Does it feel like you can never put down your phone? Do you compulsively scroll through the news every morning even though it makes you depressed? Here are some hallmarks of technology addiction and what you can do about it.
Signs of a Technology Addiction
How do you know when your tech use has become problematic?
Technology Controls You
One of the signs of addictive behavior is that it feels outside of your control. Despite wanting to stop or reduce your use of technology, you can’t bring yourself to do it. Maybe you’ve tried going a day without your phone, but you feel anxious if you even leave it in another room. You re-download the apps you swore you’d never touch again.
Throughout the day, you periodically check social media, even if it makes you feel worse afterward. The average internet user spends 151 minutes a day on social media, but you practically can’t live without Instagram. You check your phone in inappropriate situations — like at the dinner table — despite other people asking you to stop.
Other Hobbies No Longer Interest You
You used to love playing guitar, cooking or lifting weights, but those activities no longer bring any joy. Now, the only hobbies you want to partake in are playing video games, watching movies or finding things to post on social media.
Sound familiar? If so, you may be struggling with a technology addiction or a mental health issue like depression, which often go hand in hand.
You’re Neglecting Responsibilities
Playing video games or browsing social media isn’t harmful in and of itself. However, if you’re doing it at the expense of responsibilities like being on time for work, paying rent or walking your dog, you might have a problem.
You’re Experiencing Physical Symptoms
They say sitting is the new smoking. A review of 13 studies found that sitting for over eight hours at a time without exercising poses a similar risk as that of smoking cigarettes or being obese. If you’re sitting at the computer or on your phone all day, you may experience back and neck pain, eye strain, sleep problems, carpal tunnel syndrome and poor posture.
People Miss You
Another sign you’re dealing with technology addiction? Your friends, family, co-workers and partner all want to spend more time with you, but you’re never available. You may isolate yourself or be unable to put your phone down even when you’re around people.
Your Hygiene Is Suffering
In extreme cases of tech addiction, people may neglect to shower, brush their teeth or wear deodorant. When was the last time you changed clothes? If you aren’t sure, your technology use might be masking a deeper problem like depression or loneliness. It’s time to make some changes.
Breaking the Cycle
Ready to regain control over your life?
First, Treat the Underlying Cause
You weren’t born addicted to technology. Somewhere along the way, you learned that video games, movies and the internet were a safe haven where you could be yourself. They allowed you to shut out the world and all its problems so you could relax without thinking of anything troubling.
Now, like many people, you may turn to technology as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, anxiety, loneliness or depression. Try to determine if you’re using technology to treat an unfulfilled need. It may be useful to meet with a therapist or read self-help books to uncover deeper issues that are fueling your tech addiction.
Once you’ve identified a potential unfulfilled need, see if there are different ways you can address it. If you’re struggling with isolation, for example, try hanging out for a few hours at a coffee shop. Even if you still use your phone or laptop while you’re there, it gives you the opportunity to be around people and talk to them if you feel so inclined.
Get Out of the House
Sometimes, we use technology purely out of boredom. It doesn’t take long for plopping down on the couch after work to become a habit, and the more you do it, the harder it is to break that behavior pattern.
Try getting out of the house to change up your routine a little. Don’t pressure yourself to do anything involved like attending a concert or going on a date — just make a point to be in public and engage in small talk with a few people, like a barista or cashier. Spend some time outdoors and listen mindfully to the sound of birdsong. Experience new aspects of the world around you.
Find Ways to Reduce Your Tech Use
You don’t have to go cold turkey and attend a digital retreat to break your technology addiction. Besides, most people don’t have the luxury of completely disconnecting from the internet, anyway — you may need your phone for work or to use public transit.
Instead, try incorporating these small but powerful techniques to cut down on your technology use:
- Run some errands and leave your phone at home.
- Delete social media apps so you can only log in from a computer.
- Change your phone’s passcode to something complex so you don’t idly unlock it throughout the day.
- Put your phone in Airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode for a few hours.
- Use an alarm clock, rather than your phone, to wake you up.
- Put your charger in another room so it’s harder to charge your phone.
- Allow a friend to change your social media passwords. You can only log in if you ask them for the password, which may be embarrassing.
Prioritize Self Care
A full-blown tech addiction can leave little time for taking care of yourself. If you’ve been neglecting your health and hygiene, it’s time to make it a priority.
Start by stocking the fridge and your desk drawer with healthy snacks. Buy a large jug and fill it to the brim with water every morning, then try to finish it by the end of the day.
Buy some nice-smelling soap and shampoo you really like so you’re more encouraged to use them. Similarly, try to find a toothpaste that actually tastes good to you, then buy an electric toothbrush to make brushing your teeth automatic.
Remember the finding that sitting for eight hours is comparable to smoking? The same research found that just one hour of moderate physical activity countered the effects of being sedentary. Try incorporating some gentle stretching and light walking into your schedule to alleviate the discomfort caused by sitting. Stroll around the block, get the mail or walk around the grocery store a little longer than usual.
Making the Most of Your Life
You only get one life, and it shouldn’t be confined to a tiny screen that fits in your pocket. If you feel like you’re struggling with a technology addiction, start taking steps today to regain control over how you spend your time. Your world will become a lot more meaningful when you do.
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