I’m not really a gadget girl, I don’t need to rush out and buy the latest, fanciest phone, and I certainly don’t need to schlep around a camera, phone, e-reader, iPad, GPS, and whatever other portable thingamajigs are the must-have item according to the Sunday circulars. The newest fad to suddenly make my life so much less of a burden always seems somewhat, well, burdensome to me. However, I’ll be the first one to admit that I am kind of obsessed with my iPhone. I was a late adopter, if you will, only having just purchased one last year (and a 3G at that!).
Granted, I do get giddy when I find a new app that suddenly enhances my life, some for the better and some just a time suck. An app for budget tracking? Ridiculously helpful. “Oregon Trail?” I always lose track of time dying of dysentery and reminiscing about my first and favorite computer game. But I’m pretty sure that I could break away from my phone for a few hours, unlike Mr. Alec Baldwin, who apparently loves “Words with Friends” (basically a mobile version of Scrabble) so much that he was kicked off a plane this past week for refusing to stop playing. Although it seems like he was doing it more for the attention, it got me wondering, can someone really become addicted to their phone? I spend plenty of time on mine, reading e-mail, catching up on news articles, conversing on social media, watching TV shows and, oh yeah, occasionally I actually make a phone call. So where do you draw the line? How do you know if you are relying too heavily on your electronic leash?
Thomas Fewer, substance abuse program director at the Guidance Center, founder of the New Orleans Counseling Center,and, (full disclosure), my husband, believes that the two defining characteristics of addiction are powerlessness and the inability to manage oneself:
Whether it is a substance or a behavior, the question to ask yourself is: “Can I stop when I want to?” When addiction is present, the individual has lost the power to make conscious choices. The addiction itself assumes control of the personality. In general I would classify excessive cell phone usage as more of a compulsion, rather than an addiction. Compulsive behaviors can easily become consuming and take away from the quality of your participation in relationships and in life. It is important to set limits on potentially compulsive behaviors before they become ingrained as unconscious habits. The practice of mindfulness is a simple and powerful way to bring awareness to your experience of this moment and can help break compulsive thought/behavioral patterns.
The best way to make sure you aren’t chained to your phone is simply turning it off, or setting aside a time of day where you stop answering calls and texts and participate in other activities, such as reading, or getting outside. It’s funny how an electronic device that supposedly help us stay in touch has an adverse effect when people start ignoring each other in real life. Who knows, maybe if Mr. Baldwin would sit down for a real Scrabble game with real people he might even be allowed back on board a plane sooner than he thinks.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.