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How to Tell if You’re Addicted to your Smartphone

by Marie Fedorov

If you suspect you’re ‘hopelessly’ addicted to your smartphone, you’re not the only one.

In fact, Australians have embraced the smartphone with such great enthusiasm, we are one of the leading global adopters.

A recent Deloitte study found 88 percent of us now own a smartphone, with market growth being driven by older generations.

According to Microsoft, the human attention span shortened from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013. So it’s not difficult to imagine that statistic has shrunk even further in more recent years.

But many of us don’t really care what the statistics say, we can’t live without our smartphones.

Every phone call or notification we receive fills us with a bit of extra dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in the brains ‘reward circuitry’ that motivates us to learn and repeat the behaviour over and over again.

Dr. Jenny Brockis told 9Honey our desire to be connected at all times means that we should be trying to control how often we interact with technology.

“If you interact with technology for extended periods of time, and the average person is spending up to three hours a day on their smartphones, it leads to a hyper-stimulated brain that is always ‘on’,” Jenny says.

“You need to make a conscious choice and ask yourself if you really need to be on your smartphone right now. ‘Do I really to be online when having dinner with friends, walking the dog, or travelling to work?'”

Jenny believes our dependence on our smartphones is leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep patterns.

“Try to take a regular technology break during the day and schedule it in to make it happen. Switching off for 15-20 minutes has been shown to help reduce stress levels, restore a sense of how much time you really have available, and keep you ‘present’ to what’s happening right now,” Jenny explains.

“You could also switch off your phone and keep it out of sight when having a face-to-face conversation or in a meeting. This has been shown to strengthen social connection and trust.”

family law lawyer Marie Fedorov has seen a connection between people’s addictions to smartphones and the rise in divorces.

As people become more connected to their smartphones, they’ve also become more disconnected from their partners.

“It means their attention is elsewhere, conversations between couples reduce impacting their relationship and ability to function as a couple and, as a result, their family interaction isn’t as it used to be. This often is the cause for separation as a partner looks elsewhere for this social fulfillment,” Marie says.

Addicted to Your Smartphone

Doctors believe our desire to be connected at all times means that we should be trying to control how often we interact with technology (Getty)

Marie is adamant that if people suspect they are addicted to their smartphone, they try to concentrate on more on face-to-face time with their partner, instead of constantly holding onto their phone and staring at the screen.

“Social interaction is so important when it comes to relationships. Relationships are all about communication. How can you communicate either verbally or with your body language if your partner isn’t looking at you but at their phone?” Marie adds.

“How is a person supposed to know that their partner isn’t happy about something if they aren’t looking at them, conversing with them?”

‘Helena’, 37, was tired of seeing her husband get home from work and, after a brief conversation with her over dinner, retire to the bedroom where he’d be on his smartphone for up to two hours.

“At first I was worried that he was having an affair. He never locked his phone so, one night, I looked at his phone when he was in the shower. But I didn’t find evidence of an affair – apart from the affair with his smartphone!” Helena says.

It is believed our dependence on our smartphones is leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep patterns (Getty)

“When I confronted him about spending more time on his phone than talking to me at night, he promised to cut back. That only lasted a couple of days! It was only when I jokingly threatened to throw his iPhone in the swimming pool that he agreed that he was over-using his phone and now he is only allowing himself to check his phone two times before bedtime.”

Dr Jenny Brockis’ tips for coping with a smartphone addiction

  • Set boundaries: at work this might mean agreeing to switch off work email or your phone at a set time and to not turn it back on until a set time next day. At home this might mean agreeing to set limits on how much time is spent on video games, Netflix, Facebook or Instagram;
  • Make meal times a technology-free zone (at home and work);
  • Choose to switch off all technology during family time;
  • Switch off all notifications. This helps to reduce the temptation to ‘just check’ and fear of missing out (FOMO);
  • Keep technology out of the bedroom. Keep the bedroom for sleeping and sex only. That means no TV, iPad or phone;
  • Develop hobbies and interests that don’t involve technology;
  • Get outside to fully engage with nature using all your senses.

So put that phone away and enjoy some quality time with your friends and family.