If you have a smartphone, chances are you tend to turn to it many times a day

The average American checks his phone every 12 minutes. Market research shows the average user touches his or her cellphone 2,617 times a day. There’s a reason for that. Apps have been designed to use psychological tricks that continuously grab your attention. We all know that feeling:  you’ve got few moments of downtime, so you take out your phone to see what’s new. If at that very moment someone would tell you that you can’t grab your phone to pass the time, a lot of us would feel a bit of frustration or anguish. Why is that? It appears that Silicon Valley is keen to exploit the brain chemical credited with keeping us tapping on apps and social media: Dopamine. 

As reported in The Guardian in March 2018, Sean Parker, the 38-year-old founding president of Facebook, recently admitted that the social network was founded not to unite us, but to distract us. “The thought process was: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” he said at an event in Philadelphia in November.  Dopamine inspires us to take actions to meet our needs and desires – anything from turning up the heating to satisfying a craving to spin a roulette wheel – by anticipating how we will feel after they’re met. It is the same principle used to form addictions to gambling for example. 

Dopamine is the hormone that makes you feel gloriously happy. The chase for that next Dopamine rush is what keeps some people making decisions that would otherwise seem unwise. For some people, this can culminate in a substance use addiction. For others, it can result in other compulsive behavioural addictions, such as compulsive gambling. This Dopamine addiction we are all developing without realizing it, is what’s causing that feel of anguish when your phone is out of battery or out of reach. There is even a name for it now : “Nomophobia”, the feeling of panic or stress when separated from one’s phone, according to researchers in Hong Kong and Seoul. 

 

Are we all doom to look at life through a computer screen?

Well, for Ph.D. Stephen Mason, from Psychology today, it is estimated that perhaps 10%-15% of the population, simply don’t know when to stop and would need some kind of outside support to really let go of there addiction. But there are some solutions out there, don’t worry…There are even apps for that!

 

Believe it or not, on your very phone, there is now a few apps to help us with our phone addiction!  Here is a list of some of them:

1. Offtime (iOS, Android)

2. Moment (iOS)

3BreakFree (iOS, Android)

4. Flipd (iOS, Android)

5AppDetox (Android)

6Stay on Task (Android)

 

But what’s wrong with spending all day on a smartphone? According to Jean Twenge, professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen, a growing body of research suggests that spending too much time with mobile devices may shorten our attention spans, exacerbate anxiety and stress and generally erode well-being. “All the recent data we have points toward limited tech being the best for mental health and happiness,”.

 

What happens when we ditch our phones?

Could you do it? Before you answer, consider this: A recent survey showed that 84% of respondents said they couldn’t even give up their smartphone for a single day, yet alone a week. But let’s say you would, what would happen then?

 

1. You would probably feel alienated, isolated and anguished 

Many bloguers like Michael GROTHAUS, have tried it and they all felt what they described as a ”withdrawal period” . This period lasts from 3 to 7 days and most of them describe it as a constant anguish of missing out or being cut off from their friends and family.

 

2. Contrary to popular belief, you would become more productive

This is largely reported by many who ditched their phones for a limited phone or light phone period of time. The blogger Antonio Alessandro describes how it played out: ” Now instead of reaching habitually for my pocket, I have zero interruptions other than important texts or calls. If I want to access Facebook or email, I do so from my own laptop which doesn’t update me constantly and rob my attention on a moments basis”. 

 

3. You will get bored, and that’s a good thing

We are never allowed to feel bored, there are tons of programmers, behavioural psychologist and engineers that are focusing the best years of their life and all their brain power to get you entertained and always online. If you ditch your phone for a period of time you will get bored. Boredom is a call to action. This will push you to schedule more face to face meetings with friends, making plans in real life and maybe do that trip to Iceland you always dreamed of.

 

4. You would have A LOT more time

Kinton J. Green, describes his 9th week of a phone ditching program he followed: ”I lost followers on Instagram, I lost contact with a few online friends and a few “long distance relationship friends”, and I lost all of my music, games and lyrics I had stored to my phone. But I didn’t care. I realized that, without a phone, I had time.’‘ Thomas Goulding describes his experience in The Independent:’ Post-smartphone, my days have become longer, and slower. Living in a continuous present has both its assets and its drawbacks. Things you want to mentally ignore have many more opportunities to come circling round again. If more contemplation doesn’t lead to better answers or resolutions to your problems, then the heightened self-awareness can be overbearing, even haunting in its persistence.”. 

 

Altought it seems almost impossible today to think of ditching our phones completely, it is important to understand their impact on our mental and physical health. It is hard to let go of such a common and well accepted dependance, but letting go of our phones sometimes, connecting with real people in real life and going outdoor seems to have amazing counter-balancing effects.