Smartphone Addiction is a Public Health Crisis – Do You Need a Technology Time-Out?
By Amandalyn Vanover
Is it true that so many people are hooked to their smartphones a public health alert should be issued? Isn’t that extreme and ridiculous? Yes, it is true and no, it isn’t extreme. People’s stress levels have escalated, blood pressure levels continue to go up, and overall mental health is sabotaged in the masses as a result of constantly checking social media and using technology around the clock.
I’m one of the masses. I, Amandalyn, am addicted to technology, most especially my smartphone. Oh, I have reasons! Lots of them. But, do those reasons warrant the amount of time I spend checking my phone, email accounts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, writing a story, watching videos, doing research for work…?
Then there’s all the times I need my handy dandy Google friend to provide information or directions about something I need or somewhere I have to go.
The reasons go on and on. I just now heard my mother in my head telling me it’s not reasons, they are excuses! Excuses to get on my smartphone. So, it is hard to control whether I pick it up or not. But, I want a healthier lifestyle, and know unplugging and disconnecting is one of the ways to do it. Smartphones end up being a brain drain, another form of a boob tube, and I do believe we never saw it coming.
None of us saw this public addiction affecting the masses headed our way, but now it’s here.
In fact, according to Sean Foley, I am part of a new 21st-century public health concern because I cannot put my phone down long enough to live life without it.
In response, the Here2Help Mental Health Coalition was formed to combat the problem. I, too, wanted to combat my own addiction to the smartphone and other digital devices (like this laptop right here), so I gave it a try.
My Own Digital Detox
I wondered how long I could live without using Google to check something for me? Had I become so reliant on this little rectangle computer I gave it more attention than anything else in life? Whoa!! I can’t say it wasn’t a type of wake-up call to me back then.
“Yes, I took my own time-out from technology. My own digital detox…my own digital downtime…my own chunk of time I took to give me total phone freedom.”
Most of us pick up our phones with blinders on. We have done it so many times it has become an unconscious action. Which means we have to pay attention to our own habits. Pay attention to where your attention shifts throughout the day. If you need a digital detox – then be brave, you can do it.
Consciously Disconnect From Your Device
Let me tell you, it feels good! Yes, to really step away from the phone and get involved in moments again. To be with friends. To celebrate life with family. That’s the solution folks. You have to take your own detox from devices. You have to make your own conscious decision to put the little rectangle computer down, turn the volume off, or turn it off and set things up to do with the actual people in your life.
Whatever works for you can be a digital detox, however it needs to be something that doesn’t allow the smartphone to disturb you. A way to actually put your attention somewhere else and keep it there without being disturbed by calls, alerts, notifications, or some other sound calling out your name, triggering your habit. In other words – DISCONNECT from the smartphone and other devices in your life.
Plus, we’ve all heard of the dangers and warnings about using the smartphone before bed because of the blue light (said to keep one awake). Give yourself one entire hour before bed that you don’t turn to your cell phone for a solution to a problem, to get information, or to cure your boredom. Let your boredom set in. Let your brain rest.
Your stress levels may go down.
The relaxation you should feel also allows you to focus on your family, friends, hobbies, and interests. Imagine being free from the digital chains of control!
The Technology Time-Out
You can start out by taking baby steps. Begin your own digital detox or black out by turning your phone off during certain parts of the day. Lay it down. Walk away. This is especially important if you are a person who gets anxious or panicked every time your phone rings, buzzes, or beeps.
Frequent use of cellphones and other technology may have traumatic effects on stress levels. We all know anxiety and panic are not healthy. When you allow yourself to detach from your smartphone, you can fall asleep easier, improve your stress levels, sleep better, and increase your overall mental well-being.
There is life outside of checking your emails and social media accounts.
Use Your Time Wisely
I’m ready for your next question.
What are you supposed to do when there is nothing to do? Right? In this century, it’s not easy to know what we should do with our time when we aren’t connecting with the world through a screen or device. Boredom sets in. Especially on nights and weekends for a lot of people. But, we are used to having our answers right away. Immediately. Instant gratification.
This is a problem. I am spoiled. We are spoiled by our life of instant gratification. The solutions aren’t anything new, in fact, they are pretty old-school.
Either be bored and your mind will be creative about what to do or pick up a new hobby / activity to take up your free time. Sports, pottery classes, church, church groups and events, art classes, book clubs, swimming clubs, organizational activities, local social groups, volunteer opportunities, etc.
The list goes on and on when it comes to what you can do instead of unconsciously being on your phone for hours of your day, whether it’s researching, playing games, watching videos, or socializing via social media- the smartphone may have become the center of your attention but real life can happen to you again.
Trade Social Media For Person to Person Socializing
Even though social media platforms are fantastic at providing great content, connecting family and friends, and letting you catch up on news, they trick us into thinking we are much more social than we really are in real life. Spend more time with the people in your life on purpose. Go to the beach. Cook dinner with your family. Talk to your neighbors outside. Meet your friends and family for an activity or at an event. Then check your social media accounts ‘to socialize’ only in the morning and evening. There are many ways to socialize outside of digitally connecting with people.
The Real World Re-Connection
Isn’t it time to reconnect with the realities of the real world? Note, all appointments and events can be transferred to paper planners and calendars. While it may seem hard at first to take a technology time-out, take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I can do it.” Because you can.
Once your phone is turned off and tucked away, you will be surprised at how fulfilling a tech- free life can be!