A Heart for Wisdom

A Heart for Wisdom
August 9, 2017

Addicted to My Phone?

What is an addiction? According to Dictionary.com, it is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice, or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming…to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” Are you addicted to your phone? Some studies say that more than 50% of smartphone users show symptoms of addiction to their phones.

Cell phones are time-saving devices. Most of us wouldn’t want to exist without one, as we have found ways that these little gadgets help us in every area of our lives! But I think we can all agree that it is possible to take it too far, and we’ve all been on the receiving end of bad cell phone etiquette. (That’s another article for another day, but have you ever been trying to talk to someone and they keep checking their cell phone, or even texting? Isn’t that distracting…and rude?)

I would agree that being addicted to a piece of technology is not as bad as being addicted to narcotics, however, it happens in a similar way. When you have a pleasurable experience and dopamine is released, your body and mind want that to happen again. For cell phone users, it’s the good feeling they get when they receive tweets, texts, comments, and likes. We can snicker at it, but it’s becoming a real problem in our society! Of course, the real ones to suffer in all addictions are the children. If grown adults want to put themselves into “slavery” for a substance or a device, that is their own choice to ruin their lives in that way, but the children in those homes don’t make those choices, and yet their lives are drastically altered. Have you ever seen this scenario before? Maybe you’re at a park or a grocery store, and a child is trying to get the attention of their distracted mother. She’s got her nose up to her phone, fingers flying as she texts, or maybe her thumb is just sliding perpetually upward as she scrolls through a newsfeed. Eventually, one of two things happens: either she gets so irritated by the child that she responds harshly, or the child gives up and usually does something naughty, like pushing a sibling or starting a full-blown temper tantrum.

I recently read this tip: think of the difference in how you respond to an interruption from your child when you are writing an email, and when you are scrambling eggs. I hope that you respond in the same sweet and loving way both times, but I have to confess that I find myself more easily irritated at interruptions when I’m trying to “do something” on my phone. The person who shared the tip went on to suggest that perhaps those sorts of things (like writing emails) should wait until after the children are in bed, or at least have designated times of the day. Don’t make your kids always guess if it’s okay to ask you a question, or to feel like they can’t approach you as long as you have a phone in your hand.

So are you addicted? Even if you are not completely addicted and ready for an intervention from family members, there might be some ways that you are showing signs of starting an addiction. There are so many articles about this on the Internet, and here are some of the questions that I found often repeated.

Do I text while driving or access social media while sitting at a red light? Do people tell me that I need to get off my phone and pay attention to them? Is my phone always in my hand or within reach? Does my phone join me in the bathroom? Do I use my phone in social situations, such as dinner with a friend? Does it take me longer to complete tasks because I have to check my phone repeatedly? Can I set aside my phone for two hours and not think about it? Can I sleep without my phone in bed beside me? Can I wake up in the morning and get ready without having to check my phone?

A good sign of addiction is if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you abstain from something. Try leaving your phone at home one day and see if it makes you irritable. That is emotional withdrawal!

One of the worst things you can do is to allow yourself to use your phone, just because you are bored or sad. That’s exactly the excuse that many people use for drinking or smoking. You find yourself in a negative emotional state and you try to fill that void by using your cell phone. Maybe it works for a little while (that dopamine effect from receiving online validation), but it isn’t sustainable.

I think the devil is never more pleased than when we allow ourselves to become distracted from the real issues of life by addiction– to anything. He might never have to get you entangled in drugs or alcohol, because you are more than happy to allow yourself to be entangled by your technology. With your eyes glued to your phone, you’ll miss opportunities to make sure you have your child’s heart and you’ll miss seeing the lost people around you. As with so many areas of life, it all comes down to having things in balance in your life. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5)

In the next issue of FAR, I want to look at some practical things that we can do to help if we realize that we are addicted to our phones, but in the meantime, take some time to consider your phone usage. Recognize the response that you give when you are “interrupted.” See your cell phone usage through your children’s eyes. Ask the Lord to reveal to you if there is a deeper issue going on in your life.