Smartphone: Friend Or Foe?

Smartphones are designed to capture and keep our attention as they change how we spend our time. But is it possible to avoid addiction?

Fear of missing out                                       

Many of us waste hours each day on smartphones checking for news and getting needlessly lost in the maze of social media. It has become normal to check our phones countless times each day to make sure we don’t miss anything that may be happening anywhere in the world at anytime.

But conversations about limiting smartphone usage are growing as people realise that as with any addiction it has an adverse effect on how we feel, relate to family and friends, and even perform at work. The desire to take back control over how we use our time is growing as smartphone intrusion is having an adverse effect, particularly on young people.

Waking in the morning without checking the phone is a luxury few of us enjoy, as the last thing we do at night is place it within easy reach. The practice of treating the phone as an essential part of our being reduces our ability to be present in many relationships.

Smartphones and their seductive screens stimulate the brain and steal our natural ability to switch off and relax. Those who use phones as part of their job face the added difficulty of feeling isolated when not connected.

The best way to counteract the dilemma is to engage in tasks that demand full attention and understand that surviving without the phone is not only possible but also desirable. The utility of the smartphone has taken away our ability to simply do nothing without feeling guilty as we are compelled to check messages and fearful of missing out.

Controlling lives

When the phone makes a noise we react mentally with the desire to check it and physically when our body tenses as a response to the stimulus of a ping or vibration. Such intrusion reduces our ability to relax and increases stress levels, as we respond to what may or may not be important. Regular responders even feel muscles twitch automatically as a reflex to receiving a message.

Social media brings another dimension to the unsettling nature of phone usage as it allows us to follow other people’s lives rather than engage with those who surround us. Alternatively, reducing the number of times we check what others are doing increases attention on our own lives and produces feelings of wellbeing.

Reducing the amount of time we spend on smartphones ultimately creates more time for us to undertake more grounded and satisfying activities. The smartphone with its utility and attraction is not inherently bad but its ability to cause addiction is not good.

So, smartphones already dominate our lives and we must learn to use them more carefully to ensure they are more friend than foe.