“Technology addiction” has become the in vogue term to describe our society’s rising use of digital devices. However, experts stress that using that word is misleading.
“People will often say, ‘I’m addicted to technology’ or ‘I’m addicted to my phone’ but they’re really not,” research psychologist Larry Rosen, co-author of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, explains in the video above. “More likely they’re obsessed with their phones.”
Rosen says that there’s a stark difference between an obsession and an addiction, but that doesn’t get smartphone users off the hook: Technology obsession can still yield health issues like an increased risk for mental health conditions.
“Being obsessed with technology means there’s a buildup in your brain of anxiety chemicals and you have to do something like, say, check your smartphone or check Facebook in order to reduce those chemicals and not feel so anxious,” Rosen said.
Research suggests that 24 percent of teens in the United States are online “almost constantly.” Another 2016 survey found that Americans spend more than 10 hours of their day looking at screens. And it’s likely only going to increase.
If you find that your smartphone is like candy for your brain, here are a few suggestions to ease the obsession:
Make time for activities away from your phone. This could include going for a walk (it boosts your mental health!), taking your pet to the park or reading a book. Check out this list of suggestions for more.
Turn off push notifications. There will be less temptation to check your device if you’re not getting flashy alerts every few minutes.
Create a phone log. Ever hear of a food diary? This is the same concept, just with tracking your phone usage. Write down how often you stare at your screen and then carve out some in your schedule to be away from it.
Make your phone go to bed before you do. Research shows the blue light emitted from smartphone screens can wreak havoc on your sleep. Try powering down or stepping away from it at least 30 minutes before you shut your eyes. You’ll get more quality rest.
Sayonara, device dependency.