(Image source: W Magazine, 2014)
My alarm, my weatherman, my workout organizer, my social calendar, my communicator, my Googler, my recipe searcher, my meal plan tracker, my food orderer, my grocery list organizer, my run tracker, my camera, my Instagrammer, my Amazon shopper and my life line. These are just a few of the things that I use my smartphone for and I could add another 100 things, at least, to the uses for it. Let’s take a look at what a typical morning for me might look like:
A Morning In The Life - Of a smartphone addict
6:45am - Alarm sounds, hits snooze Zzz
7:00am - Alarm snooze, grabs phone, turns off alarms, scrolls through Instagram
7:10am - Texts back family/friends from Sunday
7:15am - Check weather app to determine outfit for the day
7:20am - Check workout app for scheduled workouts for the week
7:30am - Reviews emails from the weekend + continues text conversations
7:45am - Checks Instagram after breakfast
7:50am - Responds to personal emails on Gmail app
So you get the picture. If I were to document the entire day, this article would be about 5 pages long. Our smartphones are exactly that, (super) smart! They house every aspect of a digitally savvy person's life and organize it all so that everything is accessible at our fingertips and we’re connected to everything and everyone imaginable. When you stop to appreciate what smartphones do, and how much we actually use them, you will wonder how we ever survived before.
When people were asked to estimate how much time they spend on their cell phones a day, on average, the accurate answer was double their estimate. It is predicted that we spend a third of our waking day using or checking our smartphones. Now that is around 5 hours a day - pardon, what?!
There are so many benefits of our smartphones, as discussed above. They make our lives easier, which would naturally result in less stress, free up time and keep us more organized. But there are also some downsides to them in relation to our physical and mental health that we need to be wary of, especially considering we are using these a third of our waking day!
Taking a look at the physical ways your smartphone could be harming you, we have: accidents from texting while driving/walking, blue light causing you to lose sleep and a number of back/neck/hand issues to name a few. Google ‘side effects of smartphone usage’ and there will be lists upwards of 30, telling you all the ways your phone is hurting you. More importantly though - I want to discuss the negative mental implications this ‘smartphone addiction’ - in our day and age - is having on us.
Social media anxiety - One major use for a lot of people’s smartphone usage, is that social media is readily available to them, at all hours of the day. I remember being in High School and never feeling that anxiety of seeing other people's lives play out in front of me on my screen. Seeing their new outfits, trips, skinny bodies … It is something that has become such a norm now but has such detrimental effects. People always say that it’s never healthy to compare oneself to others, that it can take away from our happiness and our ability to live in the moment. But how can we not, when social media is in our face 24/7.
Tip: I recently discovered that Instagram has a setting where you can set a reminder once you have reached the allotted minutes of using it per day that you want. I set it to 20 minutes, and although I don't listen to it every day, some days I do, and others it at least limits the overall time I am using it. I also try to only follow accounts that bring me joy, connection, education etc., and rarely screen the discover page.
Straining relationships - When we are attached at the hip to our phones, this means it can disrupt the way we communicate with others. By communicating via text, a lot of things can be lost in translation which can lead to arguments or one party feeling that the other is upset with them, or annoying, or rude. Emoji’s do not replace human body language. And even once we are physically present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that our phones will be down. You may want to be connecting with the person you’re with, but either one of you could be paying attention to the things that are going on in your phone, opposed to having engaging conversations with each other. We have all seen that couple on a date staring at their phones, we have been that group of girls who are more interested in Instagramming a story opposed to just absorbing the moment and we have all been ignored by a friend who had to ‘quickly answer’ someone mid-conversation. We have all seen it and we’re all guilty.
Tip: It’s time to put the phone down. At dinner, leave it in a pile and the first person to check their phone pays the bill. Lock it away in your purse when you show up to your family dinner. Heck - throw it out the uber window before a date for all I care (kidding, that would be a dumb move from a safety perspective). Start to be conscious of your habit and take proactive steps to check your phone less often when you're with company
Causes less focus - Anyone else here use their phone when they’re bored at work? Guilty. It is a habit that is hard to break. Every time I feel the focus dwindling in some task (work or non-work related), I immediately lunge for my phone. It is an instinct. Having something to occupy ourselves when we are bored, causes our focus level to plummet. Does this resonate with you? If not, just try and think about how many times you checked your phone in the last 2 hours. Were all of those times necessary, or were they just ‘because’? Ya … I thought so.
Tip: Try to limit your phone usage in increments, for example: Put it in your desk at work until lunchtime, do all your chores, finish that chapter, do those errands before checking it. Learn to practice some self control.
The lesson to be learned is this: our addiction to our smartphones is real, whether we would like to admit it or not. Smartphones are not evil, but they need to be used in moderation. Remember to live in the moment; engage in those conversations, take mental pictures of those mountains, read a book, get lost in people watching on the subway, make a new friend at the grocery store, laugh with your family and create moments that can’t be contained or replicated on a phone. Use them for what they are; a tool to make our lives easier, not a replacement, or a distraction from the life that is going on around us.