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Mobile Phone addiction 101

BY NEIL H LAWRENCE

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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To start off, let us be brutally honest with ourselves when answering the following questions:

• Is your mobile phone the first thing you grab when you wake up?

• Is it sometimes the last thing you look at before bed, or do you fall asleep with it in your hand?

• When you leave your phone somewhere or it falls, do you have a meltdown?

• Do you immediately check your phone when you feel it vibrate or make a sound?

If your answer to one or more of these questions is yes, you could, in fact, be considered an addict. However, we will dig deeper into why this is happening, the associated risks, how to validate your addiction level, and tips to take control.

Studies from reputable sources such as Harvard, eMarketer and Business Insider have shown that we use our mobile phones for an average of two to three hours each day (cumulatively). This daily average is climbing at an alarming rate, as content providers find new and more creative ways to give us more content and keep us connected.

The cause of phone addiction

The key reason for this phone addiction (interchangeably referred to as “internet addiction” or “digital drug”) is primarily due to the release of what is called dopamine.

According to the Psychology Today website, dopamine is one of the brain's neurotransmitters—a chemical that ferries information between neurons. Dopamine helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and emotional responses. It also enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Since dopamine contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system, the neurotransmitter also plays a part in addiction.

Relatable examples of ways that dopamine is released include eating your favourite ice cream or snack, playing video games, getting paid, or smoking or drinking alcohol.

For Internet addiction, social media is a major dopamine generator via activities such as checking who liked or commented on a post, reading the response to an important text, checking the latest gossip in a group chat, or watching a hilarious Meme 10 times.

All my examples have a common trait, which is: the more you do them, is the more you do them!

A notable risk however is that most of us do these activities to distract ourselves from the reality of our plights; and as the frequency increases, so does the chances of depression.

Things could get so obliviously severe that no distraction is enough, as our subconscious takes over this never-ending loop of searching for new “feel good” brain triggers without satisfaction. For those of us who can relate, it is like searching on Netflix for something to watch for an hour knowing damn well nothing of substance will mollify this seemingly futile mission.

This also affects logical thinking as we find ourselves using our phones in the most inappropriate and precarious of circumstances, like crossing a busy street. Have you ever felt yourself pulling for your phone and had to consciously intervene?

Whether you think you are a mobile phone addict or not, the most important thing is to measure your usage. It is like a weight-loss goal — you first have to see the weight you are starting from in order to truly measure success throughout.

For iPhones, download the “SPACE – Break phone addiction” app for free. This is also available on Android however, a better android app to download is the “YourHour” app.

The iPhone 5s or newer also has a built-in monitor called “Screen Time”, which helps, but it is not as effective as the recommended apps. If you still want to try it: navigate to 'Settings' > 'Screen Time' and tap the 'Turn On Screen Time' option. Read the information displayed on screen and tap 'Continue'. Next, you will be asked if this iPhone or iPad is for yourself or your child. Simply tap the option for 'This is My iPhone'.

These apps not only measure your usage time, but also phone unlocks, most used apps, peak days/hours and so on. You can also set goals to reduce your usage.

The ideal goal is maximum two hours 30 minutes daily with a maximum of 50 unlock counts. Some of us also use our phones heavily for work, which will significantly inflate our numbers but, this is no excuse to not seek a balance. My average is currently at five hours daily with 300+ unlock counts. What is your daily average?

• Make ScreenTime or YourHour apps your best friend and use the information to reduce your usage.

• Delete distracting games or apps right away that really add no value to your growth.

• For your most used apps that you refuse to delete, try to go a half-day without opening then, then a full day and gradually increase days. The idea is to undo the subconscious attachment.

• Try the above with your phone itself. Can you not use your phone for an entire day?

• Keep your phone on silent (not vibrate) and face down when in meetings or spending time with important people. You should be focused anyway.

Addictions are usually at the sacrifice of something very important in our lives based on the immense time trade-off. Mobile phone or Internet addiction is no exception, especially for young children who may become disinterested in the offline world. It is important to proactively identify and control this addiction before it gets irrepressible.

Neil H Lawrence is the CEO of Growth-Tech, a technological company and leading Wi-fi provider in Jamaica with a vision to see connectivity, like oxygen, available to everyone everywhere. He can be contacted at 876 946 9776 or by email at


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