Mobile phone dependency increasing at alarming rates….
The Ebola-like spread of mobile dependency throughout the world crosses the gender divide, affecting all age groups and statistics are confounding. According to mobile app startup, Mobifolio: the average adult checks their phone 110 times a day or once every 13 minutes, while for most, usage peaks to once every 6 seconds in the evening. The creators of the app, Break Free, helps its users maintain a ‘controlled digital lifestyle’ by monitoring phone and app usage. The approach is not heavy handed – when usage goes up, Sata, a friendly Buddhist monk- like character gives users a gentle warning to ‘chill’.
Closer to home at the Emotional Health Centre, Psychologist, Nicole Plotkin sees mobile dependency as commonplace, with dire consequences for some: ‘The danger is that users can be too dependent on their phones for social interaction and self esteem. The phone becomes a vehicle for staying connected to others. So if you don’t get the anticipated number of text messages/emails in an evening you can be left feeling quite low’.
Social Connectedness vs social Isolation
Ironically the device which enables social connection in some, can also become a tool for avoiding social contact in individuals with social anxiety. Now almost everything can be organised online – from pizza to University study and this creates another kind of dependence for those who are not socially adept. An extreme version of social withdrawal in Japan is coined ‘Hikikomori’, individuals who drop out of society and live a hermit-like existence. Reasons for Hikikomori are complex but profiles of many show that within their secluded existence, many are highly dependent on technology. Here in Australia our rapidly advancing digital technology allows for similar avoidance and escapism in vulnerable individuals.
Limitations of our digital fixation…
The negative consequences of our digital fixation can be considerable. Recent studies show that artificial light from tablet devices when used at night may affect the body’s ability to produce melatonin – the sleep hormone, contributing to sleep disorders. While at a practical level using digital devices for long periods of time takes focus away from important things – work, study, and family and dependency on the mobile for social connectedness can contribute to anxiety and depression. Nicole also sees a more insidious side effect of the mobile age: ‘One important aspect of personal wellbeing involves an individual’s ability to engage themselves in the moment doing whatever allows them to do that- be it engaging in work or a hobby, or learning a new skill. But digital devices like mobile phones can sometimes take us away from the present, so that we are forever waiting for our next fix – for the next text message from a friend or for that email. So our consciousness is being directed forward, away from the present.’
Ask yourself: do you control your mobile or does it control you?
The signs of possible ‘technology addiction’?
- Inability to turn off technology, always connected
- Loss of interest in hobbies and social interactions
- Keeping devices near or at easy access all the time
- Online interactions dictate your mood and sleep patterns
Begin a regular Detox process:
Start by setting boundaries and recognising when phone/internet use is useful versus habitual.
Remember to take a break from technology – So instead of always taking your mobile with you on an outing with friends, you could leave it at home. Or if that is too onerous, you could start small by leaving your phone at home when going out to get milk instead of having it with you.
Communicate detox with others – Once you decide on your strategy for your preferred level of technology use, try telling friends, family or colleagues of your plan, e.g. that you are only checking email at certain times of day so they don’t expect their usual quick response. Then try turning phone/ IPad off for certain hours during the day.
If you are still hooked on technology and it is interfering with your quality of life, it is important to reach out and ask for help or share strategies with others.