Cell Phone Detox: A Cure For My Bad Habit?

phone-762550_640Like a dog that drools when he hears the biscuit bag tear open, my fingers twitch when I hear that ever-present, oh-so-distinct ping!  I reach for it first thing every morning, when my eyes are still heavy with sleep and my brain barely registering my surroundings.  It’s in my back pocket or the bowels of my purse, even on the marble counter adjacent to the tub while I soak.  It chirps at me while the boys maneuver the playground tagging their friends, while I pound the treadmill growing short of breath, and from the sidelines of coffee dates with friends.

But it wasn’t until my 3-year-old son followed me from the kitchen with my phone clutched in his hand that I had, to borrow a phrase from the divine Ms. O, an Aha! moment.

“Here you are, mommy.  You forgot your phone.”  His arm out-stretched and pudgy fingers curled around the glass.

Could I be addicted to my cell phone?

Author Ira Hyman asks the same question: am I addicted to my cell phone? in his article Are You Addicted To Your Cell Phone? for Psychology Today.  He cites Atchley and Warden’s (2012) study in which the researchers found the majority of college students were more likely to return a text message immediately and receive a smaller monetary reward rather than delay their response time for a greater monetary reward.

While I wasn’t a subject in the study, I am confident in my abilities to refrain from knee-jerk texting so this study led me to no conclusions other than the participants had more cash than I did when I was in university.

Maybe I am not so far gone after all.

However according to a recent University of Washington study researchers have identified four characteristics that may indicate concerning behaviour when it comes to the relationship you have with your cell phone.

1.    Anticipation: Frequently thinking about calls or messages you may receive.

2.      Activity interference: Choosing to spend time on your phone rather than talk to friends or family or engage in other activities.

3.      Emotional reaction: Becoming angry when someone interrupts your phone time, or feeling irritated when not on your phone.

4.      Problem Recognition: Recognizing you spend too much time on your phone and trying to cut back.

This criteria is ringing more true than I care to admit.

I don’t have to panic just yet though, because these same researchers from both studies have concluded that it’s entirely possible that in this cell-phone age this is the way we communicate with each other and stay connected.  The almighty, powerful cell phone has replaced outdated methods of communication just like the cordless phone replaced the rotary phone and rotary phone absolved the need for the courier pigeon.

Nonetheless I have grown acutely aware of the amount of time that I (and others) spend tapping away on their little glass screens and I don’t like it.

While I am not one for resolutions, I have thought about what I’d like more and less of in my life and the New Year is a fitting time to implement change.

I want to be more present in my life.  Remember the days when you used to sit in the doctor’s waiting room and tried not to get caught staring at the others waiting?  Remember waking up and not grabbing for your phone?  How about the last time I went more than two waking hours without answering that familiar “ping”?

I can’t remember and this realization leaves me no choice but to go on a cell phone detox and hopefully I will find myself more engaged in meaningful activities and conversations.

Margaret Hyde, author of Breaking the Cell Phone Habit offers practical suggestions of how to reduce the minutes, err possibly hours!, spent talking on the phone, playing on the phone, returning emails and texts on the phone  . . .

Cell Phone Detox Action Plan

  1. No texting or talking while being a passenger in the car.
  2. Turn off the phone after the kids go to bed.
  3. Over-night charge the phone using a receptacle other than the one in the bedroom.
  4. When possible leave the phone inside while outdoors.
  5. Delete time-sucking apps and unsubscribe from mass mailings that I don’t read.
  6. Keep a journal noting reactions/feelings about limiting cell phone use.

Calling all cell phone addicts – do you ever cell phone detox?  Any tips?  What are your feelings on the subject – is the cell phone a necessary tool to maintaining social interactions or is it a catalyst for a social isolation?  Is there a difference between virtual social interaction and face-to-face social interaction?


23 thoughts on “Cell Phone Detox: A Cure For My Bad Habit?

  1. Wow! Great points. A few days ago I disconnected myself from forms of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) because I feel like I was just always on them and like you mentioned, not “present.” Especially when it’s so easy to be on the phone while also bottle feeding or when I am stuck on the couch with a bouncer attached to my foot. I wanted to take the time that I spent on social media, to go back to some of the things I used to love and enjoy – reading, writing, singing, and the like. I also want to be “present” with my two baby boys and dive into the blog world. It’s only been a few days but so far so good. It’s oddly relieving. Again, great post.

    • Glad to know that I’m not alone. The social media thing was just starting to explode when my oldest was a baby . . . I definitely would have been rockin’ and textin’ too!

  2. The need to feel “connected” at all times it intense and it is absolutely addicting. I am taking baby steps to wean myself off my cell phone addiction, the biggest being that I turn off all sounds / vibrations so that I no longer hear that “ping”. This means that in the evenings, I check emails (mostly work!) on my timelines and this has really reduced the feelings of stress that I previously felt.

    Good luck with your detox plan!

    • That’s what I am hoping – to eliminate silly, unnecessary stress! I am gonna need all the luck. I did ignore my phone twice when it was ringing and I didn’t recognize the number AND I didn’t check it the entire time the littlest one was at his swimming lesson. I feel that’s a small victory!

  3. Those are great detox ideas! I may apply some to myself. I realized I was on my phone too much when my mirror of a daughter (18 months) wanted to hold my phone constantly.

  4. I don’t think I’ll try leaving the phone at home. It’s my portable child-entertainment-device, suitable for queues, restaurants, and A&E departments. The other ideas sound good, though!

  5. Hmm… I am dependent on my phone but so far i already do a couple of things on your detox list. If im spending time at home with my son the phone goes in a pocket out of the way. I dont use it cars unless to let someone know where i am. So maybe im not too bad after all lol.

  6. Typically I’m not on my phone too much, (I say as I type this through the WordPress app), since I don’t have too many game apps and my friends and I, while we do text, it doesn’t happen every moment of the day. It doesn’t distract from my homework or reading time, and it’s more of a stress reliever than a stress creator to have around, as I tend to worry about being cut off from people. Good idea with the detox, though. I might end up trying it as well.

  7. Guilty. So. Very. Guilty. I lost my phone and went a little over a week without one at all. It caused minor convulsions but was liberating at the same time. I even wrote a silly little post about it. I almost (heavy on the almost) dreaded getting a replacement. I will honestly say I could not follow that detox plan with out hitting “rock bottom” first. Turn the phone off AFTER? they go to bed…pshhh…it’s just too much. Great post and one that we need to read and re-read every so often. I shared on my fb page as I know many mothers that will appreciate this one.

  8. I am very aware of how addicted I am to my iphone. Its a hard one to navigate. But I like your tips for detoxing and am going to try some. Thanks for the great post.

    • It is hard isn’t it? There are some fabulous benefits and on day three of my detox, I am more aware of what those are and I am not missing the “time suckers” as much as I thought that I would.

  9. with two kids at university and one in high school this is the preferred method of communication via the cell phone. We have a family BBM chat so we can all text together about funny or anecdotes about the day. This is my excuse for having my phone with me constantly.I don’t twitter or instagram or have any Apps on my cell. nice write up.

    • It’s day three of my “detox” and I find that the only text with my husband a few close friends (which I still enjoy doing because like you said, it’s my way of staying connected) but I have stopped checking the social media feeds on my phone and I don’t miss it!

  10. I’m usually constantly connected to my phone. But I do have some days when I don’t feel like talking to people that I hand it to my husband and have him deal with it. But I also use my phone for EVERYTHING, so full days without. VERY RARE.

  11. I completely agree with this!! I have deployed 3 times in the past 5 years… each time it’s like a part of you dies as you lose that constant connection with the world. But, when I return, and truthfully to this day, I often find myself leaving home without my phone and ignoring it completely. It’s incredibly freeing!!! However, it seems society doesn’t understand that I am not on-the-spot available at any given moment…

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