Cell Phone Addiction
Could That Be You?

Could having a cell phone addiction be you? It is noticeable in all bars, restaurants, parties, sports events, or anywhere else that people gather or socialize. The constant checking the cell phone for texts, texting from the phone, checking for Facebook messages, the sound of push notifications, and now email. Oh yeah, and sometimes we even talk on our phones. 

It seems obvious to me that a cell phone addiction is similar to compulsive buying or substance addictions. However, just because is fits into an addiction category, it is so widespread that it is not noticed as a problem. It is simply the way it is.  

A New Fear: 

There is even, get this, a new “fear” that has joined the ranks of other fears like “arachnophobia,” “agoraphobia” and “germaphobia” and yes it has to do with cell phones.  It is called nomophobia, and it is the fear of losing your cell phone. While it's not a designated mental illness, it's a new popular way of describing this phenomenon. 

How many of us have been out for an evening, or at a party, and cannot, for the life of us, locate our phone?  How has that affected the enjoyment of our evening?  Yes, it is weird. 

Our IPhones and smartphones and other electronics, like our electronic tablets and lap top computers, have made us very dependent on being constantly connected to others. We fuel this need through text messages, phone calls, email, Facebook, and other forms of social media. 

Many of us, although maybe not suffering from full on nomophobia, are experiencing at least a significant attachment to our phones. 

This attachment, like other addictions, has an impact on our loved ones, families, and ourselves. Like drugs, alcohol, or gambling, constantly checking your mobile device can ruin your personal relationships, and impact your profession and your work day.  For younger people, it decreases their academic performance, face-to-face social communication, and ability to manage effective and healthy personal relationships.

Many people feel anxious, depressed, and edgy when they don't have their cell phones near by and tend to feel that they would experience significant relief if they just had their phone. Seems like addiction doesn’t it?

Although most would probably think of their cell phone use as just a habit, when you look at the symptoms of cell phone addiction, it is clear that, for many, the habit has crossed that line and become an addiction. 

Here are some signs that I have come up with that I think are associated with a cell phone addiction. 
How far along are you in terms of your symptoms? 

  • During a meeting you continuously checking our phones. Seriously – this has an impact in terms of how you appear during the meeting. The truth is you don’t look very focused on the task at hand if you are constantly distracted by your phone, habit or not.
  • While conversing with your kids, you stop to answer your cell phone call. What kind of message does this send to your kids in terms of how important they are to you?
  • The first thing you do when you wake up is to check your phone before anything else . . .  or worse, you wake up in the middle of the night to check for messages.
  • What about checking your phone for messages during a movie or live performance?  How rude is that?! The glow of your phone totally affects the lighting in a movie theatre and is distracting for others. It is like talking during a movie, but at a whole new level in terms of how it affects others who have spent their hard earned bucks to enjoy the movie experience. 
  • Do you feel agitated when you have not checked your phone for texts or emails in a while?
  • When you text someone, do you continually check your phone for an immediate response or worse, feel bad if they don’t get back to you fairly quickly?

  • When you are at a pub, restaurant, or social gathering, do you continuously check your phone or text from it? Do you take it out frequently to check for new messages, or worse again, do you simply leave it on the table during a dinner so you can make sure you will not miss any incoming messages?
  • When a friend is spilling their guts to you in terms of something personal that has happened in their lives, do you check your phone in the middle of their story?
  • When you are out with a friend, do you keep your phone notifications on (the beeping sound or what have you) even if your phone is put away?
  • If you miss a text, do you feel that you have missed a “moment” when you only check it later? That a moment in your life has passed you by?
  • Do you text and walk at the same time? Need I say more?...

How do these cell phone addiction-type behaviors affect those around you?
What impression are you giving?
Is this the impression you intend to give?

When you answer the phone during the middle of the conversation with your child, you are probably not so subtly letting them know that they are not so important, or that what they have to say is not as important as the distraction of your phone call.  Maybe you don’t actually feel that way, but that is the message you are giving. Face it.

When you are at a meeting and you check your cell phone, it tells the people you are meeting with that you are not 100% focused on them or the meeting, and are certainly distracted by something else that is potentially important.  This is a bad message for clients especially, and one you probably do not intend to give.

When you are at a party and you constantly check your phone, it tells those around you that the party is boring.  It affects the overall “party juju.” It states to others at the party that what is possibly happening elsewhere is more interesting than the event at hand.  This is the same for when you are at restaurant or pub.

When you leave your cell phone sitting on the table during a dinner out “just in case,” you deliver a message to your dinner date that while you are okay about having dinner with them, you will keep your phone out, just in case something or someone more interesting comes along.

When you keep the beeping sound on it totally distracts the conversation at hand. Even if you think in your head, “what my friend is saying is important and I will check my message later,” the beeping sound is still distracting to your friend. No matter what, that beeping sound came into the middle of your conversation.

14 ways to tame your cell phone addiction
(even if you don't think you have one):

Okay, okay, you get it. Now what? I think we should at least consider doing something about it. Instead of accepting our quickly changing culture to include constant cell phone distraction, what can we do now to shift that? Below are some ideas. Now, maybe you are not interested in taking on my challenges, however, it should at least give you cause to think. 

Oh yeah, and to be totally clear, I LOVE my IPhone and I am lost without it. I am a self-disclosed nomophobic. I have it beside my bed and I check it in the morning when I wake up. I have it with me at meetings and have certainly been guilty of checking it during social engagements. My daughter has become frustrated with me when I have been playing with it instead of watching her do something that she is showing me. I have also gotten distracted by my phone when my daughter has been mid-sentence in telling me something. So, the challenges below are ones that I am working on myself and encourage you to join me on.

Take charge of your cell phone habits:

  1. When at a social gathering, treat your phone as you would a cigarette. If you want to check it, go outside. 
  2. Don’t check your phone during meetings, ever. If you are in an extended meeting (more than an hour) and you are dying to see if you have received a message, put your phone in your pocket or purse and excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and check it there. If your meeting is short, like half an hour and you are dying to check your phone, give your head a shake.
  3. When out for dinner or drinks, don’t put your phone on the table.
  4. When you are out with others, put your phone away and turn the sound off.
  5. If you are out with another person and see them do something with their cell phone that seems rude or inconsiderate, note it and make sure to avoid doing that very thing yourself.
  6. If you go out for a walk in the park or in the forest, leave your phone behind. I usually leave mine in the car or, when I am feeling really brave, I will leave mine...at home.
  7. Do not talk on the phone while in a restaurant, library, elevator, airport lounge etc. – Remove yourself and talk in an appropriate area.
  8. Do not text while driving. Ever. Obviously, it seems so ridiculous that people may actually text while driving, yet more of us are way more guilty of this than we care to admit. It is stressful on your system and is also really dangerous. If you want to text, pull off to the side of the road. And, if you MUST take a call while driving, use hands-free only. It's the law in BC.
  9. When spending time with your friends, family, and especially children, do not check your phone.  Give them the message that they matter, because they do.
  10. If you really are expecting a critical call, let others know in advance that you are. Then when the call comes, excuse yourself and make it short.
  11. In a pub, restaurant, or bar (when you are still alone and waiting for others), text rather than call.
  12. If you have kids, remember they are learning how to behave not by what you say, but by what you do. Model the type of behavior you want your kids to show.
  13. Schedule how often to check your messages. Maybe once per hour? Maybe start with 15 minutes?
  14. What about texting while you are walking? Well, don’t.

Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional

Return from Cell Phone Addiction

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