FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, a person uses a smart phone in Chicago. For many of us, a smartphone addiction is not so much a debilitating disease but a constant, nagging inconvenience we can’t seem to shake. But it’s not all our fault. From the constant notifications to the color schemes to the "likes," followers and in-game rewards out phones and the apps on them were created so we’ll use them as much as possible. But there are ways to fight back. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, a person uses a smart phone in Chicago. For many of us, a smartphone addiction is not so much a debilitating disease but a constant, nagging inconvenience we can’t seem to shake. But it’s not all our fault. From the constant notifications to the color schemes to the "likes," followers and in-game rewards out phones and the apps on them were created so we’ll use them as much as possible. But there are ways to fight back. (AP Photo, File)

OPINION: Are you hooked on your phone?

By Andrew Parker Time of article published Apr 28, 2019

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DURBAN - Is your smartphone habit affecting your quality of life? Are you missing out on valuable sleep just to squeeze in an extra game or viral video? Let’s face it: smartphones are great fun, and they are indispensable aids professionally and personally. Just over a decade ago, a cellphone simply made calls and sent messages. Nowadays, two people could have the same model of phone but use them in completely different ways.

A smartphone can monitor your health and fitness, keep an eye on your bank balance, remind you to buy milk and find you that perfect last-minute holiday deal, all at once. It can connect you to friends and family with free video calls, and when you want to unwind, there are more games and gadgets than you can imagine, not to mention TV, video and music services.

Yes, apps, smartphones and tablets are amazing. They’re also completely addictive - and they are deliberately designed that way.

Those little dots that pulsate on your screen when someone is typing a reply to your message? They are little hooks that keep you hanging on for the next instalment. The two little ticks that change colour when someone has read your WhatsApp chat? How often do you find yourself compulsively checking back to see if they’ve gone blue?

Make no mistake, it’s an addiction, and our cravings are sparked with every little beep, vibration or blip that tells us something new is waiting for us. Without blinking, we swipe to unlock our phone and hook ourselves back into that bright little world.

Today, everything is instant: we have to be up to date, no matter how trivial the information. We can literally “check in” automatically somewhere and update all our social media contacts - this means someone could go out for a quiet dinner at a local restaurant and literally hundreds of people around the world will be reaching for their phones to read about it.Health: Too much screen time at night can wreak havoc with our circadian rhythm - our natural sleep/wake cycle. By subjecting our eyes to extended light at night (by using a smartphone, for example), we’re confusing our brain and making it think that it’s still daytime. This forces your brain into an alert state when it should be releasing chemicals to send you to sleep. To learn more about your circadian rhythm, see https://tinyurl.com/crinfo2019.

Stress: Light is not the only problem. Technology is a stimulant and a stress factor. If work-related stress is playing on your mind, there’s no easier trigger to start your heart pounding than reading a problematic email just as you’re nodding off - yet loads of us have our work email accounts active on our phones and are checking and composing messages well outside normal office hours. The same can be said for any stress trigger - relationship issues, financial worries or even national or global events - all of which having us turning to our phones.

Control: Next week, I’ll have advice on how to control screen time and monitor smartphone usage. I’ll give you tools to reclaim rest time and I even have something to help with mindfulness and stress management yes, there’s an app for that!

THE MERCURY 

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