You’re out for a delightful, long-anticipated lunch with your friends or co-workers. The conversation is lively and upbeat, when suddenly someone in your group pulls out their cell phone to take a call.
Or maybe you are at a family meal when the same thing occurs. It’s not uncommon for the people in our lives to take a backstage role to the virtual reality of technology.
This may be far more complicated than an etiquette issue. An increasing number of studies are finding it might be a true addiction, like alcoholism or smoking.
James A. Roberts, PhD, a marketing professor at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business identified six signs of cell phone addiction that include: salience, euphoria, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse. These same six signs relate to any behavioral or substance addiction.
Test yourself to see if you identify with any of these six statements.
1. I reach for my cell phone first thing in the morning.
Salience is a behavior that becomes deeply integrated into your daily routine and that dominates your thinking and emotions. According to the research, “Sixty-eight percent of adult Americans sleep with their cell phone next to their bed.” Don't let your email messages dictate your day. Try not to check your messages on your cell phone before 8:00 a.m.
2. I use my cell phone when I am bored.
Euphoria is the excitement or anticipation you get just before or after you use your cell phone. Do you get a ping of excitement or drop everything when you hear an email or text message come in? That little burst of energy provides a highly-addictive “high.” Try putting your phone on silent more often.
3. I am spending more and more time on my cell phone.
Tolerance is the need to receive an ever-increasing dose to reach the desired high, and is similar to alcohol abuse. And with the increasing number of new uses for the cell phone, and the proliferation of available downloads, it is easy to access the next exciting new thing. Put people first, technology second.
Related: 6 Ways to Break a Tech Addiction
4. I become anxious or agitated when my cell phone is out of sight.
Withdrawal symptoms such as stress, anxiety, irritability, desperation and panic that occur when you are separated from your cell phone – even for the briefest amount of time – are sure signs of addiction. The research reported that “Sixty-eight percent of all adults have an irrational fear of losing their phone.”
5. People have complained about my cell phone use.
Conflict is a common outcome of cell phone addiction. Perhaps your spouse, a co-worker, or your children complain that you are always on the phone, or maybe you let cell phone interruptions interfere with social engagements, work or vacation time. If you're expecting an important call, let others know ahead of time. When the call comes in, keep your conversation brief.
6. I can’t seem to cut back on my cell phone use even though I try.
Relapse occurs when you set every intention to cut back on your phone use, but find yourself reaching for it with a force that seems beyond your control. You must set your mind and your body to resist, and consciously create new habits that do not include the cell phone. Practice being "unplugged" for at least a couple hours a day.
If you have self-diagnosed yourself with cell phone addiction, what can you do? You don’t have to give up your cell phone entirely, but you do need to set aside technology-free times and create new habits and behaviors. Leave the cell phone in the car or turn it off when you are out to dinner, set up a nighttime charging station in a room other than your bedroom, and create times to enjoy life without the company of your cell phone. After all, it’s the polite thing to do.