Most of us have a smartphone, and most of us are aware that these devices can be addicting. Last week, I posted about cutting back your smartphone use. I think this is so important right now, especially because most of us are stuck in our homes.
Let us be clear; I’m not saying that no one should have smartphones. They’re useful devices, and in 2020, they’re essential. You need to stay in touch with your family members, keep track of the news, and they can help you pass the time. However, addiction is a real thing, so let’s dive into it.
One term that describes smartphone addiction quite well is nomophobia, or “no mobile phone phobia”. It’s quite a clever term. If you feel uneasy without your phone, you may have some form of nomophobia. If you find yourself always on your phone to the point where it feels like it’s on autopilot, you may have some kind of nomophobia.
Why Do We Get Addicted?
You probably wonder why you are addicted to your smartphone. Or, if you know why someone is addicted, you may wonder why it happens. Let’s break it down.
It’s The Apps and the Internet
First, the phone itself doesn’t give you an addiction. It’s the apps you download and being able to access the Internet any time that gives it its addictive personality. Before smartphones, we had traditional cell phones. While there were games to play (who remembers Snake?) it wasn’t as addictive and immersive as the modern smartphone.
It’s Much More Convenient Than a Computer
Okay, so computer addiction is a real thing. You or someone you know has probably spent hours upon hours sitting at a desktop. However, you need to be in a certain place to use a desktop, and if you have a laptop, it’s still a little bit inconvenient. The smartphone works well at making you addicted because it’s small and you can get service in most places in your country.
The Dopamine Loop
When people talk about internet or smartphone addiction, they may mention the dopamine loop. Dopamine is a chemical produced in your brain. When your brain produces it, you feel good. You want more of that dopamine.
Every smartphone has properties that make it a dopamine factory. Every notification you get creates dopamine. An addictive app can make you release dopamine whenever you beat a level.
In younger people such as teenagers, the dopamine loop can be even more prevalent. Teens and young adults are thrill-seekers, and the thrill of getting all the notifications, or a text, can make them coming back from more. When the phone is dead, or you’re in an area with no service, you may feel uneasy because you can’t get that dopamine.
Reasons Why People Go to Their Smartphones
Besides the obvious fact that people love the dopamine, there are other reasons why people are staring into their phones. Here are a few reasons.
Loneliness is a big reason why someone may be addicted to a smartphone. When someone doesn’t have any relationships or friends, or their relationships are unfulfilling, they may turn to digital friendships, or do something else to kill their boredom.
This isn’t to say that digital friendships are not valid; there have been plenty of good friendships and marriages that started with a text. However, when someone glues their face to their phone and doesn’t pursue relationships with the people around them, this could be an addictive problem.
Some people are socially awkward or don’t talk that much, so when they’re with friends or family, they may be on their phone more and ignoring the world around them. Some people may find this rude, but the person on their phone may have anxiety or feel boredom with their surroundings, so they naturally turn to their phone.
Another big reason for smartphone addiction is depression. If someone feels like they can’t even get out of bed, being on their phone is one activity that they don’t need to travel far to do. Getting some dopamine from a post they make can make their depression feel a little better. However, the person addicted usually isn’t coping with their depression in other ways, such as finding the root cause or incorporating other activities that could be making them feel this way.
And, of course, we have to talk about the most obvious reason, boredom. If you’re on a bus with nothing to do, of course you’ll turn to your phone. Waiting in line? A phone can be a good way to pass the time. These are valid reasons. However, if the only thing you do to relieve your boredom is being on your phone, you should expand your horizons.
The Effects of Too Much Smartphone Use
Too much smartphone use can have various effects. Your neck may hurt from looking down at it too much, or your eyes may strain. You might not be able to sleep well at night because of too much phone use.
In addition, smartphone addiction can make your mental health problems worse. While a phone may be a quick fix for your depression, you may end up more depressed in the long run.
How Much is Too Much?
There is no right answer, as everyone uses it for a different amount of different reasons. Our recommendation is to see how long you’re using your smartphone; most devices should give you a time. Try to reduce the amount of usage slowly, but surely.
Online Therapy Can Help
If you feel like you’re unable to reduce your smartphone usage, try fighting fire with fire. With so many therapy clinics switching to online, it’s a good time for you to seek help from a therapist from the comfort of your home. BetterHelp could help you reduce your smartphone use and find other, healthier ways to get that dopamine rush. Contact a therapist today and see how they can help.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.