“I’m addicted to Beyoncé.”
The word addicted has joined ranks with many words that have lost their meaning over time.
Words like “love”, “awesome” or my pet peeve “literally”.
What was once the meaning has shifted and has adopted a new interpretation and intention.
Addicted means “physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects”.
So when someone says “I’m addicted to Beyoncé” I’m pretty sure they don’t mean that they will experience adverse effects if they stop consuming Beyonce’s music.
However, I do believe that I can honestly say that I am addicted to my phone.
Not too long ago, while mindlessly scrolling through social media, I realized that I had just wasted 10 minutes and made the decision to put my phone down.
But it wasn’t 2 minutes later that I found myself picking it up to check my emails, and then I justified my actions because I could have missed seeing the pop-up notification while I was scrolling.
I went to do some errands yesterday and I left my phone on the table at home.
It wasn’t until I was at my appointment that I realized that I had left it behind.
It’s embarrassing to say, but I experienced a significant bout of anxiety with the realization that I would be without my phone for a few hours.
What if I miss an important email?
What if my kid’s school calls?
What will I do while I’m sitting in the waiting area?
Realizing the ridiculousness of my panic I sat back and decided that this will be good for me.
It took minutes… no seconds before those positive expectations wore off and over the next hour I struggled.
I considered asking my husband to leave work and deliver it to me.
I considered borrowing someone else’s phone to notify some people that I can’t be reached.
I even thought about leaving my appointment and rescheduling just so I could run home to grab my phone.
In my heightened anxious state I was agitated.
Not knowing what to do with my hands, what to occupy my mind with and what to do with the dreaded thought I might have to talk to someone I realized that I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms, just like any other behavioural addiction. (ie. gambling, shopping, eating, pornography).
And I help people for a living!
By the second hour, I started to feel better.
Less anxious, I enjoyed my chat in the salon, I people watched and actually was more relaxed and engaged with the world around me.
I realized I was “literally” (see what I did there!?) much better off with a tech-free afternoon.
With life going a mile-a-minute and demands pinging and vibrating and calling for your attention it’s hard to take an afternoon away from the phone.
But for me, it was needed and I really enjoyed it (at least the part after the panic subsided).
I discovered that I need to relook at my phone usage and how it was impacting my mental health and my relationships.
There are ways to know if you have a phone addiction and they can also be applied to any other behaviour addiction.
Next week we will discuss why it’s so easy to get addicted to technology and what we can do about it.
Until then, here are 5 ways to know that you are addicted to your phone.
1. When your relationships are impacted by your use.
Has your spouse asked you to put away your phone? Have your kids commented on your phone or technology use? There is no pre-scripted amount that indicates an addiction; however, when your behaviour negatively impacts your relationships it is a warning sign that your phone use is problematic.
2. You put yourself in dangerous situations
We have all heard many times that texting while driving is as dangerous or more dangerous than driving drunk. But yet many people have continued to put themselves in harm’s way because they can’t resist checking or responding. And we have all seen the videos of people walk into poles, fall down stairs and even walk into traffic all while staring at their phone.
3. Build up the tolerance
What was once a way to destress and check the news at night has now morphed into the primary way we spend our downtime. I had an eye opener when I started to regularly look at my hours used on my phone. I was shocked to see the number of hours I was spending on social media and games. I was shocked at the hours that it added up to. What we may think is just a few moments while we are waiting, turns into hours in front of the screen.
4. Can’t fall asleep without playing on your phone
This one hits home for me. I have used my phone as an alarm so it sits on my bedside table making it very accessible. I have gotten into the habit of playing on my phone and have discovered that I have the urge to check my phone each night before turning out the light.
5. Preoccupied thoughts
This is what I experienced when I left my phone at home for the afternoon. For an hour I was uncomfortable and fidgety, I kept thinking of ways of getting my phone. When I was in line or in a waiting room I reached for my phone forgetting that it wasn’t there. I had nervous thoughts of missing an email or phone call. For an hour my thoughts were preoccupied with my phone.
If you are like me and have identified with more than one of these signs of addiction, have hope!
You are not a bad person or foolish.
You are a human and you are responding to stress, and negative feelings.
Addiction is not what God intended for our lives.
Addiction can consume our thoughts and dictate our behaviours, but God’s intent for us is to live in freedom and faith. (Galatians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:36, Ephesians 3:12, Psalm 118:5).
Self-examine your life and behaviours. Ask God to reveal to you what may be drawing you away from His intended freedom.
Next week check back for practical ways to help overcome an addiction to your phone and technology.