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My name is Cynthia, I live in London, and I have an addiction to my smartphone. It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing at night. I crave it 24/7 and it follows me everywhere I go, even to the bathroom! I just can’t function without it. So much so, that my husband has suggested I seek a self-imposed "rehab" as he simply no longer wishes to compete with it!
You see I use my BlackBerry Z10 to organize every aspect of my life (sorry iPhone addicts!): my calendar, work e-mails, messaging, social media updates, weather, Internet browsing, countless apps like Amazon to shop, MailOnline and The Guardian to catch up on U.K. and global news, HuffPost for interesting blogs, brain games and crosswords to pass the time away, and not forgetting those obligatory "selfies." At night, I keep it next to me on my bedside table.
"You’re glued to your phone," says my husband, "What about family time?" I was about to joke and ask him to send me the app for that, but judging by the unimpressed look on his face I decided against it. After all, we were watching a movie at the time! "I’m a writer," I protest, "it’s the nature of my job to read topical debates online, and browse other important erm . . . things . . . ." My denial wasn’t even fooling ME! I’m ashamed of how many times he has shared his work stresses and has stopped mid-flow to complain that I'm paying more attention to my phone. I've denied it, of course, and he's said, "So what was the last thing I said, then?" My baffled expression then answers the question.
The final straw was while I sat in bed engrossed in an app, and my husband got in, snuggling up beside me. This was his non-verbal way of saying he’s after some TLC. But instead I remained unstirred and shot him that side-eye, "Not now honey, I’m just reading something." And with those words of rejection, he swiftly turned around in a huff with his back to me. There was deafening silence. It was at that point I came to a realization. Do I really have an addiction? I just gave up sex for my smartphone!
I asked myself if I displayed signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior. According to medics, OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. Symptoms include anxiety, compulsion, and temporary relief amongst others. Let’s see.
Anxiety: On my way to work, I frantically search my bag just to double-check I haven’t left home without it, or misplaced it during the day.
Compulsion: The constant urge to grab it each time I hear a beep or ping or Facebook update.
Withdrawal Symptoms: Shouting out at work, "CHARGER ANYONE?" with palpitations, in a race against time to find one before my phone completely dies.
Sure signs of an addict. But I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with an unhealthy, obsession with their phones. An Oxford University study of 24,000 married European couples found a direct, inverse link between use of social networking sites and marital satisfaction. And the term "nomophobic" (that’s "nomo" as in "no mobile") was coined after a U.K.-based, YouGov survey revealed that nearly 53 percent of British mobile phone users feel anxious when they "lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage."
So I have embarked on these self-imposed steps to rehabilitation (without going cold turkey):
1. Don't use your phone as an alarm clock. Buy a real alarm clock. (Yes, they still exist!) My hubby bought me a stylish clock online with firm instructions to "use it!". It’s a teak wood cube, very inconspicuous and matches our furnishings.
Considering I’ve been using my phone alarm for over 10 years, it took a while to get used to. But looks great on my bedside table!
2. Visiting times: Set aside times in the day just to check e-mails and browse your favorite apps. I have started to spend an hour after breakfast, with specific intervals during the day. A strict time frame policy should mean that you can balance your free time without completely ignoring others.
3. Phone detox: Switch the phone off (shock, horror) or leave the phone at home (double gasp) while you go out for a few hours with your hubby. I’d often make a habit of putting my phone on the table while we were out eating on a "date night." The point is to enjoy quality time without any distractions!
4. Don’t be anti-tech-social: Rather than just chuckling to yourself whilst engrossed in your phone, why not include your partner in whatever has caught your attention. Whether it’s a social media debate or a hilarious video at least he won’t feel like a spare part!
5. See no evil, hear no evil: When you’re at a family event or with friends, it’s very tempting to take it out of your handbag. I would tend to carry it around with me at a friend’s house — just in case! Put it away, leave in your handbag and do not dare to retrieve it. If you can’t hear or see it, you won’t feel the need to.
6. Bedtime ban: Sleeping by your phone is hardly a turn-on for both of you. How distracting are the constant bleeps or vibrations? Ban all technology in the bedroom, and keep devices far from reach. There are far better things you could be doing together!
It’s only been a couple of weeks, and I admit it hasn’t been easy, but I am slowly engaging with the real world again and my relationship is improving! All it takes to get over it is a great deal of self-discipline. Can you empathize?
I'll tweet or Instagram my progress for you! Just kidding!