Last week, I took my phone to Apple to have the battery replaced. For about five hours, I was without my phone. It was nice, and freeing, but there was a part of me wondering all that I might be missing out on, the text conversations that I was unable to contribute to, the emails and notifications that were left unread and forgotten. While I felt freed, I also felt anxious. However, what was most alarming to me was what the Apple Representative asked me as I handed her my phone:
Apple Rep: "Are you okay leaving your phone here for about three hours?"
Me: "Yes, of course. It should be nice to be without a phone for a while." (This may have been me trying to convince myself that not having a phone would be easy...)Apple Rep: "Oh, good. You couldn't imagine how many people come in here and have to leave their phone for only a couple hours and lose their minds. They ask me things like: 'Is there a loaner phone I can have for the afternoon?' In today's world, people simply cannot function without their phone."
If you're like me, you take your phone out and scroll during every remotely uncomfortable social situation (sitting with co-workers you're not close to before a staff meeting, waiting in the two-minute lull period before class begins at school, sitting on public transit by the person next to you that you don't know, or simply checking your phone every few minutes so as to "not miss out" on all that's happening in the world around you). Perhaps you're just as the Apple Representative described, and couldn't imagine going a few hours without your trusted smartphone.
Are you addicted to your phone?
Let me start by saying there are many good and even righteous ways to use a phone. For example, there are apps that allow us to read the Bible; texting is often convenient and easier than calling someone, and calling someone allows us to connect with people near and far as though they were right next to us. FaceTime and Skype allow parents and grandparents to connect with children and grandchildren, whether in another city or another country, and create the possibility of friends staying close with each other through all walks of life. I could go on about all of the reasons why phones are useful, helpful, and even a tool of righteousness. But, like many things, when something good becomes something that controls our thoughts, compulsions, and behaviors, the thing that might have otherwise been good has become unhealthy, and possibly an addiction.
Habit or Addiction?
Your phone usage may be such an habitual part of your every day life that perhaps now you aren't even aware of your tendencies to take your phone out of your pocket every few minutes, or to walk from place to place merely holding it in your hand. Habitual behaviors are patterns that are regularly followed, eventually to the point of subconscious behavior that one is nearly entirely unaware of. Habits can be good, and habits can be bad.
But one important distinction to make is that a habit is not necessarily an addiction, but habits are generally the vital organs that create an addiction. For someone who is addicted to alcohol or other substance abuse, the cessation of these substances may cause a severe stress or overwhelming sense of hopelessness, with potentially physical downfalls as well (withdrawal). While creating and breaking habits can be done by repetition and sometimes sheer will-power, breaking an addiction is much different. The behavior of using your can be phone good, but when using your phone becomes a suppressant for emotions, anxiety, trauma, or social stress-- or to avoid reality-- it can quickly become an addiction.
I won't tell you that you are addicted to your phone, but I would ask that you follow along this short series to redefine the way you use your phone in your daily lives. Perhaps you are controlled by the use of your phone, and maybe you feel a sense of intense anxiety by the thought of going a whole hour without checking your phone, not to mention a day or a week.