I’m an addict…
My cumbersome first cell phone certainly started as a very innocent and casual helper. It made me feel more secure and in control to know I could be reached 24/7 when my kids were young. It did nothing but send and receive phone calls.
Besides possibly being too accessible to my children and their forgotten lunches and other moments of “need,” we were not negatively affected by the use of my phone. Usually it just rested conveniently in my purse, almost shocking me if it rang.
Fast forward through the innocuous years to when everything changed dramatically —
One day I got a text (I didn’t know my phone even had “texting” abilities). I was single, and a whole new world opened to me, like little rays of sunshine on a rainy day. The text was from my first date in 20+ years, just saying, “hi, I was thinking of you.” I wasn’t all that interested in him, but It was still a very exciting intrusion! A slight adrenaline rush followed; Serotonin levels spiked, I’m sure.
Was that feel-good moment the beginning of an addiction? One of my kids immediately taught me to use the T9 predictive texting — because of course, it is good manners to respond to all greetings (old school manners in a new world?). Texting was so much fun!
I still didn’t understand why I would want a phone with tons of bells and whistles, but I had an upgrade available that miraculously wasn’t needed by a teen who had shattered their screen or dropped their phone in the toilet. I got a Blackberry — with a camera AND the INTERNET!
About that time I innocently joined Facebook and another world opened up. I was brand new to Atlanta, and remember thinking, “Facebook is so weird. Most people on here must be lonely without a lot going on… in real life. And what’s with the profiles? Don’t your friends already KNOW who you are?” But my description pretty well described me in those first months in a new city, so my cyberspace friend list grew, and I was hooked.
Then I got an iPhone – go ahead and liken that to a first hit of crack cocaine! I adapted the familiar head down and clicking posture way too often. There were so many options to beckon me…
And respond I did. Why is it some people seem to barely notice when their phones beep? While others – like me – feel compelled to respond immediately and scramble to check the screen, even when it’s not our tone? It’s not the smart phone that’s the problem. It’s me and my addiction to it. Am I alone in this?
Forgive my presumption, but I don’t think so. We’re passionate in choosing whether we are an apple or Droid user! (hmmm… user?). Phones are EVERYWHERE! No longer nestled in purses, I’d say the average person has it in their hand, at the ready position, more often than not.
An aside: I just heard my phone vibrating in the kitchen. I am not expecting anything. Without thinking I immediately got up from my computer, because surely whatever whim of information coming through the cell lines was more important than all else I have chosen to do this morning. That is OUT OF CONTROL — See title of blog.
Enough! Smart Smart phones can be powerfully addicting, and mine has me! How do I know? Check out my list of symptoms (wording adapted from an article describing symptoms of substance addiction):
- I cannot stop using it without withdrawal anxiety — despite recognizing detrimental effects to my health and well being.
- I have made social and recreational sacrifices for my habit.
- I am sure to always have my phone with me.
- I take risks — I am 100% against texting and driving (even with Siri), yet sometimes, I still don’t pull over to text (today, I stop), and I talk on the phone while driving a lot. I believe both make me a less safe driver and endanger others.
- I am obsessed with what my phone delivers, and with getting a steady supply. I’m embarrassed to say, I check it at red lights sometimes, simply out of momentary boredom (I had never experienced boredom at red lights before smartphones).
- I often use my phone in secrecy and solitude, because, again, I’m embarrassed at my excess. Even I don’t get me, so I try not to be obviously rude in my use of it.
- Subjectively, it seems screen time has taken away time spent in my hobbies and activities (or my phone is with me and distracting me while I do them).
- While it isn’t causing financial difficulties, our family of seven could take an annual vacation on the amount we spend all together on this new contraption we all must use.
- Relationship problems could emerge – because it probably seems to others at times that my virtual world offers more to me than they do.
I think there’s been a vicious cycle that has contributed to my addiction. My ‘use’ blossomed in my early single years — a time of loneliness and change. I used my phone (and often facebook and the internet) to feel connected. And to look and feel busy, when I was awkwardly disengaged with those around me.
I made many new friends and my life began to fill up with opportunities and activities to end my loneliness. In response, I didn’t limit my use of all things with a screen (I began carting around my own laptop and eventually an iPad during this same period) — it increased with each convenient technological advancement.
As Erin Davis put it in her book Connection “technology has blunted my appetite for human connection. The pixels had become more alluring than the real thing. The illusion seemed more inviting than the reality. I felt like an addict whose drug of choice became a little box of glass and metal” (page 39-40). She speaks in the past tense — recovered. I want to be there, because my smart phone just leaves me addicted — never satisfied.
I know I have a smart phone addiction — possibly a cyber communication addiction? A weird loneliness lurks alongside it in the shadows. Technology has helped fuel my old loneliness just as surely as it once offered it a false cure.
I’m not going to throw out all my iStuff. Technology is here to stay (the irony is we own an IT business). Life without a screen is just not an option for most of us. How I relate to it is… I’ll be exploring my habits and addiction and the loneliness it may contribute to moving forward in my blog.
Do you see any symptoms of screen addiction or a resulting related disconnect with people in your own life? If so, I welcome your comments and thoughts. And a hint as to what’s to come — a short, experimental period of unplugging might benefit a lot of us. 🙂