May 16, 2024 | Sarah Ng

The Consequences Of Smartphone Addiction—And How To Curb It


We're Addicted To Our Phones

With billions of smartphone users on earth, it's no wonder that phone addiction is becoming a growing problem. So what is phone addiction? And how do we curb it?

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Nomophobia

Those who obsessively use their smartphone might have phone addiction. It can also be known as "nomophobia," which is the fear of not having access to a mobile device. 

Unfortunately, your addiction to your smartphone could have some serious, negative effects.

Woman hands tied with metallic chain holding phoneEviart, Shutterstock

Phones Are Meant To Be Addictive

Though smartphones allow us to have information at our fingertips, they are designed to be addictive. Our devices keep us constantly stimulated: the vibrations, the alert sounds, and colors. 

In fact, some have likened our phones to personal slot machines.

Photography of Person Holding Turned on SmartphoneLisa Fotios, Pexels

It's Like Gambling

Much like gambling, using our phones too much can severely change our behavior. It can affect our sleep, concentration, and creativity. As well, it can increase anxiety, stress, and feelings of loneliness and insecurity.

It can also affect our work productivity, academic performance, and personal relationships. Terrifyingly, they have the power to change our brains.

Photo Of Woman Using Mobile Phonemikoto.raw Photographer, Pexels

Our Phones Change Our Brains

Using our phones too much alters the reward circuits in our brains on a chemical level. The neurotransmitter that is most affected is GABA—gamma-aminobutyric acid.

Photo of a Kid Watching on a Cell PhoneKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

They Alter Our Neurotransmitter

As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA can create a calming feeling and play a role in anxiety and fear. When involved in addiction, it rewards substance use and strengthens those behaviors. A red flag for possible addiction is when the GABA system has undergone change. But that's not all.

Brain Model on PlateAmel Uzunovic, Pexels

Our Grey Matter Is In Danger

Have you ever heard of grey matter? Well the brain's grey matter has ties to the central nervous system which controls emotions, movements, and memory. Studies say that phone addiction actually changes the brain's grey matter.

Woman with Hands on FaceKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Just Like Other Addicts

Reportedly, some researchers have found that people who heavily use their phone have brains similar to those who struggle with substance addiction. The volume of grey matter had decreased in important parts.

illustration of smart phone controlling manrudall30, Shutterstock

So How Do We Curb Our Phone Addiction?

If you're struggling with phone addiction, there are definitely strategies you can implement to help get you back on track.

person leaving smartphone on windowsillEren Li, Pexels

Try Wearing A Watch

Although watches are no longer as popular as they once were, wearing one might stop you from checking your phone so often.

Someone wearing smart watch and checking timeEnergepic.com, Pexels

You Won't Need To Check Your Phones

When you check your phone for the time, it's so easy to dive into your apps to check them as well. This habitual checking often leads to a loop that sucks up your time and increases your screen time.

Simply wearing a watch will decrease your need to check your phone. It will also help you break a bad habit.

woman using smartphone and laptop during work in officeKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Purchase An Alarm Clock

Is your phone the first thing you look at in the morning? If you use it as your alarm clock, then yes. Along with turning off your alarm, you will likely be greeted with a number of notifications. 

woman waking up and using smartphone in bedKetut Subiyanto, Pexels

Stop Doomscrolling In The Morning

Suddenly, the need to check your emails, text messages, and social media might suck you into a morning spent doomscrolling instead of preparing for the day ahead. The solution?

Focus Photography of Person scrolling on phoneKerde Severin, Pexels

Make Sure It's Not The First Thing You Do

Try replacing your phone alarms with a physical alarm clock. Again, this is about breaking the bad habit: checking your phone first thing in the morning.

Young female sleeping on bed in morningMiriam Alonso, Pexels

Don't Rely On Your Phone For Storytelling

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation, only to pull out your phone to pull up a picture or an article to better describe your thought? This is another bad habit worth breaking.

Man and woman standing in front of building and looking at phoneAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Don't Use Google As A Crutch

You see, when you automatically turn to Google for answers or to help illustrate your thoughts, you're training your brain. This can affect your ability to retain information.

Open Laptop on a wooden deskCaio, Pexels

Use Your Words

Instead of showing someone a picture to help explain something, try to describe it as best you can instead. This will strengthen your ability to recall information. As well, you won't need to rely on visuals for the stories you tell.

A Man and a Woman Looking at a Smart Phone and SmilingKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Monitor How You Use Your Phone With Your Friends

Our phones can be wonderful tools for keeping long-distance friendships alive. That said, a phone addiction can negatively affect our relationships to people in close proximity to us.

Happy multiethnic women having fun while using technologyKetut Subiyanto, Pexels

Avoid Phubbing

Have you ever heard of the term, "phubbing?" It's when you snub someone by opening your phone during a conversation with them.

Men Having Conversation Seating on ChairHelena Lopes, Pexels

Stay In The Present Moment

Many of us have been guilty of phubbing just out of habit. However, to truly engage with someone in the present moment, it might be a good idea to set some ground rules for yourself.

Group of People Sitting on White Mat on Grass FieldHelena Lopes, Pexels

Put Your Phone Away

It's a good practice to put your phone away while you're in the company of others. Being locked in to what your friends or family members are saying is so valuable—and your phone should not be the priority.

Man collecting smartphones from friends during dinnerMarlene Leppänen, Pexels

Monitor Your Screen Time

Monitoring your screen time might just be the biggest wake-up call you need. After all, time is precious. According to a 2017 study, the average American spent close to three hours a day looking at their phone.

Person Using Her SmartphoneLos Muertos Crew, Pexels

Limit Your App Usage

Make goals to decrease your screen time and use screen time tracking apps or features to stay on track. You can also put time limits on the apps you're most addicted to. It might take some willpower to stick by these limits, but it will be worth it in the long run.

close up photography of mobile screenPixabay, Pexels

Get Rid Of Your Notifications

It might sound simple, but go ahead and disable all of those notifications for nonessential apps. Without these notifications, you won't be constantly prompted to open up your phone.

Hopefully, this will cause fewer distractions, and allow you to check your apps manually and less frequently.

Close up photography of phone iconsTorsten Dettlaff, Pexels

Check Everything At Once

Many of us get stuck in the habit of checking our phones multiple times an hour. However, it's recommended that you do all of your checking in one go. 

Person Using a Smartphone and Laptop on a deskcottonbro studio, Pexels

Decrease Your Exposure To Your Newsfeeds

By addressing all of your messages, emails, and socials at the same time you can really cut down on screen time. Instead of constantly reaching for your phone, you'll only be checking it a few times a day while still staying on top of everything.

man surfing internet on smartphone at homeMatheus Bertelli, Pexels

Win Back Precious time

By checking your phone less, you will be able to devote more time to your work—increase your productivity or even get it done more efficiently. Saved time can also go toward doing other things, like hobbies, workouts, reading, etc.

Check that newsfeed a few times a day. That's really all you need.

Young woman painting on paper at workplaceAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Remember What Is Important In Life

Perhaps on a more philosophical level, it's important to reexamine what you want out of life. For most of us, it's likely that we don't want to scroll our lives away or be chronically online.

Group of Friends Sitting in Front of Fire PitKindel Media, Pexels

Don't Scroll Your Life Away

If you believe your phone addiction is hampering your quality of life, it might be time to make some changes. Use your time wisely. Try that new hobby you've been thinking about, spend time with your friends and family, chase experiences that will help create core memories.

This is your sign to break that phone addiction for good.

Chained Men with smartphone deviceGolden Sikorka, ShutterStock


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