You probably are, too.
Maybe we’re not “addicted” in the way mental health professionals define it, but many of us just cannot put down our smartphones. We’re continuously checking our e-mail, work e-mail, text messages, friends’ Facebook pages, celebrity tweets, the news, and even live sports scores (set to refresh every thirty seconds). We’re shopping for bargains, flinging birds at misbehaving pigs, catching up on favorite TV shows or movies, and reading downloaded versions of “The Products Formerly Known As Books” (Gutenberg was sooooo yesterday). Oh, and sometimes we even make calls on our phones, too.
None of these things would be unhealthy in my life, in and of itself. Each of these could benefit me, potentially. But my “addiction” results in deprivation – sleep deprivation for my body, the loss of spiritual and emotional quiet space for my soul, and attention and affection deprivation for my wife and kids … just for starters.
Now, I have been doing better at putting the phone away, in order to open my life to more of the people and things that I need to be present for. But some days I fall back into my habit of excessive use. It’s a struggle.
(Please note – I’m not trying to minimize struggles that, more technically, would be considered addictions by mental health professionals. To me as a layperson, diagnosed addictions seem more complicated and much harder to deal with.)
It struck me recently that there’s one more good reason to set boundaries with my phone. My wife asked, “What kind of media and tech engagement are we modeling for our girls? What example are we setting for their own future use of smartphones and other techie devices?”
This takes on added importance in view of recent headlines. Earlier this year, a study conducted by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt found that Facebook usage significantly contributed to a negative body image for many users. Last year, a study in Israel went further, concluding that the more time adolescent girls spent on Facebook, the more likely it was that they would also develop eating disorders.
“It’s so easy to crash and burn,” a friend remarked while discussing how feelings of inadequacy often arise when we see others’ Facebook pages. After all, people usually put their best foot forward by posting flattering pictures of themselves, and by announcing only happy news and achievements. Like technology in general, Facebook is not evil, but its environment naturally taps into our personal insecurities and issues.
Like millions around the world, my girls will likely spend a significant percentage of their smartphone time on Facebook (or similar sites) as they grow up. If my addiction sends them the message that it’s okay to spend hours each day cuddled up with a phone, then there’s a good chance they will follow suit. With heavy smartphone usage, they’ll accumulate tons of Facebook time, which will put them at greater risk for negative body image and disordered eating.
So I’d better learn, by Abba’s grace, to reign in my smartphone addiction – not only for my sake, but for theirs, too.