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I Have An Addiction But I Am Dealing With It

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I am addicted to my electronic devices and it’s not OK.

There, I finally said it!

I knew I had a certain attachment to my iPhone and laptop – like most people – but I always had an excuse to justify the time I spent staring at the screens of my devices. My Internet based job and my need to continuously connect with my online audience being some of them.  ‘I don’t want to lose the momentum’, I would often say, which basically means having a technological FOMO (fear of missing out), or ‘I have to reply to this email tonight because of the time zones’, or ‘I just need to check the weather’ (after checking it 10 times that day already). Sounds a little familiar? Well, I didn’t think I used my laptop any more than a regular person with an office job…until the day it was taken away from me.

We were recently in Spain, staying at a lovely AirBnB place that is usually very safe and secure. Unfortunately, it got broken into and our laptops were stolen. Without going into details, what followed was my slow realisation of how much I missed my laptop. On top of feeling violated and annoyed at the cost of it all, I realised how much I relied on that 15″ monitor to get me through the day. This became even more apparent when we got back home and I started getting back to my normal routine.

Turns out that my normal routine was so dependent on my laptop that without it I was completely lost, confused and restless. As the days without my laptop went by, my yearning  to ‘check-in’, ‘follow-up’, ‘reply’, ‘like’ and ‘be liked’ grew stronger and stronger. I felt like I needed to stay connected and informed, to be instantly entertained, and here it comes…to be virtually validated. My electronic devices, and the world within them, have become an irreplaceable extension of my own reality and existence – my primary way to stay visible and to be heard. The real reason I felt so disturbed about my laptop being stolen was because it felt like part of my identity was taken away from me.

Look, I make it sound much worse than it is. I don’t spend ALL my time looking at the screen. In fact, we don’t even own a television and I do plenty of non-screen activities during the week. However, I have to admit that I spend too much time on my devices and it’s a type of addiction I need to address. And I am not the only one!

Google ‘addicted to devices’ and you will find plenty of research and statistics on how much time people really spend on their phones, tablets and laptops. It’s seriously overwhelming. Here is an article for example.

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Think about it. How much time do you spend looking at the screen of either your laptop or your phone every day? How do you feel after a prolonged period of time of not doing so? Do you feel the need to check-in or to comment on the world every hour?  I think many of us are more addicted to our devices than we are willing to admit. Here is a list situations I’ve observed recently. Any apply to you?

  • Do you reach for you phone before you go to sleep or as soon as you wake up?
  • Do you take your phone to the bathroom?
  • Do you pull out your phone as soon as you have a few spare minutes at a doctor’s office, on a bus, when stuck in traffic, while waiting for a friend at a cafe?
  • Do you eat lunch at you desk so you can catch up on Facebook and the latest news and personal emails?
  • Think about all your ‘friends’ on Facebook…when was the last time you reached out to some of them in person or via a phone call?
  • Do you reach for your laptop or phone before you reach for a book or a paper?
  • Do you sneak away to the toilet while having dinner with friends and take your phone with you so you can quickly check in because you don’t want to be rude at the table?
  • Or perhaps the phones are freely used while you and your friends are having a social gathering?
  • Have a look around next time you’re on a train or a bus and count how many people are using their devices? How many people are reading a book? How many people are talking to each other? Are you using your device?
  • Are you in a relationship where you and your partner communicate more with each other via your devices than in person? Yep, believe me that it’s more common than you think.

If you find yourself in these situations on regular basis, than I urge you to stop and ask yourself WHY?

Why do you have such a strong need to constantly use your devices? What is it doing to your health and well being? Is it putting extra stimulation and stress into your life? Is it affecting your sleep? Your relationships? Your self-esteem and confidence? Your own life expectations? Your body image expectations? Your finances?

New technology and the world wide web are fascinating and we certainly benefit from them in many ways. However, when we look deep enough we might find that our addiction to them could be affecting our lives in a negative way. Like with everything else in life, we need to strive for balance and moderation and that’s how I intend to deal with my personal addiction to my devices.

I am not planning to give up my job as an online publisher and food blogger any day soon but I am taking a few small steps to take control of my device use. Here is what I plan to do:

  • No laptop or iPhone use in the bedroom (except for my alarm) – I will read my book and keep a journal instead
  • 10 minute day dreaming rule – when waiting for something (e.g. bus, at a dentist’s, standing in line etc) I will not pull out my phone for at least 10 minutes and will day dream instead.
  • No laptop use for 2-3 hours before bed time, especially for work and task related activities (TV series and movies are allowed but only until one hour before sleep).
  • I will check and write all my emails maximum 3 times a day (morning with my coffee, after lunch time, and before signing off for the day before dinner). No email checking before bed time as I don’t need unnecessary to-do lists in my head.
  • Free-laptop day – at least once a week (Saturday or Sunday) I will not open my laptop. At all!
  • I will not bring my laptop on my next holiday.
  • I will check my social media maximum two times per day – that’s when I can post to my audience and reply to comments, check personal messages and post my bragging pictures.
  • Every time I pick up my iPhone I will ask myself why?

These might sound very simple and achievable but trust me when I say that this will be a huge improvement for  me. I encourage you to try something similar and let me know how you go. I know it’s going to be harder than it seems but it’s about changing the habits slowly and that takes a few weeks to do. You can also participate in the National Unplugging Day on June 28 2015 and go gadget free with your whole family on that day.

I’d love to know what you guys think. Are you suffering from a similar addiction and do you think it’s a problem you have to address? How are you dealing with it? Have you had progress in changing your user habits?

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11 Comments
  1. I’ve just ditched Facebook completely because of the time suck I found it to be. I homeschool my three kids and I have to be very mindful of how I spend my time while they are busy. My eldest is 12 and is just venturing into the online world…no face book yet, but she has her own email and we play a game together, and she has a few horse app games. I time limit her…I am now also time limiting myself. I e read how quick it is to form a habit, and how much longer it takes to break one. My online time needs a break I think!

  2. I have instituted screen free days in my household and it works amazingly. It is surprising how much time you can spend on your computer or phone. My kids complained when I instituted screen free days but now they look forward to it since we do more together on those days.
    When we lived in the mountains there was no phone service so no cell phones. It was lovely and I miss it.

    1. I think that’s a great idea for kids. I used to play outside all the time when I was little and I am so glad we didn’t have computers and video games back then. Good for you and your family Connie.

  3. I am reading this instead of working on my computer. I am a distance education teacher (usually in a classroom). Nothing beats face to face contact with students. Nothing beats quiet reflection. The media “screams” it’s opinions at us. Texts can be quite demanding in their tone. It’s good to see/hear what we might otherwise not have access to, but confusion and mindless conformity can be the result of overuse. Timothy Leary influenced a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out”. Perhaps we should “tune out, turn off and drop out”!!

  4. I love all of this! Another thing I try to work on is “time to screen” in the mornings, ie, I try to do as many non-screen activities as I can before I turn on any screens. And then, engaging with something onscreen has to be a “conscious” action, ie, it’s not just something you do while eating breakfast, while lying in bed, while procrastinating etc etc. Rather, it’s a moment when you go “ok, now I am working”.

    1. Yes, the morning ‘pre-screen’ routine is also something I have been working on. I am also getting into a habit of putting together a to-do list on the paper before I open my laptop and I try to stick to that list. This way it helps me form getting distracted by other tasks.

  5. This is so very true, Irena! I think it’s important to acknowledge how addicted we are to devices (my husband tells me often… ha!). I recently installed the Moment app – have you tried it? It tells you how often you’re using your phone and for how long each time, in a timeline format. I thought I was using my phone for a few hours each day, but it was WAY WAY MORE THAN THAT. Absolutely shocking. Getting those hours down is much easier said than done, but I’m determined to try :)

    1. That sounds like an app for me! Can’t believe I haven’t heard of it. Downloading it right now!

      Thanks Emily

      1. There’s something profoundly meta about an app to stop you from using so many apps – but I’m gonna give it a try, too ;)

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