Sure, you can quit any time just like the rest of the world that suffers from some sort of addiction.
“Cell phones are so convenient that they’re an inconvenience.”― Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimag
Ever since we got our hands on cellphones, we have not been able to put them down as a species. We started with simple devices that could only phone or text and are now at the point where we can FaceTime, create professional-quality images and videos, and talk to someone on the other side of the globe within seconds — all with the help of a cellphone.
It’s no surprise that we’ve become so used to our phones. The convenience, accessibility to resources, and endless distractions are continually going through upgrades, so we become increasingly dependent on these devices. It’s about time we admitted that we, as a global population, are addicted to our phones.
If you’re checking your phone as soon as you wake up and making sure it’s the last thing you scroll through before you go to bed at night, you are most certainly not alone. According to a survey in India conducted on 2000 people aged 15 to 45, 84% of people check their phone in the first 15 minutes of waking up — proof that phone addiction spans across the world.
As I look more closely at my own family, I see that we’re not immune to this problem either. It’s not that our phones haven’t made life immensely more manageable and save us a tremendous amount of time — it’s that they’re also taking away from the parts of our lives that we did enjoy.
When I think about the time I used to spend in nature, taking walks, or just making time to meet up with an old friend, I realize that much of it is now used in scrolling through my phone instead.
While it’s true that with the help of our cellphones, we can look through a restaurant’s menu before arriving and call an Uber to our door, it’s also true that we do not spend enough time doing things that make us feel joyful and content.
The problem with cellphones lies not in what we’ve been able to achieve and the conveniences they bring, but rather in the aspects of our lives that they have harmed. But there are ways to regain our time, spend it more wisely on something else, and reconnect to that sense of joy and contentment we once used to feel.
It starts with being open about how addicted we’ve become, understanding that much of this is correctible if we responsibly address the issue, and then work towards changing our relationship with our phones. First, it’s crucial to fully understand the various aspects of our physical and mental health, relationships, and lifestyle that excessive cellphone usage has impacted.
The impact of cellphones on our physical health
According to one study, more than 90% of the population above 13 owns a cellphone or access to one. More than 92% of adults and 88% of adolescents use social media. The study also says that this population uses cellphones for 4 to 8 hours every day, with some people using smartphones on a non-stop basis.
The same study also says that this kind of usage’s health impact can range from obesity, back problems, weakening vision, and overall lesser time to exercise and engage in physical activity. It also means a higher risk for heart and blood pressure problems, especially for those between 21 and 30 years of age.
Some of the reasons why excessive phone usage can lead to health problems are that it increases the amount of time we spend sitting in one place and reduces the time we spend moving around and getting our heart rate up through exercise.
It also affects our ability to get a good night’s sleep, which has several implications on our health and a weakened immune system and a lower tolerance for dealing with high energy situations.
The interesting aspect to consider is that there are ways in which your phone can increase your physical activity too. It is all determined by how you decide to interact with your phone.
People who use workout apps, personal trainers, pedometers, heart rate trackers, and more to monitor and improve their physical health benefit from having these apps on hand at all times. If you become part of online communities that encourage taking care of your body, you’ll even feel a more vital need to stay healthy because of your organization.
The impact of cellphones on our mental health
Cellphones are known for increasing our ability to stay in touch with those we love, go through funny memes, and feel an increased sense of connection to the outside world — depending on how we use them.
However, one study states that when a habit that can give you a sense of stimulation becomes an obligation — meaning you feel compelled to do it all the time — it becomes an addiction. It is at this point that the problems begin.
Anxiety, depression, mood problems, and stress are associated with using your phone too much. If you cannot control how often you pick your phone up to cure your boredom or become anxious and depressed when you’re not using it because you’re afraid you’re missing a chance to stay connected — you become dependent on your phone.
This behavior becomes a sort of cycle — the more anxious and depressed you feel, the more you want to use your phone to escape these feelings. The more dependent you become on your phone, the more anxious and depressed you become because of various impacts of social media and negative online experiences.
Inevitably, the same device from which you got relief from these negative feelings also becomes the source from where these feelings arise. Cellphones lead to poor mental wellbeing in the long run if you use them irresponsibly and don’t know when to stop.
The impact of cellphones on our relationships
You’d be lying if you didn’t get offended when someone picked up their phone and started using it in the middle of a conversation they were having with you. You’d also be lying if you said you had never done the same to someone else.
According to science, humans must connect. We feel tempted to check our phones so often because it gives us a sense of being up to date on what everyone else is doing. Simultaneously, the only way to truly connect with those in front of us is to give them our attention and respond to their bids for connection.
When you’re constantly checking your phone or wondering what the other person is looking at, that’s more crucial than the conversation you’re having with them; it interferes in your prospects of forming healthy, secure relationships.
More than 70% of women in one study of 143 people claimed that their cellphones regularly cause conflict in their relationships. The survey of Indian participants mentioned above states that 89% of them felt that using their phones excessively takes away from the quality time they spent with the loved ones — leading to deteriorating relationships.
Changing the impact that cellphones have on our lives
Like all habits, the habit of always being connected through your cellphone can change too.
When I ask around my social circle what people are doing to curb their cellphone usage, there were many comments. I got suggestions such as limiting screen time before bed, staying away from negativity, taking regular breaks to move around and stretch, and being mindful of what we’re consuming — intellectually — through our phones.
In fact, with the added screen time that comes with the pandemic, working from home, taking classes online, and talking to the family through video calls, it’s more important than ever that we monitor our screen time. One article states that it’s essential to position our phones at a distance from our face, maintain our posture, and get regular eye checkups, especially if we feel that our vision has become weaker.
Through an intentional effort to control how much we use our phones, we can overcome our addiction. Whether that means seeking help from friends and family, turning our phones off, or designating time to “digitally detox.” It is quite possible to allow our phones to be once again used only for our convenience and not to rob us from having healthy relationships, bodies, and lifestyles.
“The very existence of social media is predicated on humankind’s primitive drive of attention-seeking. And when they successfully monetize your attention, they end up with billions of dollars, and you end up with a screwed up mental state. And if we don’t do anything about it now, the next generation will be a generation of mentally unstable glass creatures.”
— Abhijit Naskar, Good Scientist: When Science and Service Combine