The Social Media Paradox – is this the new drug addiction?

Woman reading and texting on smartphone in bed

“We live in a world where losing your phone is more dramatic than losing your virginity”. Whoever said that was right. I’ve lost count of the heart attacks I’ve had while furiously looking for my phone, only to find that I was holding it the whole time.

Why does the thought of losing a phone cause so much anxiety? Is it because we wouldn’t be able to tell the time, wake up, take snaps of our children, or find our way in the dark without killing ourselves with Lego? Could it also be FOMO and the need to know what Kylie Jenner has done to her face or what Beyonce’s twins are up to? Perhaps we’re addicted to our phones, much like one is addicted to crack.
My life depends on my phone and it’s a disturbing to admit that it controls me. Because of this, I’m sometimes not mentally present with people, including my children. This realisation makes me feel uncomfortable and frankly, it’s a shit feeling. How did I ever let it get this far?
Not only do phones control, they can also cause injury and fatalities. Too many times I have had to dodge people on a footpath who were so deep in their phone. According to Transport NSW, last year 74 pedestrians were killed on NSW roads which is 13 more than in 2015. About 1100 pedestrians in total are injured each year on the state’s roads. A large number of these figures are from people who are distracted by their phones. As a way to help prevent pedestrian injuries and fatalities related to mobile usage, in-ground lights were installed recently in Sydney CBD to help people (or zombies) cross roads when they’re glued and distracted on their phones.
Psychologist Adam Alter spoke recently at the Vancouver TED Conference on the effect smartphones have on our lives. He shared some insights on makes us obsessively check our phones. He provided some fascinating (and scary) psychology that drives our tech addictions. He has spent the last five years literally studying screens and their effects on our lives, specifically how much time they steal from us and how they’re getting away with it. He points out that screens “rob us of stopping cues” or signals that remind us to move on. Unlike reading a newspaper, where the end of the page tells us to switch to the next activity, with screens “the news feed just rolls on.” He concluded that we spend less time on apps that make us happy and almost 3 times more on apps that leave us feeling worse.
Adam suggests setting aside times that are phone-free, whether that means putting your phone in a drawer during dinner or on aeroplane mode over the weekend. He assures us that if we can just resist the temptation at first “you get used to it, you overcome the withdrawal like you would with a drug and life becomes more colourful, richer.”

I think smartphones are great but like anything, too much is a problem. We are obsessed by how many ‘likes’ we receive on social media and we all know that doesn’t determine our self-worth. So how do you know when it is a problem? It is a problem when it starts to affect relationships with other people.

While listening to one of the Mama-Mia podcasts featuring Zoe Foster-Blake (who is my idol and all-around cool chick, mum, writer and beauty entrepreneur) dropped some valuable hints and tips to curb your phone addiction. The tips I gathered from the podcast include:

  1. Have designated times to check emails or Facebook feed, etc. An e.g. first thing in the morning before the kids are up, midday and after kids are tucked into bed. Make sure the times are realistic.
  2. Don’t use your phone as your alarm – you’ll be tempted to check emails and get side tracked. Make cuddling your partner the first thing you do in the morning.
  3. Charge your phone on the other side of the room.
  4. Turn off the TV and put your phone away during dinner. Have a meaningful conversation instead. Ask each other how their day was.
  5. Turn off sound alerts.

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