No, you’re probably not. Digital addiction is a real condition, but it’s at the ‘pointy-end’ of the triangle. You can have a problematic relationship with your phone without it being a full blown addiction.
The thing is, we never know when we’re going to get that satisfying (or worrying) email, alert or notification, so even if we have alerts turned off, we are continually checking, just in case. We’ve inadvertently programmed our brains to seek that tiny hit of dopamine that we get when someone likes our tweet, or responds to our message.
Nutritious, and delicious.
One of the ways we like to think about using our phones (and technology in general), is to make sure that it’s 'nutritious’. Simply put, you can spend hours on your phone looking at clickbait and puppies, trawling Instagram and sending Snapchats, which will reinforce the habit of negative phone use. Or, you can put your phone to work for you, and make conscious decisions to consume the more nutritious side of what’s available online.
In the UK the average adult spends an entire day a week actively online. More than half describe themselves as being “hooked” on their connected devices. Even more amazing, a study at Nottingham Trent Uni found that people are checking their phones, on average, an incredible 200 times a day - that’s once every 6.5mins. The same study found that one in four people spent more time online than they did asleep!
Smartphones are, by design, a place of constant interruption and distraction. Even while I’m writing this my phone is sitting next to me, daring me to pick it up and check Pinterest
Yeah, but, so what?
Does it really matter if we’re stuck to our phones all the time? It might be a tad anti-social, but if that’s how we choose to spend our time, isn’t that okay? Well, maybe not. Our constant connectivity is having a pretty major impact on our psychology, our social lives and our sleep. We’re losing the ability to concentrate, to remember what we need to do, and to stop procrastinating. We’re also becoming more narcissistic, and losing connections with our family, friends and community. And, to top it all off, we’re destroying our own sleep. Using phones right before going to sleep delays and reduces the amount of REM sleep (the refreshing, revitalising part of sleep), and leaves us tired and groggy in the morning.
We’re not saying that you need to disconnect completely. Our phones and our connectivity obviously provide some very cool ways to be informed, connected and entertained. It’s more like going on a digital diet – reducing the number of times we consume certain services each day, and thinking about the nutritional value of those digital snacks, and moderating the ones that aren’t so good for us.