While addiction was a term normally used to describe those with substance abuse, it is now a more inclusive term that focuses on problematic, excessive, and undesirable behaviors. Currently, some people include issues like gambling, viewing pornography, video gaming, and technology use as addictive behaviors. Technology has become so integrated in everyday life and, for many people, has become a daily necessity. Screens in particular have become a normal part of performing tasks, so it can be difficult to be aware that you may be exhibiting addictive behaviors. Some signs of a technology addiction can include:
- The inability to go without your device
- Spending excessive time utilizing technology
- Using devices as a method of escape
- Discomfort or even agitation when going without your device
- When it interferes with other needs like eating, sleeping, and healthy hygiene
- When it gets in the way of your life including in your work or in your relationships
How many times have you checked your phone because you thought it buzzed, but in reality, there was nothing there? How often do you see two or more people at a restaurant where they are looking at their phones? How many times have you been in a meeting where a person sets their phone on the table? While those examples might seem normal, they can be a sign of dependence on certain devices and send the message of disinterest in others. You may not be completely addicted, but it is likely that most people display some symptoms of technology overuse. The first step is to asking yourself questions about your technology use and become aware of potential overuse. You can also take other steps to help including:
Limit temptations that pull you towards technology. Deleting social media apps and profiles can help. Take away other sources of entertainment like media and games off your devices as well. The idea would be to help you look at your phone or other devices less.
When home, put your devices in another room. Rather than bringing your phone to the dinner table or having it follow you into other areas of the house, keep it in one location. You can turn on the ringer to where you can hear it but also have it in a place where you will not mindlessly pick it up.
Implement a screen-free evening. Incorporate times in your week where you are screen free. Spend time reading, writing, creating, or playing games. Some people even have one week out of the year where they are screen free.
Find new methods of relaxing. Many people think screens help you relax. While that might be true, it is helpful to have other options to turn to.
Find ways of coping rather than using technology as a way of escape or numbing. If technology use is a form of escape, it is important to understand what you are trying to escape from.
Set up some accountability. When making any life changes, having accountability can help. Have someone check in with you regularly as you work to make a lifestyle change.
Seek further help if necessary. As with most addictions, it depends on the severity. If you find yourself not sleeping because you are online or your work and relationships begin suffering, you might need more extensive help. Do not be afraid to seek professional help and guidance if you are struggling.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.