I once scoffed at the idea of phone addiction. Hard drugs like heroin and cocaine easily drag people into its clutches, but when adults would talk about how teenagers invest too much of their day in their phones and it was an addiction, I did not see phone usage in that way.
In my head, the adults who were telling us of this new ‘sickness’ were just too old to understand technology and were wary of the quickly expanding internet world. Despite my opposition, the idea piqued my curiosity; therefore, I did some introspection.
As I forced myself to be self-aware of my phone usage, I soon realized my device was never farther than an arm’s length away. I automatically reached out for my phone during the day even when I didn’t have a specific task to do on it. My phone seemed like an extension of myself, and my hand would search for my phone as if on a timed reflex; every so often my right hand would pick up my phone, and I would look at the time on the screen and put my phone down, but I sometimes wouldn’t remember the time I just looked at.
The meaningless and regularly occurring actions on my phone alarmed me to the problem adults have been telling me about since teenagers got their hands on smartphones. I worried about my dependence on my phone and had an idea to change my mentally unhealthy habit. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found 54 percent of teenagers worried their time on their phones was too much.
To challenge myself, while bringing self-growth, I decided to take 30 days to restrict my phone usage. The four-week plan had different goals for every seven days.
The first week I strived to see how long I could go without my phone during my time doing homework. At first I tried to put my phone on the table while doing homework and just not touch it. This, however, didn’t work as I would regularly pick up my phone, mess around on Instagram and other social media apps and get lost in the abyss of internet content. I kept trying to use my weak willpower to stop reaching for my phone by putting it across the table, but I continued to feel this urge and pull to reach over and look at my phone.
After the failed experiment that tested my self-restraint, I decided to try a different technique for the second and third week. I put my phone in a completely different room, and instead of being able to reach over and get lost in a world of screens, I had to get up and walk to the other side of my house. This, in theory, should have helped me focus on my homework, but I was disappointed to find myself struggling with focusing on doing work and sitting down for long periods of time without my phone. No longer could I make a quick escape to my phone when I was bored or about to do something I didn’t want to do.
I felt something was missing whenever I didn’t have my phone in the same room as me. Sometimes my mind would wander off to my cellular device and start thinking of Netflix shows I wanted to watch or things I wanted to scroll through on Facebook. It started to get frustrating as it seemed my mind was working against me. It was as if there was a tiny person running frantically around in my brain, occupying all my thoughts on the location of my phone and the things it wanted to see across the screen.
I fought with this excruciating and annoying second mind for those two weeks and decided to take a step further the last week of my 30 day challenge. My goal for the last week was not to just put away my phone while doing homework, but also to put it away in my backpack at school. I didn’t want to be holding my phone in the hallways, have it out on my desk or get it out during free periods.
This new rule was less challenging than expected and instead brought on boredom. I caught myself reaching for my backpack to take out my phone all throughout the week. I was suddenly brought back to my childhood days when phones were not a normalized societal concept and found myself enjoying my surroundings more and starting conversations with people to fill the void of being phoneless. At first these interactions without a cellular device in hand was strange but it became easier and more natural as I continued the weeks.
Looking back at the whole month, I am shocked at how dependent I am of my phone. Even walking down the halls without my phone makes my hand feel empty and my mind start to slightly panic. I could barely focus during the first two weeks without my phone while doing homework, but as the weeks went on I could work without my phone and be more productive. I didn’t believe I was unable to put my phone down, but I struggled. In the Pew Research Center’s study, 743 U.S. teenagers were aware of their bad internet habits and the survey found 57 percent were actively trying to cut back on social media. 72 percent of teens reported that they are more likely to check their phone as soon as they get out of bed, and lose focus at school or work than their parents.
Cell phones are so integrated in our lives that we don’t realize how attached we are to their smartphones. I encourage everyone to try and spend a day or long periods of time without their phones. If one can put their phone down for an hour or two to start and then work up to not needing it for a whole day, it would make a better quality life. We need to realize the problem with phone dependence and challenge ourselves to put away the screens and look into the real world instead. Personally, I will continue to put my phone away and down throughout the day, and strive for independence from the device. I want to be present in my life and for others around me, and the distraction of the internet will not hinder my future aspirations.
Do you think you are addicted to your phone? Let us know in the comments below!