We all love our smartphones, tablets and other digital devices and they’re usually not far away from us. Although they can be a productive tool, when the use of them overtakes our interaction with real people, this might be a cause for concern.
When our time spent on our digital devices starts interfering on our daily life and our relationships, then it might be time to question how we use them and why we use them.
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You might know someone, or perhaps it is you, who spends lots of time on their phones or tablets and it can be challenging to have a conversation with them. They don’t seem to concentrate for very long and are continually checking their texts, emails or social media sites.
The lure of finding out what that ‘ping’ or ‘beep’ means, who might be liking our update or wanting to get in touch can be so strong for some people that the idea of being parted from their technology leaves them feeling anxious.
By learning some of the signs and symptoms of excessive use and then learning strategies to break free, you can lead a more balanced and healthier life both online and off.
Normal or excessive online usage
In general, addictions of any nature are characterized by a compulsive usage and a consuming preoccupation to use, an inability to control or curb usage or even lying about or hiding their usage. Unfortunately, with all the positives in the advancement of technology, there is also a downside – and that is people using technology to the point where it can be characterized much like other addictions.
What is normal online usage versus excessive or addictive usage?
There is no hard and fast agreement about the amount of time someone spends online to indicate addictive type of behaviors. It is more to do with how the time spent online is impacting on other areas of a person’s life. Whether they are missing work or struggling to be productive because of being online until late, missing out on friendly gatherings or even taking care of their basic needs like rest and food – all this might indicate problems.
Whether you have an issue with digital addiction or not, take a moment to think about this scenario. Imagine a time when you were going meet up with friends. Now, imagine how you would feel if you were to walk out of the house without your phone. What thoughts come to mind when you imagine leaving your phone at home? Do you feel fine with that or does it cause a bit (or a lot) of anxiety?
There is a vast majority of people who do feel some anxiety when they are separated from their phones. Now, there are some professions that do need to be constantly connected because they deal with life and death kind of situations. Yet for many of us, the need to be constantly connected in not critical and is not good for our well-being or our health.
These might include seriously debilitating conditions like stress, loneliness or even depression. If being connected is much like a ‘safety blanket’ that brings some relief and comfort, then again, this is something that you might explore further.
What to do next
For many addictions, abstinence based approaches work well. Simply isolate yourself from the point of addiction.
When you can avoid the trigger substance or behavior, then you do not fire up the physiological reaction in the body to crave more. However, digital addiction, much like food or exercise addictions, total abstinence is not advisable nor is it likely.
One step to help you release that grip on technology is to do a ‘digital detox’. You don’t have to be an addict to do one either. Many people report feeling happier, healthier and most contented when they consciously have taken a break from technology for a day, a weekend or even during their holidays.
Another thing you might do is start to recognize the triggers when you reach out for your phone. Are you lonely or bored and want some distraction? Are you feeling depressed and checking other people’s statuses online is making you feel even more depressed? When you recognize the triggers and the feelings behind when you reach out, you can then find healthier and more effective ways of dealing with those feelings.
If your digital connections are making you feel even lonelier, then find a real live group of people to get out and connect with. Find a club, a hobby or some activity where real people actually meet up in person to talk about their shared interest.
On a final note
Like any unhealthy or addictive behavior, it can be hard to stop on your own. Therefore seek out the support from family, friends, mutual support group or some sort of professional. Put in place new strategies for dealing with difficult emotions and for when and where you get connected online.
Learn how to control your use of technology, rather than be controlled by it.
Connect with WatchFit Expert Midgie Thompson