How healthy is living in the fantasy bubble of our phones?

March 17, 2020

Image by FunkyFocus from Pixabay

Aloki Rochelmeyer delves into the damaging effects of phone use

Have you ever heard your phone buzz when it hasn’t? If you have, you may be suffering from the common condition of phantom vibration syndrome. This happens when we use our phones too much; when we become addicted phone zombies.

A pang of guilt and shame consumes me whenever I check my screen time. I cannot help but feel an intense bout of anger towards the apps on my phone for stealing my time; Snapchat and Instagram are my biggest time thieves.

According to research from RescueTime, people generally spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. However, this is for phone users of all ages, not just teenagers.

With the help of app limits, my screen time average from the last seven days is two hours and 13 minutes. My friend Nicole’s screen time is a hideous five hours and 23 minutes.

These toxic apps are designed to viciously snatch up our time with compulsion loops and dopamine hits

App limits are an easily accessible feature on smartphones that help me keep my screen time to a somewhat reasonable average. My only app limit is for social networking apps, where my time limit is 45 minutes, although I rarely commit to that.

These toxic apps are designed to viciously snatch up our time with compulsion loops and dopamine hits. We have little defence from these addictive algorithms. Dopamine, a neurohormone that is released after certain actions like exercising and achieving a goal, is also triggered by getting a ‘like’ or a ‘share’ or phone buzz. This reward system is what keeps us constantly checking our phones. I pick up my phone on average 99 times a day compared to the general average of 80 times per day.

Chamath Palihapitiya, the former vice-president of user growth for Facebook said the tools he built essentially break “the social fabric of how society works”. Is this not alarming to us as slaves to our technology?

Maybe we should consider spending less time on our phones; even if it is miles from an addiction there is no harm in a little extra spare time

As reported by fastcompany.com, after 10 minutes spent on social media, oxytocin levels can increase as much as 13%: a hormonal spike equivalent to some people on their wedding day. Oxytocin is a neurohormone released when we kiss or hug someone. It is also released through social media time. This has both positive and negative sides: this feeling can become addictive yet it lowers stress levels.

Maybe we should consider spending less time on our phones; even if it is miles from an addiction there is no harm in a little extra spare time

Phantom vibration syndrome is a condition where you hear buzzing, ringing or vibrations that aren’t in fact there; for many of us these false disturbances can be frustrating. Besides this frustration, our ability to concentrate is very much sabotaged. Maybe we should consider spending less time on our phones; even if it is miles from an addiction there is no harm in a little extra spare time.

How to nip phone addiction in the bud:

  • Use the app limits feature on your cell phone
  • Delete apps that consume a toxic amount of your time
  • Sleep with your phone in a different room

There is no doubt that overusing your phone is a huge waste of time. Nevertheless we must not ignore the beneficial aspects. Staying in touch with people and connecting with friends are some undeniable positives.

Aloki is currently studying Psychology, Graphics and English literature at A level. She enjoys running, loves listening to music and watching documentaries to increase her understanding of the world.

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