The person uses and cannot stop. Well, I think I can stop, if I really try.
Withdrawal symptoms – There are cravings, bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger.. Some of these definitely occur in me.
Addiction continues despite health problem awareness – For me, it mostly affects my sleep, which, in turn, affects my health.
Social and/or recreational sacrifices – How many nice days outside have I missed? Or games with my kids? Or good conversations where I couldn’t concentrate?
Taking risks – I’ve almost crashed my car more than once.
Obsession – If I’m honest – I have to admit – I think about it. A lot.
Secrecy and solitude – Most times I don’t want people to know I’m using. That’s all I’ll say.
Excess consumption – How much time I have squandered because of this?
Financial difficulties – It is more than I’d like to be paying, but it’s worth it! Isn’t it?
Relationship problems – Just ask my wife and kids. They would agree.
So, what’s the verdict? Are you following yet? Can anyone relate? Am I an addict? Are you?
I think a deeper question might be, what compels me to spend so much time, energy and attention on and with my phone? Yes, my phone. I’ll wait for you to catch up if you hadn’t already guessed.
What’s most sad to me is I can’t help myself. I know my son/daughter/wife is talking to me, and I listen – to start. But if the phone is within hands reach, I just feel drawn to look at it.
What am I checking? I don’t think I need to list them here, because most of you are doing the same thing, frequently…addictively.
We’re like Pavlovian dogs.
Ding! An alert. We perk up, perhaps even start salivating. “What is it? I better see.” Sometimes a reward (something we like), sometimes disappointment (something that causes stress or we could care less about).
But like what psychologists have described as superstitious behavior, we get rewarded enough that we keep doing the behavior. It’s like the slot machines in Vegas; they are set to pay off just enough to keep you thinking that you might win the big one. You won’t; it’s rigged in their favor. Only with our technology, we don’t even have to invest money – just attention, time, and emotion. It’s so much easier to not resist (a split infinitive, I know).
Some questions I have been asking myself lately are: How many likes is enough? What is prompting me to share with 1817 “friends” this precious moment of me carrying my coffee over my shoes on top of these perfectly symmetrical-for-a-picture bricks?
How much will it affect the outcome of my fantasy game if I check my points one more time, after having just checked them 45 seconds ago? Will reading that work email right now, at 10:30 p.m., really make me get to whatever it’s about any faster than already would have the next day? And why didn’t I answer that call or text, but did the other one?
I could go on. And on. Because when I really step back and take a sober look at the place of technology in my life, the stark reality is a word I don’t like to associate with my behavior: inordinate.
For me (and perhaps many of us), it comes down to some fundamental needs that I’m trying to fill. 1. Connection (desire to be included). 2. Validation (desire to be affirmed). 3. Safety (“real” relationships are vulnerable and mean taking real risks).
No matter what I do on my phone, there is a sense of separation that feels safe (despite my desire to be included).
The above needs, their legitimacy, and perhaps some much better ways to fulfill them could (and I’m sure have been) the topic of another blog, as is the question: what am I trying to avoid?
But my purpose here isn’t to condemn, or give sage advice, or even to get you stop using your phone. I merely invite you to reflect with me, what place does technology hold in my life?
And based on my beliefs, values and convictions, am I o.k. with the answer? Or do I need to ask some hard questions, and even, change my behavior?
For me, I have simply decided to stop bringing my phone with me when I go to Mass. It’s usually only a couple of hours of detachment, but I gotta start somewhere. And I can tell you, I’ve been more engaged, attentive, and joyful with both Jesus and others I encounter during that short span. During this Christmas season, let’s not be controlled by our phones.
And then I can’t wait to get home and check my fantasy line-up.