How Cell Phone Addiction Becomes Real

How Cell Phone Addiction Becomes Real


cell phone addiction
Photo by imcuckoo2

There are a couple of issues here:

1) The average adult and their increasing dependence on cell phones

2) Someone with an emotional dependence on staying connected with their friends at all times

3) Gadget lust, consumerism and materialism (having to have the latest and greatest phone)

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Let’s examine the levels of cellular dependence. First, let’s look at the big picture; at everybody. We’ve all heard and read various rants about cell phones by now. People who use them in inappropriate places, drivers who are talking and not paying attention, and all the other moaning that we tend to do about this invasive technology. And all the while, we continue to use the devices ourselves, and increasingly notice our own dependence on the infernal things. I’m talking about the majority here, about the average cell phone user. Take the following situation:

A trip to the grocery store. You’re halfway there. You realize you forgot your cell phone.

We’ve all been there. We either:

A) Turn around and go get the stupid thing, or

B) Go on without it, and expend a tremendous amount of mental energy and obsession over the fact that we do not have the stupid thing.

This is madness.

I’ve noticed this tendency towards cell phone dependence in myself, and I’ve discussed the phenomenon with others. There are plenty of other people out there (who are not recovering drug addicts necessarily) who have noticed this dependence in their own lives as well. And I’m not necessarily saying that it is such a bad thing…not for sure anyway. Technology can empower our lives, connect us, bring us together, and all that jazz. But the level of dependence, in the case of the cell phone, is a bit disturbing. Certainly there is the potential to move from cell phone dependence to full blown cell phone addiction. How would you know when you’ve crossed the line? Let’s examine what that might entail:

1) Financial

Many addictions can be measured in terms of dollars. It is valid to do so, in most cases, because most of us have a life and have obligations and bills to pay. This makes it easier to spot a potential addiction or dependency when it creeps into our life, especially if that behavior costs a lot of money. Cell phone use is no exception.

We’re all aware of the various cell phone plans and how they limit our “minutes.” Going over these limits costs big money, and there are several people out there who have incurred very large debts as a result of overuse. But this is a tricky slope, because some people (such as business people) might have legitimate reasons to talk for several hours each day on their cell phone, and this doesn’t necessarily imply addiction or even dependence. Plus, there are no unlimited minute plans starting to trickle into the market, so the cost of overages might very well become a mute point. On the other hand, a young teenager that needs an unlimited minutes plan that costs 100 bucks a month might still indicate a real problem. But it’s clear that the money spent for cell phone service is not the only way to judge a person’s level of dependence, and indeed is only a small indicator that their might be a potential problem. This leads us to the next idea, which is really the heart of the issue: time.

2) Time

How much time does the person spend using the device? This is a critical question to ask yourself. Our lives our ticking away, one second at a time… you really want to spend your life talking on the phone? Here is an example that shows the depth of lost time: when I quit smoking cigarettes, a program on my computer calculated the amount of time I used to spend actually smoking, and told me that it added up to over 1 month of continuous smoking out of each year! I double checked these figures and was astounded to see that they were correct. Now apply the same idea to the cell phone: anyone talking on the phone for just under 2 hours a day is wasting an entire month out of each year! Now what’s critical is that the person must be honest with themselves and decide if that time spent on the phone is actually productive, having a positive impact on their life, or if it is simply endless conversation and meaningless drivel. So the question becomes: how do I want to spend my time? What do I want out of life? And then realize that in some cases, the hour or two each day of cell phone use is directly costing you your dreams.

3) Emotional crutch

For some, gabbing and gossiping for hours each day is an emotional dependency, an escape from self. In the case of the cell phone, it is not so much that the technology itself leads to dependence–it is merely a tool, and the way we use it can create problems. The same problem still exists for many using other communication devices, such as the regular land line phone, or instant messaging, or email, and so on. This is really defined as the need for constant communication. A cell phone merely makes this emotional crutch more convenient to access. Typically, this would refer to the younger generation that might get home from school and then have a need to spend several hours recapping the days events and gossiping–but it could just as easily apply to adults with an emotional need to be constantly connected with others.

4) Gadget lust

Finally, there is something to be said for the gadget freak that always has to have the latest phone out there. However, this is not necessarily a dependence on cell phones, but rather a tendency towards materialism/consumerism. Not as big a red flag as the other points, but still a potential indicator.

So what can you do?

cell phone addiction
Photo by mil8

1) Raise your self awareness

This is a necessary first step if you want to change: you have to become aware of the problem as it’s happening. Addictions can be powerful and difficult to overcome because we engage in them mindlessly over time; the behavior becomes automatic for us. If you want to change a behavior like this, you need to first become conscious of it. You need to learn to “catch yourself.” In this case, you want to identify what is “healthy” cell phone use for you and what is not. Then you need to analyze your phone use while it’s happening. Increase your awareness. You start watching yourself as an observer.

This is really the essence of how to change a behavior. This would apply to nearly anything you’re trying to change, such as trying to complain less and be more positive, spend less time text messaging, or anything else for that matter. The first key, in all cases, is to become hyper-aware of the problem as you are doing it (or about to do it).

2) Curtail your use

Obviously, if you want to cut down, you have to cut down. No rocket science here. Be honest with yourself and evaluate how much time you spend on the phone versus how much of your life you really want to waste. If you’re not happy with the way you’re spending your time, the only thing to do is to change it.

There are a number of tactics and strategies that you might employ to do this. The main idea is going to be a commitment to personal change, and probably communicating this resolve to others (the people you tend to gab with on the phone). You could try blocking certain numbers or limiting your minutes or even going cold turkey, but those are not realistic strategies. You will either make the decision to cut back….or you won’t.

3) Set limits

If it’s your children that are suffering from cell phone over-use and abuse, then you might want to put your foot down and set some limits. For instance, at what age do you even allow your child to have a cell phone? No doubt this argument is heard in households every day: “But my friend so-and-so has a cell phone!” Getting your 10 year old daughter a cell phone just to “keep up with Joneses” is a really, really bad idea.

What do you think? Is the average adult user in danger of being addicted to their cell phone? Does a mere dependence on these devices lead us towards possible addiction? Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you forget to bring your cell phone along with you? Should parents ever foot the bill for their young children to have a cell phone?

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