURS! 

Now granted, I've been on winter break from school for the past 2 weeks, and this isn't the usual amount of time I spend on my phone, but still! I know I spend too much time on it. Over the past year, I could have spent that time on so many other more worthwhile endeavors. I never purposely looked at my usage statistics, so when this popped up a few days ago, it was an eye-opener. I mean, I knew I was pretty addicted to my phone, but I didn't realize just how much. After my shocking revelation, I resolved to change my habits immediately.

I conducted an earnest examination of my habits and concluded that my problem wasn't social media. I didn't feel like I was missing out on some elusive thing if I didn't constantly check my feeds. I never looked at TikTok, Instagram, and, other than occasional updates, had mostly stayed away from Facebook for years. For me, the biggest time wasters on my phone were games. I played them obsessively. I started during the pandemic, and quickly became so entrenched I couldn't stop. It was just a way to "numb out" so I didn't have to deal with the unpleasant things in my life. Of course, the unpleasant aspects of life don't go away when you ignore them. They are there, growing like a cancer even while we stay blissfully numb, idly playing on our phones.

I admitted that I also picked up my phone whenever I was bored, or whenever I was overwhelmed and didn't know where to start on my tasks. I picked it up whenever I was sad. I brought it with my everywhere - the laundry room, the bathroom, taking out the garbage.

Although there was some appeal to the idea of just getting rid of my phone, I knew that wasn't realistic. And really, smartphones are handy tools. They have features that make life easier, to be sure. Smartphones aren't inherently bad if you use them wisely.

When I went to bed New Year's Eve, I deleted the games from my phone, and vowed to be more cognizant of my phone usage. For the past 3 days, I've reached for my phone countless times, but each time, I've stopped and asked myself -  Do you really need to use it? If the answer was yes that I wanted to call my parents, text my kids, video chat with the grandkids, add something to my grocery list, check my email, look up some information, then I allowed myself to use it, careful to put it down the second I finished my task. If the answer was no, I was only reaching for the phone out of habit, then I refrained.

I figured I'd be pretty twitchy by now, going through cellphone withdrawal, but I was so absolutely disgusted by the time I'd been spending on my phone that I actually feel good with these new rules in place - 1. no games 2. use it consciously for purpose, and not just out of habit.

Tell me I'm not alone. Does this describe anyone else?


Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn! Where do I go to find my iPhone usage?

Dawn said...

When you unlock your phone, just swipe right. Or go to "settings" and then click on "screen time."

Kazza the Blank One said...

I "only" use my phone for two hours a day, but even that feels like a lot. Like I'm always complaining that I don't have enough time to do things and here I am wasting two hours a day on my phone. Biggest offender: Candy Crush. hmmmm!

Janae said...

I definitely relate but social media is my time suck. and we are not alone. It's a big problem for a lot of us. Good for you for sharing and for wanting to do better.

Bernie Cruikshank said...

I 100% agree that we are all addicted to these devices and we need to leave them aside more often. I spend most of my time blogging and have pretty strict time limits on FB, Instragram but tend to scroll the news over and over again. It is definitely a section in my life I need to improve and I think it starts with awareness. Bernie

Cindy said...

I'm not on it much during the day but at night while watching TV I scroll FB and IG. It is such a time-waster! Good for you for taking control of your phone, rather than the other way around.

Loretta Monroe said...

Oh Sister, you are not alone. I can waste countless hours on my iPad playing games. I justify this by telling myself I am exercising my brain to ward of dementia...or something. But the fact is, I have spent so much time sitting on my backside, playing on my iPad, I now have a super stiff hip. Clearly I need to exercise my brain less and by butt more. :) Thanks for the timely post.

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