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?