IS PHONE ADDICTION REAL, OR IS IT JUST AN EXCUSE?

“Over the past 5 years, key words such as “phone addiction” and “social media addiction” have been steadily on the rise in our Google searches (yes, we really will Google anything, it seems), with the top related queries to these being “how to get rid of said addiction”.

I recently read a post by Forbes all about phone addiction and its mental health risks, and it got me thinking. Has it really got that bad? Unashamedly, it didn’t take me long to come to an answer. That yes. It bloody well has.

Over the past 5 years, key words such as “phone addiction” and “social media addiction” have been steadily on the rise in our Google searches (yes, we really will Google anything, it seems), with the top related queries to these being “how to get rid of said addiction”.

I repeat, really?! Back in the day when Nokia phones were about as good as it got, our mobiles were used for playing Snake, picking out the ‘coolest’ ringtone and topping them up with credit because 10p a text didn’t get you very far. Simpler times, eh? But nowadays, it’s all about the smartphone. And you can bet your right arm that using them purely for texting or playing games is now far down on the list. In fact, one of the things we most likely use them for is the very thing that has probably led you to this page in the first place. Well…? Social media! Yes, those little apps, or websites, we’ve now all come to know and love (or have a love-hate relationship with anyway).

We vicariously live through them because we love nothing more than people watching in some form or another, because we lust over a more ‘fascinating’ life than ours, and because it’s an easy way to keep up to date with our friends, celebrities and influencers with their goings-on, on a whole new, and much bigger scale, than ever before.

But before we go any further, let me just briefly break down the Forbes article for you to get you up to speed. Recent studies have been conducted to see if participants had any effects from not having their phone for a day, and the results are mental. Participants mentioned a sense of loss, had physical reactions, such as severe anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure – findings even showed that people who were addicted to their phone had differences in their brains to people who were not addicted (say whaat?!) – whilst the scariest finding of them all, in my eyes, was that people who spent longer on their phones each day were more likely to suffer with mental health issues, and suicide. 

Participants reported not knowing what to do with their spare time, noting just how often they would check their phones on a daily basis. Further studies even found that social media sites are made to be addictive, from using red notifications to grab your attention, to pull-to-refresh screens. It’s all pretty crazy, right?! But it’s this last finding which makes me think that “phone addiction” isn’t necessarily the pressing issue here – it’s “social media addiction” which in turn leads to “phone addiction”. The majority of Madelaineblogs readers visit my site through their mobile. It’s quick, it’s easy and we’re probably on our phones already. This means time spent on our phones is most likely due to us perusing our social media sites – the two come hand in hand.

So, what is social media addiction?

Well, it’s a sense of validity, accomplishment or ‘praise’ when we get likes, comments or shares on a picture or video. This probably rings true with a lot of us. We publish a blog post for people to read and enjoy with others. We put a photo on Instagram for it to be liked, to receive comments and for our followers to engage with our content. In fact, I listened to one of my favourite podcasts only the other day; Keeping It Candid, which was based all around the theory on how to get more likes on your Instagram photos.

Until now, I hadn’t really thought much about it, but the fact we’re striving for higher numbers, more likes and ultimately to gain more attention, just shows how significant this really is. And, this reigns true for all forms of social media – we push something ‘live’ for the whole world to see because in some way, the response we get from this is, dare I say it, slightly addictive. The likes, comments, and general ‘social interaction’ make us feel liked, boosts our confidence, and can provide a sense of acceptance. And, if we don’t receive a set number of likes, comments, or views, this can instantly make us feel under-valued. Crazy, but true eh?

But, despite this “social media addiction”, a friend I work with still hasn’t succumbed to the Instagram way, despite all of our disbelief and horror at this fact (“wait, you don’t have Instagram?! It’s the best one!”). And you know what? Her reasoning for this made perfect sense. She knows that if she has Instagram, she’ll end up looking through numerous photos of other people living a ‘dream life’, having the ‘perfect body’ and ultimately ‘looking amazing’ as she put it, knowing she’ll then leave the app feeling worse off – not better for it. So, why would she do that to herself? This links perfectly to a section of the Forbes article which really struck a chord with me;

“Part of the problem with using social media is that we think social media will give us a boost, it doesn’t – it makes us feel worse”.

Forbes

To some extent, this can be true. If you let it, social media can be an ugly can of worms that is opened up and is all-consuming. It can take over, and it can suck the life out of you. Yet, for some reason, we still come back for more.

Okay okay, maybe that’s a little over-exaggerated – and that paints a picture of leeches more so than worms, but you get my drift! It’s so easy to not realise just how much time we spend on our phones or social media. And if we actually found this figure out, I think we’d be horrified.

But, in an era of ever-changing news and an ever-growing saturated blogging market, is there ever time to just switch off? To stamp out the need to keep up to date, to keep interacting, engaging and promoting our brand? Doubtful. This is especially true when you’re first trying to find your space on the internet and grow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the same ‘tips’ that can leaving you feeling guilty for not being online. If you want to grow your brand, you have got to ENGAGE. You’ve got to constantly like, comment and generally support other bloggers. You’ve got to read other blogs, watch other vlogs, tweet all the time, post regular content, put a new picture out daily (but even better if it’s twice or three times), pin constantly, schedule your tweets and promote, promote, promote. Wow, feeling knackered just by reading that? Me too.

But, despite the hard work, the hours staring at a desktop screen, followed by a phone screen, and getting cross-eyed on the regular, I’m still all for smartphones, social media and all that comes with it. Without them, and without being able to do pretty much everything on the move – our blogs simply wouldn’t be possible. Or they’d be a hell of a lot harder anyway.

So, do I suffer with phone addiction? Am I a social media addict? Probably. Yes. But, whilst I’ll still be found gazing on my phone waiting for the dinner to cook, I still give myself some much needed time off if need be. And you know what? I think that’s a-okay. 

Everything in moderation, right?!

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