I think it happened slowly over time, slithering into my life like a snake. One day my smartphone was a tool, the next an obsession. I live at inbox zero, quickly respond to texts as if my life depends on it, mindlessly scroll through my glossy Instagram feed, and get sucked in to the irresistible urge to check. I know I’m not alone. Are we addicted to this chunk of plastic, and who’s in control, the phone or us? When did this incredibly useful device become such a magnetic force?
I did a bit of detective work to find out if I was truly addicted to my smartphone. I discovered an online test and took it. I answered yes to more than half the questions, so the website suggested I needed to see a counselor for addiction issues or, big surprise, buy their services. Such alarmists! Anyone who owns a smartphone would likely qualify for their expensive interventions.
A bit defeated, I sat down and thought about the spectrum of smartphone behavior, developed my own test, and answered each question honestly. Here’s your chance.
North of 52’s Smartphone Addiction Test
Read each of the following 16 questions, keeping track of your yes and no responses. If your answer is sometimes, consider it a yes response.
1. Remember back to when you bought your first smartphone and think about how much time you spent on it. Are you now spending more time on your current smartphone?
2. You have some projects and household tasks that need your attention. Do you find yourself procrastinating and reaching for your smartphone? Do you grab your phone when you’re bored?
3. Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your smartphone many times a day, even when you suspect there is likely nothing new or important to see?
4. When your smartphone rings, beeps or buzzes (and it’s not a phone call), do you feel an urge to immediately respond to the notification?
5. You’ve left your house for the grocery store and, gasp, you forgot your smartphone. Does this make you unsettled or feeling a bit naked?
6. When you’re driving, do you check your smartphone at red lights?
7. Do you have the Facebook app on your phone and check it regularly?
8. Do you have the Instagram app on your phone and check it regularly?
9. Do you play games on your phone?
10. Do notifications from your smartphone sometimes interrupt your attention during time with your family or friends?
11. You’re at dinner and maybe you’re taking the high road with your phone tucked away. Someone asks a question and you grab your phone. After Googling for an answer, do you quickly check for texts or email, sneaking a chance?
12. Do you take your smartphone into the bathroom, scrolling while sitting on the toilet?
13. You’re on a walk and know about all that mindfulness stuff that says to live in the moment. But, do you often text or email during your walk?
14. Do you bring your smartphone into your bedroom at night?
15. Has anyone accused you of spending too much time on your smartphone?
16. Do you frequently have neck pain?
Is There a Problem, Houston?
Add up your yes and no responses. Compare your yes score to the following:
0 – 4: Congrats! You’re using your smartphone as a tool, not an obsession. Keep it healthy.
5 – 7: Your smartphone is an integral part of your life, but it’s a slippery slope. Watch out and become more mindful now.
8 – 10: You’re mildly addicted to your smartphone, spending more time than you should. Act now and find ways to cut back.
11 -16: You’re officially addicted to a plastic device that has you trained like Pavlov’s dogs. Take action now and implement a plan to keep things in balance and free up more time for the things that truly matter.
Make an Action Plan
The smartphone is an incredible device and, in many ways, enhances our life when used as a tool. The goal is to keep it a tool and not an obsession. The less time spent on our smartphones frees up more time for more important things, like enjoying our hobbies and activities, learning new things, and spending quality time with family and friends. Here’s what I’m trying, my game plan.
Delete Some Apps. If you use Facebook, take the app off your phone so that you’re less tempted to check it. With Instagram, it’s only available on mobile devices, so make a plan to only check it, say, twice a day for ten minutes. Next, identify any other apps that are time stealers and remove them. Addictive games are often the worst offenders.
Meals Are Special. Set up a no-phones-during-meals rule and stick to it. When you’re at gatherings with friends or family, don’t check your phone. Define your own rules on when you will check (for example, at the end of the party).
Just Drive. While I never text and drive, there are some really long red lights. I don’t want to be the self-absorbed idiot that gets honked at when the light turns green, so I’m trying to use this time to look around.
Don’t Multi-Task on the Toilet: Need I say more?
Silence Your Phone. When you’re doing tasks, turn your phone to silent so that you won’t be interrupted by notifications. Check it later at some predetermined time.
Turn Notifications Off. For everything except texts and phone calls, turn off your notifications so you don’t receive distracting beeps, buzzes and popups.
Install the Moment App. Moment is an iOS app that tracks how much you use your smartphone each day. It measures the total minutes you spend using your phone and, perhaps more shocking, the number of times you pick up your phone. It also tracks which apps you use the most and provides coaching on how to use your phone less.
Get Serious. Catherine Price’s book, How To Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan To Take Back Your Life, is packed with strategies and practical tips. It also explains how phones and apps are designed to be addictive, and how the time we spend on them damages our ability to focus and think deeply.
Are you addicted? What strategies are you using? Comment below!
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