Quiz: Is Your Smartphone Taking Over Your Life?

Answer these four questions to find out if you have an addiction to your smartphone.

Smartphones have made our lives so much easier, but with so many of us unable to stop scrolling, it's hard to know whether they've done more harm than good. Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life, gives us this quiz to test whether we have a healthy relationship with our phones and offers an action plan for cutting back without withdrawal. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your phone time?

2. Have other people annoyed you by criticizing how much time you spend on your phone?

3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about how much you use your phone?

4. Have you ever checked your phone first thing in the morning to calm your nerves?

If you answered "yes" to three or more of these questions, you probably have an addiction to your phone. This is the actual Cage Questionnaire that medical professionals use to diagnose people with an addiction to alcohol. Every time the word "drink" is used in the questionnaire, it was replaced here with "phone."

But don't worry! For one, you're not alone. Price explains that computer scientists have actually admitted that part of smartphones' design is intended to make them addictive. Every time we get a notification we care about, we get a hit of dopamine, so our brains are trained to expect that same rush even when we receive useless information we aren't really that interested in. And if one app doesn't satisfy that need, you can jump to the next one too easily. This is why Price compares cell phone use to emotional eating. Any time we feel unsettled, we reach for something we know will make us feel good.

Price has created an action plan to help you take back your life and create a healthy relationship with your phone. Try these steps to cut back on your usage without suffering withdrawal from bad habits.

1. Turn Off Notifications 

Though notifications may seem impossible to live without, particularly when they seem vital to keeping up with work and other commitments, this first step is actually doable. Your phone can still ring, and if you are concerned with missing an e-mail from your boss or an emergency from your child, you can create a setting that allows you to only get notifications from them. Keep alerts for calls, texts, calendar events - anything that involves another person on the other end, instead of a meaningless Like that will cause you to open your phone and keep scrolling for a lot longer than the notification requires.

2. Use Your Computer Instead of Your Phone

In this step, Price clarifies that you can still use social media as much as you want to! But instead of using apps, only use a computer or your phone's internet browser. This extra step will cause you to cut down your usage completely unconsciously. If you actually have to get up and walk to another room or open a browser and log in in order to get online, you won't feel as compelled to do so. It's not as instant as opening an app, and you won't get that mindless urge to hop through different sites. 

3. Check In With Yourself

Try those first two steps for thirty days, and then set up check-ins with yourself as to your cell phone usage in order to maintain the healthy relationship you're building. You're making this change to make yourself happy; we only have so much time in a day, and these steps are meant to help you make the most of it. Remind yourself of this. And when you do find yourself on your phone, force yourself to take a step back and focus on the present instead, asking yourself if there is any real reason for your phone use at that moment.


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