We’ve all been there; I’ve done it. You check your phone, and then set it down. Then, instinctively, you pick it up again almost moments later – almost like a reflex. Most people who own smartphones admit that at some point or another they’ve checked their phone when they should have been paying attention to something else. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve almost been run into on the footpath walking around town in Dublin. We can all admit smartphones are great and have many advantages; but, most of us could also admit that they also come with some harmful effects as well.
As Max Ogle (author of Boost: Create Good Habits Using Psychology and Technology) explains, there many, real, detrimental of overusing mobile phones. These include:
- “Technoference”: checking or glancing down oat your phone while you’re supposed to be interacting with someone else can cause conflicts in relationships.
- “Techneck”: Just like carpal tunnel can be caused or made worse by typing on a keyboard, constantly looking down at our phones is increasing our risk of techneck – defined as a “specific crease just above the collar-bone that is caused by repeated bending of the neck to look at the screen of a portable device.”
- The PUMP Scale: The research surrounding the PUMP (Problematic Usage of Mobile Phones) scale points to real similarities between substance abuse addictions and technology overuse — to the point that ‘though problematic mobile phone use has not, to date, been recognized as a diagnosable condition, experts in the field are debating its inclusion as one.’
Regardless of if you’re addicted to your phone or not, there are a few steps you can take so that you aren’t as reliable on your smartphones.
Turn off as many notifications as possible that are not related to phone calls and text messages. Do you really need a pop-up every time someone likes something on Facebook or Tweets at you? Instead, just open your app when you actually need to check it. Or even try choosing ringtones which aren’t as intrusive. The less your phone dings, the less you notice it’s there.
Give Your Phone a Home
Decide on a place to store your phone when you’re not actually out and about. If it’s your personal mobile, try setting it on a table or a shelf where you have to go out of your way to check it. If it’s your work phone, keep it in your work bag or purse; again, out of reach. And no, your pocket cannot count as it’s home. This will minimise constantly being on the phone when sitting on the couch, using the toilet, or laying in bed. After all, you shouldn’t be using your phone in bed anyway if you want to sleep properly!
Turn on “Do Not Disturb”
Whether it’s only turned on overnight, or just turned on for an hour over dinner, turn on Do Not Disturb (DND) mode for a while so you won’t receive any notifications. Unless it’s your work phone and you’re a doctor on call, the world probably won’t end if you don’t see or respond to that text message right away. Still afraid to turn on DND? Put your phone on silent and set it in the other room for a little while.
Stop Apologising for Being Unavailable
When people call me back, it’s not uncommon to hear, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t have reception, I didn’t hear my phone, I was grocery shopping, etc.” You have just apologised not only for being unavailable at every waking moment to anyone who could possibly call you, but you’re also apologising for the phones inability to send you the message on time. We don’t need to be available to everyone at every moment. It’s okay to not respond to people the moment they message you.
What do you think? Are you addicted to your phone? Do you think these techniques could help you? What other ways do you think you could rely on your phone less?
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.