[STAFF EDITORIAL] Put down the phone

75% staff agreement
BREAK FREE from your devices and cut your screen time down to better engage with your surroundings.
BREAK FREE from your devices and cut your screen time down to better engage with your surroundings.
Annika Kim

When walking down the hall, there is a sight one is guaranteed to see: someone looking at their phone. Whether they are rapidly typing away while rushing to their next class or incessantly scrolling through social media in the seclusion of a study room, they are entranced by their screen. Little to nothing can cut the invisible string tying their eyes to their device. Most teenagers can agree that their age group is rightfully labeled “screenagers,” but when does mobile dependency turn into addiction?

Although chronic phone use is a recently developed behavioral compulsion, it has been declared an official addiction by the Addiction Center. 47% of Americans are addicted to their smartphones, with the average person checking their phone every 12 minutes, or approximately 80 times a day. Smartphones are one of this decade’s greatest and most deadly inventions. By using vibrant colors, pleasant bings, and meticulous vibrations, smartphones are made to keep their users engaged. Engineers and designers work diligently to perfect every aspect of a smartphone to attract and maintain devoted users. Tristin Harris, a former Google design ethicist, confirmed addictive traits in devices after revealing that features such as “pull to refresh” were inspired by casino slot machines.

The insidious nature of phone addiction often goes unnoticed until it is too late, leaving users feeling powerless to break the cycle.

Phone addiction, although seemingly harmless, can have profound consequences on one’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Studies show that phone use addiction has been linked to increased anxiety, depression, stress, and sleep deficit. Excessive screen time erodes the ability to focus and fosters feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. The insidious nature of phone addiction often goes unnoticed until it is too late, leaving users feeling powerless to break the cycle.

The problems with phone addiction are overwhelmingly obvious, but the solutions? Not so much. To go cold turkey on device use is not sustainable in this day and age. When it comes to addressing addictive patterns, setting unattainable goals leaves a large margin for failure. Instead, managing set, detailed habits that replace the unhealthy ones bars patterns that require excessive phone use.

Setting boundaries is crucial in combating phone addiction. Establish designated “phone-free” zones or times, like during meals or before bedtime, to create opportunities for genuine human connection. Implement digital detox dates, a time when one intentionally disconnects from devices and engages in offline activities. These moments dedicated to phone-free activities help reset their relationship with technology.

Mindfulness practices offer another powerful tool to overcome phone addiction. Addictive smartphone use has adverse structural and functional effects on the brain. Meditation targets the mental downfalls of excessive screen use by enhancing the structure and function of the same areas of the brain used. When cultivating present-moment awareness, one can observe their impulses to reach for their phone and choose to respond mindfully rather than reactively, and break free from the grip of constant digital stimulation.

To recognize patterns that signal phone addiction is a big step. Acknowledging anxious emotions when separated from a device or itching to check for notifications without real purpose is vital to initiate change. One can only exhibit proactive steps for change after acknowledging the problem. Break free from phone addiction by making a concerted effort and commitment to reclaim autonomy. It is time to reclaim humanity in an increasingly digital society.

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