How much time do you spend on your phone? What about your kids, or partner? Are you phubbing your friends (a habit of checking your texts/phone while someone is chatting with you) or have you been phubbed yourself? Chances are you are spending a lot of time on your phone and it is potentially getting higher.

If you find you spend more time than you realize on your phone, lose track of time scrolling through your phone, or spend more time communicating via text, messaging, or email vs talking to someone you might have a phone addiction. Phone addiction is a real thing and recovery starts with acknowledging that you might be spending too much time on your phone.

If you are not sure about whether your relationship with your phone is something to be concerned about, check out the Smart Phone Compulsion Test.  It will ask you 15 questions about how you interact with your smartphone and will give you an indication as to how likely you may be to having an addiction to your cell phone.

Unfortunately, the social media world is not helping.  Almost every app is designed to manipulate brain chemistry to encourage addictive behaviour.  An example of this is from Instagram.  Your account is coded so it holds back on showing you new “likes” until the right time that will discourage you from closing the app.  Reaching for your cell phone and experiencing that feeling that you may see, experience, or read something exciting is a type of intermittent reward.  It is the same feeling people get when playing slot machines. It keeps you coming back from more in the hopes of this time will be exciting and rewarding.

Our phones are also changing how we use our brains.  Scrolling through digital media in the cluttered landscape of links, ads, and photos requires short bursts of attention instead of deeper, prolonged concentration. This is referred to as “an intensely focused state of distraction” and we can lose our ability to concentrate and remember things as a result.

A key thing to remember about social media is that we are not the client.  The app is not made for us, the app is made for advertisers.  Advertisers pay for our attention and that is why social media platforms are free.

If you want to start managing your phone time better there are a couple of things you can do immediately.  First thing to do is to turn off your notifications for social media apps (or all apps). Next track the time you spend on your phone so you know if it is increasing or decreasing and to help give you a reality check.  For more information about phone addiction check out the book “How to Break Up With your Cell Phone” by Catherine Price.