There is no denying the fact that smartphone addiction today is as severe of a problem, if not more, like addiction to drugs and cigarettes. We are compromising our long-term goals for the short-term highs we get from sticking our eyes out to these glittering plastic screens. Smartphone addiction has become so treacherous and menacing that if something is not done, we will totally lose control of ourselves and will become a servant of this attention seeker. Oh wait, we already are.
They are rightly called smartphones. They are apparently so smart that they can both manipulate us and entertain us, misguide us and keep us up-to-date, distract us and help us stay focussed, waste our time and save our time.
The thing to understand is that smartphones are not the problem, smartphone addiction is. You being glued to your screen for hours is the problem. Whether you are on a family lunch or a dinner date, at the movies or at the gym, hanging out with your friends, or meeting an old relative of yours—you not being able to keep away from these modern cigarettes is the pressing issue.
We feel the need to check our smartphones every once in a while, no matter where we are or what we are doing. It seems that we just can’t keep away from them for long. We feel vulnerable, incomplete, restless, uneasy if we stay away from them for quite a period of time. You may start with checking your emails, and you wouldn’t even notice that an hour went by and how you end up watching a video of a ‘baby hearing her mama’s voice for the first time’ on youtube. Such is the vicious trap of this
Smartphone Addiction is Not to Be Taken Lightly
Let’s not lie to ourselves. It has happened with you, it has happened with me as well. The smartphone encompasses a whole Universe in itself and we are all caught in this giant virtual web, which makes it all the more important for us to learn how not to be a victim of smartphone addiction before it’s too late. And the really frightening part is that sometimes we seem to have no control over what we are doing. We are just unconsciously drifting in the wind, having no conscience or awareness.
What may have started as you looking for a meaning of a new word, is now checking the number of likes you got on your last pic on Instagram where you saw a short clip of your favorite actor’s interview and before you know it, you end up watching the complete show on youtube. All of this happens rather spontaneously, without your mind being in control.
All the big social media companies that you spend your time on, are actually fighting within themselves and are busy running a race to decide who grabs your maximum attention. It’s your attention that’s being sold, and all those companies are evolving and enhancing themselves at such an exponential rate, thanks to the billions of data points they have on us, so as to make it as addictive and engaging as possible.
Documentaries like ‘The Social Dilemma’ and ‘The Great Hack’ have shown precisely how these companies study human behavior and exploit our weak points and loopholes to manipulate, blindside, and even predict our behavior so accurately, they can make us do whatever they want and we wouldn’t even know, and that’s terrifying.
The greatest and the sharpest of humans are hired for the sole purpose of grabbing your attention only by studying, analyzing, and summarising the human psyche. It won’t be wrong to say that they practically know more about us—our mood swings, our petty desires, our belief system, our buried fears, our weak points—than we know about ourselves. Smartphones are virtual weapons that are toying with our minds, affecting our psychology, altering our beliefs, modifying our behavior, and ultimately changing our reality.
Social media has become a source of getting high(virtually). Every ‘like’ you get on your pics on Instagram and Facebook is like a dopamine hit, which is what makes us want more and more and more. Lately, social media has become more of a quid pro quo or “I will scratch your back, you scratch mine” phenomenon. People like and comment on each other’s posts in return for more likes and engagement on their own profiles. Isn’t this just nuts?
And we go crazy when we don’t get the likes in reciprocation. Let me tell you something, no number of likes is ever gonna make you happy or whole in the long run. If today you are not happy with hundreds of likes, then don’t expect that hundreds of thousands of likes will make your life any better; it won’t.
Bob Marley said, “Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” You can replace ‘money’ with the ‘number of likes’ here. So, stop going ballistic for social media. You don’t need millions of virtual likes, hearts, or emojis to be happy. Just a handful of real smiles and some fun banter from your real friends and families is worth infinitely more.
Let’s Control Smartphone Addiction
Let me first address some of the basic tips and techniques that have been floating around on the web for rather too long. Hate to say it, but most of them suck. They don’t work in the long run. But don’t worry, after we skim through the pros and cons of what’s out there, I will also share what I think would work better than those ‘quick tips’.
1. If you don’t wanna Eat a Cookie, Stay out of the Kitchen
Perhaps the most cliche tip to handle any addiction for that matter. To distance yourself from the source itself or in this case distance yourself from the smartphone. This may involve keeping your smartphone in a different room, telling your mom to bury it deep down in the backyard, hiding it in a closet, or just getting it out of your sight.
The major flaws with this advice are that a) It’s kinda extreme and b) It will hold up for only as long as your laziness is greater than the impulse of using a smartphone.
The reason for its extremity is that—it’s not a long-term solution—you are not gonna distance yourself from your smartphone for each and every day of your life unless you are a saint and are living an ascetic life. You have to learn to deal with smartphone addiction without throwing it out of your sight. I mean, for how long can one possibly stay out of the kitchen?
And as for the other flaw, the only reason this technique may work is because of your laziness. When the smartphone is right in front of your eyes, you would naturally feel more tempted to go and see what’s happening in that universe than when it’s not directly in your sight. But the moment your temptation crosses its threshold, which it ultimately will, the end result will your laziness and you will be forced to go to the other room or take out the mobile from the hole you dug.
Go on, give it a try for a day or two. And you may realize what I am talking about. It is an ingenious idea when you have something substantial to do like your exams being round at the corner, or your project deadline, or something urgent but it’s not gonna remain effective for long. The interesting part is that though here we are talking about smartphone addiction, once we understand the crux of the issue and fathom the permanent solution of coming out of it, one can beat almost any kind of addiction.
2. Pitting Smartphone Against Itself
Now you can come up with the idea of locking yourself out of the mobile using some third-party apps where you can’t use it for a fixed number of hours or days. It’s pretty clever I must say, pitting a smartphone against its own self. The problem with this method is that it is not curbing your addiction, it’s actually aggravating it. If you can’t use your mobile for let’s say 5hours, then when you go back to using it, you will be more aggressively using it. You’d feel like you are entitled to use one.
Using those time management apps that allow you to block, limit, or delete the applications and certain websites that you are addicted to—all sounds good and effective on paper, but maybe not that practical when it comes to execution. You see, after all, you are in charge of managing the app that’s controlling the other apps and you can very well switch it off, or just simply uninstall or opt for any one of the 112 ways to easily bypass the restriction. If you really wanna use your smartphone then you can damn well use it. Period. No app can actually come in your way for an extended period of time.
It’s exactly like a drug addict, who is addicted to drugs for years, is kept away from drugs for a day or two. What do you think is gonna happen when he sees them the third day? He’s gonna jump all over it, intensifying and making his addiction even worse.
Now again, this technique can come in handy when you wanna shut off all the distractions temporarily and focus on the job that’s hanging right over your head. To give you a kickstart and some extra motivation it can work wonders, but from a long-term perspective, it isn’t gonna do shit.
Some people like the idea of using a retro mobile with those ugly keypads, which contain only the basic functionalities like call, messaging, and camera. But then how many of us are ready to be disconnected and secluded from virtual society for good? And what about the loneliness that we are gonna fall prey to? Will we really be able to fend off all the FOMO attacks? Even if you did gather some courage and decide to take the plunge, how long before you relapse?
Again, this is an extreme step, more inclined to give you short-term benefits instead of a long-term lifestyle change you are looking for.
The Pressing Issue and the Real Solutions
The root cause of the problem aka your addiction to smartphones is actually not being dealt with in any one of the methods. You are simply trying to cut a branch, while the roots of the tree are still very much there and growing continuously. 99% of tips and tricks that boast of helping control smartphone addiction are making us fight the wrong war. The fight is inside, and we are busy fighting on the outside. And as long as we are focusing our energies on the wrong place, we aren’t gonna be able to pull ourselves out of the shithole we are in.
Let’s do it the right way.
1. Keep Yourself Busy To Fight Smartphone Addiction
Keeping yourself busy, working smart, seems to me like the way to go in battling smartphone addiction. One of the primary reasons why we indulge in this circus is because we have nothing substantial to do with our lives. NO purpose to live, no great desires to fulfill, no reasons to improve and conquer ourselves which is why we rely on them to somehow kill time in a more fashionable way.
Design a Timetable, make a plan, I don’t care what you do or how you do, but do something. Don’t let yourself sit idle, meaninglessly. An empty mind is the devil’s domicile. Keep yourself engaged whether it’s learning a new skill, strengthening your relationships, looking out for your physical health, or any one of a hundred and twelve other beneficial things. If you will sit without any reason or a goal, you are bound to be distracted.
2. Work-Reward Strategy
One of the best methods to combat smartphone addiction is the work-reward strategy. This is also popularly known as the carrot and stick analogy, except in this situation we are both the givers and the receivers. The way this strategy works is that you set a goal, and if you accomplish the goal you are rewarded, and if not, then you are to be punished.
But hey who am I kidding? The way I know this strategy, you get rewarded if you accomplish your goal, and you definitely get rewarded even if you fall short. Are we really that self-righteous that we are gonna punish ourselves if we are unable to hold firm on our words?
Sure we like rewards, and we can totally incentivize our minds to do the work we should be doing in return to get some screen time. And what better reward than using a smartphone? Even as kids, this was the oldest trick of the playbook used by our parents too to make us eat the food in return for getting a toy or something. Some may even call it bribery and it wouldn’t be technically incorrect. But in this case, the bribery is for the greater good, so no harm, no foul.
We have to lure the kid in us into doing the thing that’s right using the smartphone as bait. If not much, then it can at least help us create the much-needed balance in life. Earlier if you were spending all of your time scrolling your black mirror, then now at least you are taking the first step in doing something meaningful. But, instead of getting started and taking baby steps, we always are on the lookout for extreme solutions, instant results, instant gratification. We want to give up the bad habit altogether in a snap of our fingers, which is actually quite stupid to expect.
3. Having Realistic Expectations
If you are a chain smoker, then it’s totally bollocksed to create insane goals of giving up smoking for good the very next day. Most probably they are gonna fail miserably, and this will make them smoke even more rigorously and brutally because they have become a victim of their own expectations.
Similarly, people who are smartphone-addicted, expect to give up smartphones only which is a pretty extreme and a rather foolish step. The most likely outcome of this step is that you will fail to keep up with your word and to cover up your gloominess you will only spend more time on the smartphone. Insane goals like these are actually adding fuel to the fire. Things don’t work this way, you gotta take baby steps. One can’t move a mountain in a single blow.
4. Don’t Say the Wrong Things
One of the weird techniques to counter smartphone addiction that I have heard about is that people keep on repeating “I AM NOT GONNA use a smartphone, I WILL NEVER EVEN look at a smartphone, I HATE WHEN I use a smartphone for hours” and so on. They think if they can somehow create a sense of disgust or hate against an addiction, then that can help them overcome it. That’s where they are wrong. Your brain thinks in images. If I ask you that you are not to think of a waterfall no matter what, then what are you gonna think of? Yep, that’s right, a goddamn waterfall!
Likewise, the more you try to distance yourself from a smartphone by again and again saying that ‘I don’t wanna use a smartphone’, the more attracted you are getting towards it. That’s how a mind works. An alcoholic, the more he thinks about hating the alcohol, the more drawn he will be towards it.
5. Form a New Habit to Break the Old Ones
You don’t have to destroy a habit to get rid of it, you just simply have to create a new one. Many of us are busy doing the former. Well, you just have to divert your energies from your old vicious habit to a new productive one. It takes quite some time to create and nurture a habit. You weren’t smartphone addicts by birth, even this habit took quite a while to grow. Then how can we expect that we can rectify and straighten it out overnight? We can’t and we shouldn’t generally go that way unless it’s something totally extreme.
6. Develop A Better Taste
Probably the best way to come out of an addiction is to develop a better taste in life. When you develop a better taste, a better goal, a better desire you automatically discard the lower ones. If you have a bicycle right now, and if tomorrow you are handed over a motorcycle then you will automatically lose interest in the bicycle. You aren’t gonna trade off your bike for something lesser than it.
Using a smartphone is a desire, ultimately. The desire to attain a temporary pleasurable state, or the desire to stay out of boredom and keep yourself entertained. One simply needs to switch to better desires to get rid of the old and stale ones. Because make no mistake, a desire is a powerful thing. It can move mountains and can definitely make our species interplanetary.
In fact, it would be wrong to say that you will ‘get rid of the old ones’. When you develop a higher desire, then the lower ones automatically get discarded, effortlessly. People who are just simply horsing around and are sticking their eyes out to those gleaming plastic screens are simply lost—they probably don’t have any good reason or purpose in life. That’s why they are entangled in this web.
When you have a burning desire bigger than your life, a reason worth living for, a purpose worth pursuing then you will automatically drop these pesky addictions, just like that. All it takes is a slight change of priorities.
Right now, you probably don’t have any which is why you are in this position in the first place. Once you find yourself having a bigger fish to fry, you will automatically exercise control over all the blood-sucking addictions which are eating you alive and making you hollow from the inside.
And always remember that the desire to do something constructive, positive, or innovative for either yourself or for society is much much bigger than the destructive and negative desires. Smartphone addiction is surely a destructive desire. You are hurting your body and your precious and powerful mind. You are living under the false pretense that smartphones will make you relax and chill when in reality smartphones are actually making you both physically and mentally exhausted.
Feeling relaxed by going for a small stroll in the park, and intaking a fresh gulp of air, directly under the blue sky—this makes sense. Making your body stiff staying in just one position, staring at the movements of millions of pixels, straining your mind, eyes, and body isn’t relaxing, it’s punishment in disguise.
The Wrong Category
You don’t wanna fall in the category of 99% of people, who are just barely inhaling oxygen and exhaling soiled carbon dioxide—wandering meaninglessly in this game of life, with no set purpose, goal, or reason. Look around yourself, you will never run out of spotting such people. And you know what they have in common?
They follow the same routine day in and day out, are doing something they don’t like, and they have made themselves a slave of addictions. Addicted to smartphones, or drugs, or booze, or sex, or worldly pleasures, or escaping their reality. They are chained to the rhythm, to put it in a nutshell, or more precisely, in a Katy Perry Song.
If you don’t want to fall into the wrong category, you gotta say some strong words to yourself, because no one else is gonna do it for you. Ask yourself, “Do I really wanna spend the rest of my beautiful life being a prisoner of smartphone addiction, throwing my life down the gutter, and being a liability for my parents and my society? If not, then I gotta transcend this stage, set a genuine goal or desire to make myself worthwhile and independent.”
Call me old-fashioned or impractical, but talking to yourself in front of the mirror is pretty powerful and effective. Although this would only work when it’s coming from your inside that you genuinely wanna do something valuable and constructive, and not just because you heard it from me.
External motivation is mostly superficial and doesn’t last very long. You can take a spark from here to ignite that candle in your heart that will illuminate your life and will show you the path. Find your own inspiration and cement your position regarding what it is you actually want from your life.
The Bermuda Triangle—Desire, Fear, & Inspiration
Humans act based on either desire or fear, and sometimes due to inspiration. If we can understand the dynamics of the three, then we can exploit them to tilt the luck in our favor.
Desire or some external incentives or motivation can help give us that extra boost or push to get things done. You work at a job, and your supervisor just told you that he is gonna promote you if you do so and so activities and hit some targets. This will make you do the necessary work even if you detest it because you are doing it for the end results. The desire to impress society, earn money, live a lavish hotshot lifestyle can keep you in check.
Fear, on the other hand, is also a pretty powerful amplifier. Now, the same boss comes to you and gives you an ultimatum that if you don’t get the deal through, he will fire the shit out of you. So, as you could have probably guessed, you will work day and night to get the job done to save your ass. Smartphone Addiction, huh, what’s that? You might have noticed the same play in action whenever there is a crisis. If exams are round the corner, and you know you haven’t studied shit, forget about smartphone addiction, you will even forget what a smartphone is. Fear is making you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise.
Inspiration is probably the strongest force out there. In my opinion, inspiration is actually a subset of desires, only way more powerful and effective. The desire that touches your inner voice and grabs your heart, mind, and soul ultimately becomes an inspiration. This one simple thought that “I wanna make something great of myself, I wanna contribute to this world, I don’t wanna live other animals” can very well be your source of inspiration that will ultimately help you steer clear of not only smartphone addiction but all kinds of distraction.
You can use these 3 power plays at your own disposal, whichever reaps the highest benefits for you, in fighting your battle against smartphone addiction.
A Ray of Sunshine
Having said all that, it’s time to bring about a ray of sunshine in this article. Not everything you do on your smartphone is necessarily bad or toxic. Of course, I had to say this especially when you are reading my own article on a smartphone; I write my articles on a laptop. The technology world has brought with it countless opportunities and has truly changed millions of lives. So, it all mainly depends on you how you wanna use this device.
A smartphone is a boon when you are the one controlling it, and a bane when you are being controlled by it. And it’s your choice, whether you want it to be a boon and transform your life for good or let it be a bane and thrash your life upside down. There are some honestly amazing mediums and platforms available that have made learning really affordable and are playing a major role in empowering the people. You can learn practically anything and everything with just a few touches here and there. Now while, I can probably go on and write a couple more para on the bright side of it, but you know the picture already. So, at last, all I will say is this: Use it wisely, don’t abuse it.
You are not smartphone-addicted, you are simply just distracted.