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Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?

If you can't make it through dinner without checking your phone, you may have a problem

BHM Edit Staff | 8/16/2013, 6 a.m.
It's a good idea to take periodic breaks from technology. Thinkstock

We’re talking to you—you with the smartphone tethered to the end of your arms like a third hand. You use it to check your email while you’re on the beach. You tweet while standing in the grocery checkout line. You text in the movie theater. You even check your friends’ Facebook updates in the middle of the night. C’mon, admit it: You’ve got it bad, baby.

Misery loves company, so you’ll be glad to know you’re not alone in this addiction. A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found that 46 percent of all American adults own a smartphone, up 25 percent from 2011. A different study of managers and professionals found:

  • 70 percent said they check their smartphone within an hour of getting up.
  • 56 percent check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
  • 51 percent check during vaction.
  • 48 percent check over the weekend, including Friday and Saturday nights. (Shouldn’t they be on dates?)
  • 44 percent said they’d have “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and didn’t have access to a replacement for a week.

Though such behavior might not quite qualify as a true addiction, it can be unhealthy. “The smartphone steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts,” says Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

We’re not suggesting you give up your phone (heavens, no! We’re kind of attached to ours, too!), but here are some steps to control your usage:

  • Be conscious of the situations and emotions that make you want to check your phone. If you’re bored, lonely, or anxious, something else might soothe you.
  • Resist the urge to check your phone every time it beeps or rings. If you’re really strong, avoid temptation by turning off the alert signals.
  • Set—and stick to—rules about not using your phone in certain situations (such as when you’re spending quality time with your spouse or your children, while you’re driving—do we even need to mention that?—in a meeting or after 8 p.m.).

Don’t panic. After some time away from your phone, you just might discover you’re more relaxed and connecting better with your surroundings.