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What is the very first thing you do when you wake up?

The vast majority of people reading this article are probably all thinking the same thing right now. Did you automatically think of your cell phone? I know I did! As of 2020, there are approximately 6 billion and 7 billion smartphone users and mobile phone users worldwide, respectively (Turner, n.d.). And these numbers are only expected to increase over the coming years. So it’s no wonder that the majority of people grab their phones and start scrolling the moment they wake up, beginning the endless cycle of clearing their notifications and catching up on the news.

Phone usage has become a vital part of our daily lives and we use phones for almost everything. A phone’s original purpose was just to call others, then it evolved into calling and messaging. Now its properties have developed so much, making tasks such as calculations, writing down a memo, listening to music, and replying to emails more accessible and easier. The most recent smartphone development is the integration of social media into mobile apps, which has made it easier to access any platform at any given time. With the increased use of our phones, many psychological and physiological effects are being studied. Let’s all take a look at our relationship with our mobile devices and think about what limits we should place on ourselves, especially for those who may have a noticeable dependency. Here’s what you need to know about the side effects of phone addiction and why you should consider giving up your phone for a day.

Psychological and Behavioral Side Effects 

It is well-known among researchers that cell phone overuse shows indications of negative psychological side effects, most prominently depression, stress, and sleep deprivation (Thomée et al., 2011; Shoukat, 2019). Especially for those who may already suffer from some of these problems, those already existing symptoms may be negatively increased. In other words, mobile phone overuse could magnify the risk and prevalence of negative psychological effects. 

Sleep deprivation, according to Schoeni et al (2015), could be associated with the widespread use of mobile phones during night hours. This results in lower quality of sleep and quantity, which leads to headaches, fatigue, and, in the long run, overall psychological well-being. Sleep is necessary for all, especially school-age children and adolescents, who are recommended to have 8 to 12 hours of sleep (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Two of the many benefits of quality sleep are that it helps in solidifying memories and it enhances concentration. Although Schoeni et al., (2015) could not conclude any link between sleep deprivation and memory loss, and lack of concentration, it is still advisable to switch off notifications and decrease phone brightness to have fewer disturbances. 

Increased phone use also increases the risk for other side effects that could be detrimental to academics. One study researched the relationship between internet use and procrastination (Reinecke et al., 2018). They confirmed that individuals with trait procrastination do have a unique pattern in internet usage. However, the pattern and context of using the internet matter when mentioning procrastination. Namely, multitasking on the internet (e.g. having multiple tabs while conducting research and finishing assignments) is different from using the internet for longer than intended or not at the intended time (e.g. playing online games and browsing social media during study hours). 

There’s also concern among circles of frequent mobile phone users that the amount of usage becomes comparable to having symptoms of addiction (De-Sola Gutiérrez J et al., 2016). Addiction prevails when there are clear indications of uncontrollable use, mood fluctuations, difficulty in avoiding the behavior due to persistent, intense desire to use it, loss of interest and attention to other activities, irritability when it’s not accessible, and relapse. De-Sola Gutiérrez J et al., (2016) also demonstrated further evidence that the symptoms of mobile phone addiction are similar to those of substance and gambling addiction according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

No Phone For A Day

It’s not sustainable to expect anyone to suddenly give up on using technology altogether (unless you want to, then by all means go ahead). But taking a break from your mobile phone as a way to reduce screen time and risk of addiction is a good step in the right direction. Reasons for starting with your phone are its accessibility in terms of size and the ease of using social media apps. As mentioned, most of us wake up to check on the time and news and/or social media. On the American publishing platform, Medium, one user, Sarah Lafi details her day without her phone (Lafi, 2019). Before her trial, she tells how much she relied on her phone, but after she decided to start a new day without it, she saw significant results. When she woke up in the morning, she realized how much she procrastinates every morning while scrolling through her phone. She also felt uneasy leaving her home without being able to use Google Maps but was surprised how she was able to reach her destination without getting lost or getting distracted by music.

Try switching off your phone for the day and see what you can achieve throughout your day without it!

Perhaps you’ll be able to see things you haven’t noticed before, do things you were unable to do because you prioritized using your phone, or even come up with ways to entertain yourself without it. You could read physical books, learn or revisit your favorite hobbies or simply get some quality sleep. If you want to take it a step further, you can avoid using your phone for a couple of days or a week. After all, it’s nice to have a break every once in a while to rejuvenate our minds and bodies!

Written and researched by Jumana S Raggam

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