I Can't Put My Phone Down and It's a Problem

I don’t know about you but I think I may need an intervention.

I often put down my phone with the express intention of working on/doing something that doesn’t involve me using my phone at all and then, usually without realizing I’m picking it up, the phone is in my hand and I’m scrolling through social media or playing a game on the device while I was supposed to be focusing on something else.

When I first began noticing my obsessive tendency to have my phone in my hand, I shook it off and figured since I’ve been a bit stressed lately, it’s probably just a coping mechanism, an anomaly.  But the more I pay attention to how often I actually engage in this type of behavior, the more concerned I am that my tech usage is out of control.  It has gotten to the point where I can’t watch a television show without simultaneously scrolling, Googling or mindlessly playing a game on the device.

So how common is this problem of phone overuse?

Dr. David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, says about 90% of Americans fall in the category of overusing, abusing or misusing their devices, according to a recent nationwide telephone survey he did in conjunction with AT&T.

For me, the biggest challenge I need to overcome is the need to be accessible (which involves 24/7 access to my device).  I have kids in college and like any mom, I want to make sure that if they need me, they can get to me – ergo: phone in hand or on the nightstand.

When my kids left for college, we canceled our land line and became a cellular-only household which has worked well and alleviated most of the telemarketing and political calls that plagued us on a daily basis.  However, when we had the land line, there were phones in every room of the house so if one of the kids was out and needed us, we’d get the call – this doesn’t work with a cell phone so I’ve taken to having it with me or beside me at all times.  The problem is that I can’t seem to leave it alone.

I’ve spoken to friends and read articles by experts on how to disengage from technology and been on the receiving end of lots of well-meaning advice but none of it seems to work for me. Then I came up with an idea that might help me solve my problem:  I ordered a couple of (what look like land line) phones that will Bluetooth with my cell phone but work like land line phones so I can put my mobile phone in my closet or another room to charge all night and still be assured that I will get emergency calls from my kids through those devices without having to have my cell phone “on” me.

The phones haven’t arrived yet, but I’m hoping that the act of actively putting the phone AWAY from myself while knowing that in an emergency I am still reachable, will help allow me to disconnect and not be so consumed by technology – if that doesn’t work, I don’t know what I’m going to do!

Julie Fisher, M.Ed., is the founder of The Social U and consults with schools, organizations and individuals through the MJ Fisher Group.  

Twitter: @Julz Fisher, @the_social_u