by Dr Saliha Afridi, Lighthouse Arabia
Many of us do most of our work, our bill payments, our communications, our social media, and our calendar planning on our phones these days. So, it makes it very difficult to stop using the phone because we are literally dependent on it to meet all our planning, organizing, professional, and logistical needs. But realistically speaking, many of us can do these activities on the computer and we do not have to do it on a handheld device, which makes us hyper-efficient, but also disengaged and unhappy.
To a degree, we all have a dependency on our phones, but for some people, it is a lot more of a significant problem and it is interfering with their social and occupational functioning.
There are some people who really feel that they would be lost without a phone. Studies have been done where people have withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, heart racing, rumination, panic, sleeplessness, despair when they did not have access to their phone for 24 hours.
My advice to you if you are concerned about your phone usage is to use the checklist that we use for substance addictions and insert mobile phone/social media where we have the substance:
Do you feel preoccupied with what is happening on your mobile phone/social media?
Do you feel the need to use mobile phone/social media often (or different methods i.e. snapchat, Facebook, Instagram etc etc) with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop your mobile/social media usage?
Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop using the mobile/social media?
Do you stay on your phone/social media longer than originally intended?
Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your phone/social media usage?
Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with your phone/social media?
Do you use phone/social media as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
If you answered yes to many of these, then you probably have a problem with your phone usage and it’s time to address it.
So, what can you do?
First realize that you have a problem. Too many people dismiss it and think ‘everyone is doing it so it must be ok.’
Schedule a time where you will use social media instead of having it to scattered throughout the day, and as a part of every moment, I recommend setting aside scheduled times in the day/week where you upload pictures or share information. I know that some will say it defeats the purpose of some sharing info on certain platforms designed to be ‘in the moment’ type of Apps, but if sharing info means you enjoy it less or can’t make memories as a result, then the choice is clear. This is not easy to do, and it does require discipline and commitment to live with and relate to social media in a different way—where you use it, and it doesn’t use you.
Have social media free days- start with a few hours and eventually aim to have whole days where you enjoy the moment without having to capture it or share it.
Take a mental snapshot. Instead of sharing it with your social world- try to absorb the moment, connect with your feeling, experience the moment with all your 5 senses and take a mental snapshot. You will have a memory of that moment more vividly and for far longer than if you take a picture of it. The irony of social media is that in wanting to capture and share our life with others, we have lost the moment and with it, it's memory.
Stay grounded in real world connections, sharing, and connections. These connections can be with yourself, your hobbies, your tribe, and your community
Have sacred times and places where you won’t be taking pictures of sharing stories. Have a family member take pictures of important times and events so that you can fully be absorbed in the moment.
Put the app in a folder on the 2nd or 3rd screen so it has to remain a conscious decision to get on the app rather than something your fingers gravitate towards without consideration.
Have technology rules that are beyond social media. For example, don’t look at technology as soon as you wake up or when you go to bed. Don’t look at your phone while you walk. The more you use the technology the harder it will be for you to be with the environment around you or to be still.
Engage in healthy stress management activities. The more stressed we are the more likely we are to numb ourselves with technology and seek social media pleasure neurochemicals. Making time to still your mind, mastering the stressful world that we live in will increase your resiliency against addictive behaviors.
Engage in hobbies in the real world. Stay connected to your passions. Read, learn, travel, play sports—do what brings you joy and refrain from documenting the act of engaging in those activities on social media.
Technology, our phones and social media were supposed to deepen relationship and connections, not take away from it. Ironically what was used once as a way of connecting with another, has ended up disconnecting us with so much research now showing that high social media use is linked to mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, social isolation, social comparison, and jealousy. It creates an illusion of connection but its hollow and doesn’t feel real or meaningful. When one is sad or having a bad day, and posts a picture of themselves smiling and cheery, it can add to the feeling of isolation and that ‘no one sees me.’
If you’re worried about your phone and social media usage, please don’t bury your head in the sand – tackle it now. Your family and ultimately you will thank you for it I promise you.