How to Quit Cell Phone Addiction and Connect With the Real World

5 Tips to Help You Put Down Your Phone

Model poses as woman with cell phone addiction late at night
Sleeping with your phone could be a sign of cell phone addiction. Adam Hester / Getty Images

Cell phone addiction may not be formally recognized, but for many people, the thought of not having their cell phone is impossible. As we become more and more dependent on cell phones to connect with others, organize our time, and track down information, it can seem hard to cope without it.

For many people, looking at their cell phone had become a new way of navigating the social complexities of modern life.

It has become a way of avoiding uncomfortable situations, as we pick up our phone to avoid unwanted attention from others, a way of meeting potential partners, thought sites like Tinder, and a way of getting constant validation by posting online and seeking "likes."

But staying hyperconnected can interfere with your engagement in real relationships and experiences, can cause aches and pains, and interfere with sleep. It can even lead to internet addiction, if you are constantly online and unable to switch off. So what should you do when you want to disconnect from your cell phone and find it difficult? These tips can help.

1. Meet Face to Face

Whether for business or pleasure, arrange to meet in person rather than relying on the ease of texting or talking on the phone. Replace your cell phone with face to face communication. If you have news and you know you could see a friend later in the day, resist texting or posting your news on Facebook.

Wait until you see your friend, then tell them your news verbally. This will prevent your verbal and social skills from deteriorating through overuse of texting to communicate—a big problem for people with computer addiction. When you are with someone else, turn off or ignore your phone if it rings—taking a call in the middle of a conversation is the height of poor netiquette.

2. Choose Real Over Virtual Experiences

Make a conscious choice to have real rather than virtual experiences. Instead of checking the internet for information, head to the library and pick up a book. Instead of playing video games, join a team or a chess club. Get out to see live entertainers, rather than viewing everything online. You may like the simplicity and efficiency of doing everything from your cell phone, but this won't provide you with the best or most meaningful experiences. This will improve your physical and mental health, and reduce addictive patterns of behavior. And you might just find the real world is more dynamic, multi-faceted and enjoyable than the virtual world.

3. Save the Bedroom for Sleep and Sex

A central component of good sleep habits, keeping your bedroom for sleep and sex, and leaving your cell phone in another room of the house will not only improve your sleep quality. It will reduce the likelihood that texting and phoning will encroach on your personal time. And if you are depending on your cell phone for sexting, internet porn, or other cybersex activities, your sex life may be heading for trouble.

4. Value the Empty Spaces in Your Day

One of the reasons we become dependent on our cell phones is because it is so easy to take them out every time you have an empty space in your day.

 An unfortunate consequence of this is that it can feel like a waste of time whenever you aren't checking your emails when you aren't engaged in another activity. Yet the empty spaces are important for being comfortable with yourself, and the process of just being, which is an important part of mental wellness. Practicing mindfulness can help.

5. Set Your Own Limits

Instead of automatically thinking your should have your cell phone to hand at all times, set limits around when you will or will not look at it. Deliberately leave it out of reach when you would really rather focus on some other part of your experience.

You can always return calls or reply to emails later. 

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association, News Release: Statement of the American Psychiatric Association on "Video Game Addiction."

iPass Inc. The iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report: Understanding Enterprise Mobility Trends and Mobile Usage. Redwood Shores, CA: iPass Inc. 2011.

Khan, MD, PhD, Mohamed K. “Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games.” Report Of The Council On Science And Public Health CSAPH Report 12-A-07. 2007.

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