Could You Be Addicted to Your Cell Phone?
A recent research study found that one’s cognitive capacity can be reduced if one’s cell phone is nearby—and you don’t even have to be looking at the screen.
In one experiment, participants carried out computer-based tasks that required concentration. Some of the participants kept their smartphones in another room while working on the tasks; other participants kept their phones on the desk, face down. Even with all the phones turned to silent, participants whose phones were in another room performed significantly better than those with phones nearby.
In a related experiment, when their phones were on the desk or in their pocket or bag, participants who described themselves as dependent on their phones performed worse than those who described themselves as less dependent.
Such research is increasingly suggesting that cell phone dependence is a real condition with potentially serious consequences. For many people, in fact, this dependence borders on addiction. In one survey, 67 percent of smartphone owners admitted that they checked for calls or texts even when the phone didn’t ring or vibrate. That preoccupation is one of the signs of cell phone addiction.
Other signs of addiction include loss of a sense of time while using the phone, persistent failed attempts to decrease phone use, and reactions such as anger, depression, and irritability when the phone is unreachable. There’s even a word for this addiction: nomophobia, which means the fear of being out of cellular phone contact, a condition that apparently existed even with old-time cell phones but is now exacerbated with smartphones.
Whether you would describe yourself as addicted to your phone or just very attached to it is less important than whether that constant connection is affecting your ability to do your work and manage your relationships.
Start by being honest with yourself. If you suspect—or know—that your phone use is excessive, track your use of it. Focus on both the time you spend with the phone and the activities you use the phone for. You can then start to reduce your phone use, beginning with the least important activity you use the phone for.
It will help if you strive to be intentional by setting limits on when and where you’ll use your phone. Be systematic about this by making rules for usage, such as time periods in which you won’t use the phone and activities during which you’ll avoid using your phone. Conversely, set specific times when you can use your phone.
If you don’t want your cognitive capacity compromised, it’s up to you to take steps so that you’re in charge of your phone and it’s not in charge of you.