My husband says I need to go to smartphone rehab, stat. While he may be exaggerating a tiny bit, I have to admit that when I stop and think about it, I may indeed be just a little bit addicted to my phone. Ok, it's more like an appendage. It's part of me and I feel lost without it. I didn't set out to become one of those cell phone dependent people, but it happened… and not just to me. More and more of us are finding that we can't function without our smartphones.
I hit my rock bottom a couple of weeks ago, while traveling for work. I was in a cab, on the way to the airport, sending emails, catching up on the news of the day and checking in on my kids when I saw the dreaded flashing red light – my battery was dying. I got about 10 more minutes of use before it died altogether. I'll admit I had a mini panic attack. The thought of being out of touch for several hours was downright scary. Not only because I'd miss work communication and/or any emergency texts about the kids – I had also been relying on my phone to get me on the flight I was coming dangerously close to missing. In a moment of technological insanity the day before, I'd agreed to forgo a regular boarding pass and instead have the airline text the barcode to my phone, so I could simply hold up my phone screen for the gate agent. Great idea – until your phone is dead and you're late getting to the airport. Fortunately, my flight was delayed, so I had time to get a paper boarding pass at the counter (and even had time to juice up my phone at an outlet by the gate, thank goodness), but the episode got me thinking about how dependent I am on this one little device.
The addiction is becoming so powerful that it's even being studied by researchers. A recent Reuters article called "Crackberry Is No Joke," documents a study conducted by the University of Maryland. The results are pretty disturbing. After going just 24 hours without cell phones and internet access, many of the college student subjects showed actual signs of withdrawal. They found themselves increasingly anxious, withdrawn and craving their electronic social connections. The article points to a blog post written by one of the students, who said:
"Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life."
And maybe my husband wasn't too far off when he jokingly suggested smartphone rehab. According to the Reuters piece, there's now a private center in Washington state which treats "excessive use of the Internet, video gaming and texting." It sounds crazy, until you visit the website and read some of the personal stories of people who've sought treatment after realizing their dependence on technology was taking over their lives. It's enough to make me put down the phone (at least for a little while) and think about becoming a bit less dependent.
– Are you internet or technology addicted? Take the quiz: http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com/the-problem/are-you-addicted.html
– For more on the ReSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program: http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com/
Contributed by Amy Erickson. Follow her @amyerickson