Technology is a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is a paradox of our times which we are compelled to face.

Frank Herbert

According to a study by a research firm dscout, a typical cell phone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times every day (Actions like typing, tapping and swiping the phone’s screen counts as a touch). Extreme cell phone users, on the other hand, touch their phones more than 5,400 times a day. Apple recently announced that their users unlock their phones 80 times every day. That’s about six to seven times every hour.

If there is one takeaway from these studies, it’s that our smartphone is an invaluable part of our lives but if we do not control how much we use it, its effects can be detrimental. Sound mental health depends on various variables. One such variable today is the ‘unhealthy’ usage of smartphones.

Anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, inability to focus, and absence of mental peace are just some of the many effects of smartphone addiction and unhealthy social media activity.

But how do you know you’re addicted?

Here are some common behaviours that those addicted to their smartphones demonstrate:  

  1. An incessant needs to tap and touch the phone and the apps periodically.
  2. Strong feelings of envy towards social media posts of other people and still the constant need to check them constantly.
  3. Regular, unhealthy comparison and competition with others virtual lives and posts.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms when the phone is not around.
  5. Reaching out for the phone even if not required to check if they are any new notifications and messages.
  6. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) in case all the updates and posts aren’t seen.
  7. Counting the number of likes on the posts to feel validated.

If this sounds like you, you need to change your relationship with technology for improved well-being. Here’s how you can begin:

  1. Don’t check your phone for the first two hours after waking up. Looking for new notifications and emails is not how you want to start your morning. It will only add to your anxiety.
  2. If you are not feeling great mentally or aren’t having a good day, seeing other people share their amazing lives on Instagram will bring you down. In this case, please avoid social media.
  3. Focus on building your own amazing, authentic life and taking care of your mental health. You must deal with and avoid feelings of envy and constant unhealthy comparison. If you manage to do this, you will start rejoicing in others happy stories on and off social media.
  4. Phones suppress sleep. Know how prolonged usage of your phone can affect you. The warnings on an iPhone can be found under “Settings” by selecting “General>About>Legal>RF Exposure”. It advises you to use a headset or a speakerphone during a call to reduce RF exposure or to keep the phone at least five mm away from the body to ensure exposure levels remain low.
  5. Switch off all electronic devices an hour before sleeping to have a better quality sleep. If you sleep with the phone next to you, you can put the phone on airplane mode which stops the radiation from the phone. Go old school and read an inspiring book before sleeping. Chances are you will sleep better.
  6. Have fixed times to check your notifications and WhatsApp messages, instead of constantly reaching out for your phone. For instance, it could be once every one or two hours depending on your lifestyle and work.
  7. Have smartphone-free hours during the day so that you get used to it and won’t be anxious with your phone not around.
  8. Go completely off technology once in a while.

It is important to remember that technology is great but we must only use it as a tool that is meant to empower us. We are not meant to be slaves of our phones but it is meant to help us lead better lives.

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